Southern U.S. agricultural researchers are improving agriculture one crop at a time. From rice and peanuts to soybeans and strawberries, plant breeders from land-grant universities across the southern U.S. are finding ways to bring new plant varieties to market to help farmers feed their communities and the world with nutritious and cost-efficient crops.
University of Florida
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences plant breeders developed a white strawberry that smells a little like a pineapple. It is expected to be the first white strawberry to go to market in the U.S. It is white inside and out with a slight pink blush on the skin and red seeds. The flavor is not that of a typical strawberry; it’s sweet with a pineapple-like aroma.
Contact: Brad Buck, Bradbuck@ufl.edu
Louisiana State University AgCenter
As more Gulf Coast consumers learn of the potential benefits of locally grown high-protein, low-glycemic index rice (making it ideal for people with diabetes and other health concerns that might prevent them from eating conventional rice), researchers at the LSU AgCenter’s H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station are expanding efforts to develop cultivars with even greater nutritional advantages. Two scientists — molecular geneticist Herry Utomo, the F. Avalon Daggett endowed professor, and the late Ida Wenefrida, — spent seven years developing the special rice cultivar released under the variety moniker, Frontière. Now, using traditional mutational rice breeding techniques, researchers hope to further improve protein content, yield output and market diversity. Until now, the ubiquitous grain crop typically contained 6-7% protein. Frontière contains 10.6% and researchers are aiming to reach 12% protein, which would mark a 100% protein increase over traditional cultivars. https://www.lsuagcenter.com/articles/page1655824159150
We can’t help it. When we go to the grocery store, we always take a bee line to the produce section to check out the sweet potatoes. Chances are someone is there picking up a couple of roots for dinner. Consumption has more than doubled and then some in a few short years. One constant with the sweet potato breeding program is the demand for varieties with superior yield and quality. Sweet potatoes are an expensive crop to produce. However, they are a profitable crop when environmental and pest management issues cooperate. Sweet potato producers face many challenges in any given year, and a high yielding, consistent variety is a baseline necessity to remain competitive in the marketplace. https://www.lsuagcenter.com/profiles/lbenedict/articles/page1622494015085
Contact: Tobie Blanchard, email@example.com
North Carolina State University
Craft beer is booming in North Carolina with over 350 breweries making new, interesting flavors that include grain, yeast, water and hops, vine-grown cones that give beer its bitterness and citrus, piney, herbal or earthy aromas.
North Carolina State University researchers are working to discover which hop varieties grow best in North Carolina.
The university’s hops breeding program involves multiple partnerships with the priority of breeding varieties that naturally produce higher yields in the south. State brewers currently rely on hops grown on the west coast, which don’t perform as well in the North Carolina subtropical climate.
Contact: Alice Manning Touchette, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fort Valley State University
An agricultural robot is giving a team of scientists a better view of a troublesome pest that is disrupting sorghum production in the Southeast. The tiny sugarcane aphid (Melanaphis sacchari) has been a nuisance for southern farmers since 2013. This invasive pest is severely reducing sorghum yield, forage quality and feed consumption. Sorghum is an important, versatile crop in the southern cropping systems, where farmers use it as forage and silage for livestock. In addition, it is valuable for bioethanol production. Fort Valley State University and collaborators aim to identify genetic resources that are resistant to sugarcane aphid and to strengthen the research capacity in plant breeding activities at the university. https://ag.fvsu.edu/news/robotic-technology-aids-research-control-pesky-insect
Contact: Latasha Ford, email@example.com
University of Georgia
Peanuts are an important part of the food chain in the U.S., and Georgia is the number one peanut-producing state in the U.S., having grown 52% of the peanuts produced in the nation in 2021. The same year, Georgia producers harvested more than 3.3 billion pounds of peanuts from 750,000 acres planted. Combined with the states stretching due east from eastern New Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean — plus Missouri — and up the coast from Florida to Virginia, the peanut-producing states of the Southern U.S. grow more than 98% of the nation’s peanut crop.
Breeding the best peanuts, University of Georgia peanut breeders have spent decades developing the next best peanut variety for Georgia’s farmers. Learn how UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences selects for excellence in part one of the Field to Jar series.
Contact: Jordan Powers, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two Clemson University researchers believe a better understanding of traits associated with heat tolerance in soybeans can help in developing heat-tolerant varieties that can lead to more sustainable crop production. They received a $649,895 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study soybeans’ efficiency for heat tolerance. This grant continues research examining traits that lead to heat tolerance in soybeans.
Contact: Denise Attaway; email@example.com
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University scientists in the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station have released a new high-performing rice variety, Leland, which is resistant to blast disease, the most prevalent rice disease in the world. Its overall grain quality meets the preferences of millers, exporters and consumers in both in the U.S. and abroad. In a grain quality evaluation, Leland was one of only two among 17 varieties that achieved near-universal acceptance.
Contact: Karen Brasher, firstname.lastname@example.org
Oklahoma State University
Wheat geneticists at Oklahoma State University are working to create wheat varieties with higher yield and disease tolerance. One scientist discovered and cloned the TaOGT1 gene in the Billings wheat variety. It is the fourth gene related to a winter wheat maturity pattern discovered by an OSU geneticist. He previously discovered critical variants in the VRN-A1, VRN-D3 and PPD-D1 genes over a period of 10 years. Following the discovery of the gene, the OSU Wheat Improvement Team profiled various wheat varieties currently in production to determine which ones had a variant of the gene.
Scientists are currently working to put together a panel of early maturing genotypes that have not been released for commercial use in hopes of determining an ideal genotype for a short season variety. Meanwhile, geneticists are using the TaOGT1 gene as a starting point to identify downstream genes/proteins and establish a genetic/biochemical pathway for the early maturing trait.
Contact: Alisa Gore, email@example.com
Texas A&M Agrilife
Texas A&M AgriLife’s comprehensive research initiatives work to improve every aspect of the food supply chain. Some of the most recent ways in which the agencies of Texas A&M AgriLife have impacted food systems improving spinach production and developing new potato varieties.
Spinach has notoriously high pesticide residues when grown conventionally, but Texas A&M scientists are developing varieties with an improved nutraceutical profile and nitrogen-use efficiency.
New potato varieties bred by the Texas A&M Potato Breeding Program could enter the French fry market before long. This breeding effort is a part of the Southwestern Regional Potato Cultivar Development Project, a multi-state project funded by the USDA NIFA.
Contact: Kay Ledbetter, firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Arkansas
ARoma 22 is the latest aromatic rice variety released by the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. The variety represents a step change in quality for southern jasmine rice. It has a pleasing, buttery aroma, excellent color consistency and a smooth texture. This Arkansas-developed variety opens new markets for midsouth rice farmers with a high yield and the potential for a competitive return on investment.
Ponca, a new blackberry variety from the University of Arkansas offers the pinnacle of flavor from one of the world’s leading public blackberry breeding programs. It is the 20th blackberry from the fruit breeding program at the university.
Contact: Nick Kordsmeier, email@example.com
These institutions are part of a system of 15 agricultural research centers at land-grant universities in the southern U.S. where scientists collaborate to conduct research and outreach focused on conserving the region’s natural resources and sustainably feeding a growing global population. #SouthernAgresearch