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Plant Biotechnology

Plant biotechnology is a set of techniques used to adapt plants for specific needs or opportunities. Situations that combine multiple needs and opportunities are common. 

For example, a single crop may be required to provide sustainable food and healthful nutrition, protection of the environment, and opportunities for jobs and income. Finding or developing suitable plants is typically a highly complex challenge.

Plant biotechnologies that assist in developing new varieties and traits include genetics and genomics, marker-assisted selection (MAS), and transgenic (genetic engineered) crops. These biotechnologies allow researchers to detect and map genes, discover their functions, select for specific genes in genetic resources and breeding, and transfer genes for specific traits into plants where they are needed. NIFA funds research, training, and extension for developing and using biotechnologies for food and agriculture. Areas of work include, but not limited to:

  • Genetic structures and mechanisms
  • Methods for transgenic biotechnology (also known as genetic engineering)
  • Identification of traits and genes that can contribute to national and global goals for agriculture
  • Plant genome sequences; molecular markers, and bioinformatics
  • Gene Editing/Genome Editing
  • Synthetic Biology

Most public research on transgenic crops focuses in some way on two general objectives:

  • Better understanding of all aspects of the transgenic/genetic engineering process, for enhancing efficiency, precision, and proper expression of the added genes or nucleic acid molecules.
  • A wider range of useful and valuable traits, including complex traits.

Competitive Funding Programs in Plant Biotechnology

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program

Biotechnology Risk assessment Grants (BRAG) program

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program

Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) program

Examples of Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant (BRAG) projects

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