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Agriculture lab looks at breeding better plants

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Fruit Experiment Station gains funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — If you don’t like the weather in Missouri, just wait a few hours. But this unpredictable natural phenomenon makes growing certain plants, fruits, vegetables and herbs a challenge.

Dr. Chin-Feng Hwang

Dr. Chin-Feng Hwang

Enter Dr. Chin-Feng Hwang, professor in the Darr School of Agriculture at Missouri State University, who recently received $297,584 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture for a research project to look at how to breed more disease-resistant, cold-hardy grapes.

“The overall goals of our research program are to use DNA markers to rapidly deploy favorable alleles, accelerate breeding cycles for new cultivar release, train a new generation of plant breeders and attract new students to the agricultural sciences,” said Hwang. As an agricultural scientist, he’s also concerned about the sustainability of grape breeding, including decreasing labor needs, energy consumption and pesticides, noted Hwang.

The project, “Expanding Research on Berry and Juice Chromatographic Analysis to Expedite Grape Cultivar Improvement and Build Education Capacity,” will also look at ways to improve the efficiency of the breeding process.

Students in Hwang’s lab at the Fruit Experiment Station on the Mountain Grove campus will use the latest technology to perform much of the research and identify components of the molecular structure that are associated with desirable and undesirable fruit quality traits.

“This project will accelerate the direct release of Norton-based new cultivars and improve efficiency of selection in subsequent generations,” he said.

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2016-70001-24623.

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George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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