Seed banks across the globe store and preserve the genetic diversity of millions of varieties of crops. This massive collection of genetic material ensures crop breeders access to a wealth of genetics with which to breed crops that yield better or resist stress and disease.
But, with a world of corn genetics at their disposal, how do plant breeders know which varieties are worth studying and which ones aren’t? For most of history, that required growing the varieties and studying their performance in the real world. But innovative data analytics and genomics could help plant breeders predict the performance of new varieties without having to go to the effort of growing them.
A new federally funded project led by Iowa State University researchers will help farmers share data relevant to their operations with one another and improve production.
The Smart Integrated Farm Network for Rural Agricultural Communities (SIRAC) project recently received a three-year, nearly $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop technology that will allow farmers to pool data and share knowledge to guide responses to production obstacles such as weeds, disease and pests. The effort will start out as a small pilot project and gradually expand to hundreds of farmers. The multidisciplinary research team will pair innovative data gathering methods with machine learning to make the information easily accessible to farmers in the program, said Asheesh Singh, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State and principal investigator on the grant.
Ryan Millikin is spending his summer interning with Dr. Mark Licht on campus in the Department of Agronomy. Ryan will be a senior this fall and is a transfer student from Hawkeye Community College.
Ryan explains that Mark has many projects for him to work on during this summer and there are also several graduate students working alongside him as well.
"Earlier this spring we focused on rye biomass. We would take biomass samples, put them in the dryer for 5-7 days, and then record biomass weights. After that, we out the samples through a grinder to later be sent away for nitrate analysis," said Ryan.
Senior in agronomy Tyler Flak had the opportunity to spend his summer as an agronomy intern at CNH Industrial.
Tyler spent his time both in the office and field. In the office, he worked on field data, background reading, and presentation. When he was in the field he collected data and helped setup experiments.
Tyler's favorite part of his internship was traveling to Kentucky to work on farm trials.
By being in agronomy classes at Iowa State, Tyler learned to have an open mind and was also exposed to different crop production, such as wheat, that he found to be very helpful. He also had experience from past internships working with sprayer application that provided him with a good background for being an agronomy intern.