Associate Professor, Plant and Soil Sciences Department
Delaware Biotechnology Institute
University of Delaware
Abstract: Climate change is negatively impacting crop production by changing water availability and increasing the prevalence of crop mechanical failure (lodging). In the US, maize (corn) crop losses due to lodging are reported to range between 5% and 25%. Considering that corn is a $50 billion per year industry in the US and over $124 million per year industry in Delaware, crop loss due to lodging has a significant economic impact both locally and nationally. Research in the Sparks Lab aims to improve crop resilience under a changing climate through targeted engineering of root systems. The maize root system is predominantly composed of stem-borne roots that arise both below (crown roots) and above (brace roots) the soil. These roots have been proposed to be critical for structural stability and nutrient/water acquisition. However, the development, function, and environmental responsiveness of these roots is poorly studied. In this talk, I will review our efforts to fill the knowledge gaps surrounding stem-borne roots with a goal to improve crop resilience and crop production.
Bio: Erin Sparks is Associate Professor in Plant and Soil Sciences and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute at the University of Delaware, where she started her position in 2017. She has a B.S in Biomedical Engineering, a Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology, and Postdoctoral experience in Plant Molecular Biology. Erin’s lab takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the development and function of aerial roots in cereal crops.