Recently, Tsai and her team were able to use this method to mutate specific genes in deciduous trees, like aspens and cottonwoods, in order to reduce the concentrations of naturally occurring plant polymers.
This work has critical implications as environmental stressors like floods, droughts and heat waves become more commonplace.
“We’re beginning to understand the holistic response of trees and crops to stress and how they respond to difficult environments,” says Tsai. “As a result, we’re able to identify candidate genes that we can target for improvement through traditional breeding or gene-editing technology.”
As Tsai and her team continue their study of trees, their research is opening doors to new research opportunities for trees and other crops, looking at the perennial challenges that arise with multiple growing seasons and the different plant mechanisms used for dealing with stress.
And since Georgia is home to one of the nation’s best research facilities for the plant sciences, it makes sense that the university is at the vanguard of this research.
“We’re exposed to the wonderful work of plant research, from breeding improvement to genomics, collaborating with other scientists,” says Tsai. “This results in a strong plant science group, making it one of the best places in the world to conduct plant research.”
About the Researcher
Chung-Jui “CJ” Tsai
Winfred N. “Hank” Haynes Professor
Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources
Department of Genetics
Franklin College of Arts & Sciences