- B.S., Applied Mathematics, Texas A&M University, May 2011
Entered program in 2012
See curriculum vitae here (updated 2014): https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0Dj03p7obK2WjZUZXlfMzFobTg/view
Sustainable intensification of agriculture is necessary to meet the demands of the growing global population. Designing crop canopy architecture to optimally intercept solar radiation is one means by which crop productivity can be improved without increased input from natural resources. Sorghum bicolor is the world's fifth leading cereal crop and is used for food, forage, and biofuel production. In the midday hours of a typical sorghum cropping environment, leaves at the top of the canopy are oversaturated with solar radiation, leading to reduced energy conversion efficiency and water use efficiency. Conversely, leaves at the bottom of the canopy are undersaturated, leading to shade-induced senescence of leaves and decreased nitrogen storage sinks. Using functional-structural plant modeling, biophysical models, and field studies, my research explores canopy architecture traits that dictate the distribution of solar radiation in the canopy and their impact on plant performance. Additionally, we use genomic techniques to identify and dissect the genetic architecture of canopy traits. This work explores several sorghum canopy phenotypes that affect light distribution with a focus on how leaf inclination angle, the angle at which a leaf emerges with respect to the stem, affects sorghum performance. Our results suggest that the genetic modulation of leaf inclination angle can increase biomass yield by improving the overall photosynthetic conversion efficiency of the canopy. Continued progress in this work will provide ways to evaluate germplasm performance in silico and guide field testing for crop improvement.
Broader Impacts of Research Project:
Meeting the crop production demands projected for 2050 without further depleting natural resources like land and water is of global concern. Our research aims to optimize how plants harvest sunlight, the most abundant and sustainable source of energy available on earth. Designing crop canopy architectures that best utilize and intercept solar radiation to increase photosynthetic conversion efficiency is predicted to increase yield by 30%. This research presents a promising opportunity to improve crop productivity in a sustainable way.