Advancing Crop Science: Insights from the CROPS Conference at HudsonAlpha

The CROPS conference took place from June 3rd to 6th at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama. The meeting focused on the application of genomic technology to crop improvement and brought together over 100 leading crop scientists and researchers. The meeting featured over 70 posters, a Kbase workshop, 2 roundtables and 33 talks and keynotes from academic, non-profit, and industry professionals.

Dr. Nicholas Gladman, a USDA scientist working in the Ware lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, gave a Flash talk on his poster, “Transcriptomic Profiles of Developing Meristems Across Sorghum Accessions Reveal Nuanced Regulatory Pathways Towards Panicle Morphology and Grain Content.” This work focuses on understanding how early developmental regulatory pathways can constrain or maximize nutrient content in mature tissues. He also presented a poster titled, “SorghumBase: A Public Genetic and Genomic Resource for the Sorghum Community,” which highlighted the genomic resource efforts and products of the SorghumBase team.

Neal Gutterson, partner and CTO at Radicle Growth, and CJ Tsai, from the University of Georgia, gave keynote speeches titled “Advancing Breeding with Genomics”and “CRISPR for popular reproductive trait engineering, and more,” respectively.

Highlights of the symposium included advances in broadly-applicable transformation technology across monocots, pan-genomic resources and how they can be used to harness useful agronomic traits, the uses and future implications of AI and machine learning models to assist in plant science discovery and application, best practices for genome assembly and annotation, new industry services, and a presentation by a partner of the 5-generation black-owned Bridgeforth Farms about how leveraging crop science over the decades created one of the most successful farming operations in the southeast.

Kyle Bridgeforth of Bridgeforth Farms discussing the history and utilization of crop science in building a 5th-generation farm in the American Southeast.
Dr. Merritt Khaipho-Burch of Corteva Agrisciences discusses how researchers need to be cautious about single gene solutions to crop yields and best practices for incorporating traits into useful breeding platforms.
The conference keynote given by Dr. CJ Tsai of the University of Georgia on, “CRISPR for Poplar Reproductive Trait Engineering, and More,” underneath the suspended frame of a Saturn V Rocket in the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.