Developing Hardier, Weather-Resistant Crops

Plant physiologist Edgar Spalding's lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is bathed in low-red light with camera lenses pointing at Petri dishes containing corn seedlings. They're grown in red light for optimal growth and are just one of the plants featured in thousands of time-lapse movies Spalding has created over the past five years. "We can't hope to improve a plant unless we understand it well," says Spalding. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Spalding is studying the function of each of the thousands of genes that make up the plants' DNA. "One way to do that is to collect images of those plants that have those genes altered in some way. And by measuring how those plants grow and develop differently," says Spalding.