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Skaggs: New UGA institute aims to make better plants for gardens, landscapes
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A new University of Georgia institute will focus on creating new and improved plant varieties that are higher yielding, more disease resistant, nutritious or simply look better in landscapes.

The UGA Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics has researchers who use both traditional and modern genetic technologies to develop plants, said Charles Brummer, the institute’s director.

"We are pulling research together from across the state under a single umbrella so we can create better products," said Brummer, a forage and biomass crop researcher with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

According to Brummer, agronomic and horticultural crops must constantly improve to adjust to climate change, ensure farm profits, create crop diversity and meet consumer demands for prettier plants. The institute aims to bring together many academic disciplines to become a world leader in introducing new cultivars from a range of species.

"Overall, the institute focuses on applying the science of plant breeding to the development of products that will provide consumers with superior plants for use on farms, athletic fields and home and business landscapes," Brummer said.

The majority of the institute’s researchers are with the CAES. Institute scientists also work with industry plant breeders and other scientists, Brummer said.

"We have more plant breeders on the faculty than any other state university," he said. "And (we have) a huge diversity of experts focusing on cotton, soybeans, pecans, forages, ornamentals, peanut, turfgrass, blueberries, sunflower and other crops."

Beginning with the release of coastal Bermuda grass in the 1950s, CAES has established a reputation for breeding successful forage and turfgrass cultivars. Peanut cultivars recently developed on the UGA Tifton campus have dominated the peanut market in the Southeast. Roundup Ready® soybean cultivars developed by an institute member enabled the recent doubling of soybean acreage in the lower Southeast.

Royalties from plant cultivars developed at UGA and currently licensed by the UGA Research Foundation represent up to two-thirds of the intellectual property income generated annually by UGA.

In addition to its research component, the institute offers UGA graduate degrees in plant breeding, genetics and genomics and undergraduate research opportunities.

Thanks to April Sorrow, UGA CAES News Editor.

Billy Skaggs is Hall County extension agent. He can be reached at 770- 531-6988.
His column appears biweekly and at