CBS undergraduate Cole Folstad received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the American Society of Plant Biology. The organization gives out just 15 fellowships each year. Folstad does directed research on pennycress in the lab of David Marks (PBIO). Marks and his research team are working on domesticating a weed called field pennycress as a new oil-seed crop that will not displace or compete with crops already grown in the region.
“We are using a mutation-based breeding approach to identify varieties of pennycress with improved traits,” says Marks. “Cole is focusing her efforts on the characterization of a group of high yielding semi-dwarf mutants. These mutants have traits similar to those discovered in wheat by Dr. Norman Borlaug that helped to usher in the green revolution. For this reason we are calling these Borlaug mutants.”
Pennycress can be planted alongside corn and harvested in the spring in time to allow for a crop of soybeans to follow on the same land. As winter annual cover crop, it will help protect the land from soil erosion and from nutrient leaching into the streams and waterways.