UH team lands grant to study how to protect crops from climate change
A team of researchers at the University of Houston has received a $995,805 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to uncover new ways to protect the world’s food crops from climate change.
The research is being led by Abdul Latif Khan, assistant professor of plant biotechnology at the UH Cullen College of Engineering’s Division of Technology, as the project’s principal investigator. He's joined by other researchers from UH and Texas A&M on the research.
The team will begin performing experiments in Houston next month that focus on two main objectives: "To improve plant growth and build plants’ resistance against climate change,” Khan said in a statement from UH.
They plan to develop novel tools for the agriculture industry as well as new, affordable, easy-to-use methods that safeguard the soil systems and prevent farmers from losing their land.
"We’re exploring two approaches," Khan says in a statement. "One is to adopt naturally relevant systems, the other involves synthetic biology or genetic engineering approaches to producing food.”
Plant biologist Abdul Latif Khan is the project’s principal investigator. Photo via uh.edu
The team will also use the funding to build a new curriculum for students, particularly those who come from communities currently underrepresented among the agriculture industry’s leadership, according to UH.
“With this new project, we hope to expand opportunities in agricultural science and increase representation by opening doors for inspired scientists of many backgrounds,” Khan said.
According to UH, extreme weather events have an impact on the crops themselves, the makeup of soil for new or existing crops, and in turn a farmer’s income and the world's food supply.
"Climate change is affecting the entire earth, and it’s leaving us with less land to produce food," Khan added. "By the beginning of the next century, the world food demand will be almost 30 percent to 35 percent higher than what we are growing now. To reach that higher level, we will need novel tools in our agriculture system."
Last month, two UH professors were named as fellows to the National Academy of Inventors, one of whom was recognized for her vital research leading to innovative solutions in the energy and industrial fields and becoming the first woman in the United States to earn a doctorate degree in petroleum engineering. UH now has 39 professors who are either Fellows or Senior Members of the NAI.