Illinois university receives grant to study ozone effects on corn

Researchers hope to create new, ozone-tolerant variety of corn

The University of Illinois has received a $5.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study the effects of ground-level ozone on corn, with the end goal being to develop an ozone-tolerant variety of corn, according to Lisa Ainsworth, associate professor in integrative biology and principal investigator on the grant.

Two other professors will be involved in the project: Andrew Leakey, assistant professor in plant biology, and Patrick Brown, assistant professor in crop sciences. The three plan to look for differences in the phenotypes of the ozone-treated and untreated corn. They then want to cross the most ozone-resistant corn with the least-resistant, creating a variation that will be resistant to ozone and provide increased yield. “Ozone concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled since preindustrial times,” said Ainsworth. “This is a relatively new pollutant that plants are facing, and it’s something that is decreasing yields.”

The project is slated to begin in the summer of 2013.