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  • Writer's pictureRose A. Marks


Updated: Sep 20, 2019

I just started a new job at Michigan State University. I am both grateful for and totally intimidated by the cumulative knowledge surrounding me.

The VanBuren lab (my home base here in the USA) is working on a project to develop genomic resources for the orphan crop Erograstis teff. Although E. teff is widely cultivated in Ethiopia (where it is used to make injera bread), it is grown primarily by small-scale subsistence farmers who have less than an acre in cultivation each. Consequently, very few resources have been devoted to improving E. teff, despite the potential importance of this crop in dry and marginal sites (it is highly drought tolerant and nutritious). As part of a long term effort to improve E. teff, the VanBuren lab has ~400 varieties of E. teff in cultivation here in Michigan. Michigan is not exactly the ideal environment for this dry-land crop, and there are no herbicides developed for E. teff (one of the consequences of being an orphan) so the weeds are completely out of control. As a result, I got to spend a couple mornings out in the field hand weeding. Honestly, it made me feel nostalgic for all the years I spent working on vegetable farms when I was younger.

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