James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

September 21, 2009

Updating the Blogroll

Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 6:57 am

I’ve recently started following two more plant/ag blogs* that are both so interesting I want to share them with all of you:

First of all they have exciting perspectives and information. The author of Plants are the Strangest People has personal experience with literally hundreds of plant species.** While I can talk about the principles behind plant breeding and crop improvement***, writer of The Scientist Gardener works in the field and is a fountain of interesting posts.

That would be enough on its own, but to be honest I’ll also disclose that the authors are based in regions I’m unashamedly biased towards (central Iowa and central New York respectively) and were kind enough to link here (I discovered their blogs when their web addresses started popping up in the sources of my incoming traffic).

*The highly observant will have noticed links to these blogs were added to the blogroll (which I’ve moved farther up as it was previously getting lost in the clutter of the right-hand column) yesterday evening.
**Sadly the only species I’ve grown for my own research are Corn, Sorghum, and Arabidopsis. Beyond that I can draw on the knowledge I gained though social connections. For example: once dating a girl who worked on Soybeans, working next to a lab that studied Tomatoes, having a TA who worked in a Wheat genomics, or interviewing in a Carrot and Garlic breeding lab. A serious drawback of molecular biology (and even more so now that I’m moving into comparative genomics) is on a day to day basis we’re exposed to only a tiny fraction of the great diversity within the world of plants.
***I can’t be grateful enough that I was able to fit “Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants” a course in the plant breeding department into my schedule as an undergrad. That course, along with “Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering of Plants” have proven incredibly useful when I get into the more applied side of plant biology. (On the more basic research side I’m  indebted to “Plant Development” and “Advanced Plant Genetics”)


  1. I suppose it’s true that there’s something to be said for exposure to a broad range of plants, but there have been times when I wished I had the resources to focus really tightly on one particular plant until I understood it thoroughly. (It really bothers me that I don’t understand how Dieffenbachia variegation works, for example.) More annoying still, on the rare occasion that someone has already written a paper about an area of interest, I don’t have the money to access it and find out what it says. The last such case (about transposons in coleus) wanted $28 for one-day access to the article. I get that journal editors have bills to pay too, but holy crap that’s ridiculous.

    Anyway. Thanks for the link. I’ll be back around.

    Comment by mr_subjunctive — September 21, 2009 @ 7:54 am

  2. Thanks for the plug, James!

    Comment by Matt — September 21, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

  3. I hear you about access to scientific papers. Whenever I’ve been cut off from access through the library subscriptions of a major research university (usually over a summer) I end up missing out on so much. Per paper charges are ridiculous, a single thorough literature search could easily cost over a thousand dollars. (Couple of dozen papers at $20-$50 bucks a piece).

    In the long term, I hope the open access movement will address the fact that the results of much of the science we support as a nation isn’t freely available to the public. In the short term I’ve had to badger distant friends on college campus to share pdfs.

    Comment by admin — September 22, 2009 @ 1:14 am

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