DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Researchers at Iowa State University will be part of three federally-funded gene research projects that could help farmers increase crop yields or grow specialized crops for a specific use, such as food-oil production.
The National Science Foundation is aiming $85 million in research grants at crops important to world food and clothing supplies: corn, soybeans, cotton, rice, sorghum and tomatoes. Much of the money -- $37 million -- is dedicated toward corn research.
The science foundation plans to fund the research for five years but has received only $40 million of the money it will need. It has requested another $40 million in the budget request it sent to Congress for the next fiscal year.
Iowa State researchers will be involved in gene research on corn, soybeans and cotton.
Officials at the St. Louis-based National Corn Growers Association held a news conference Monday to announce the research funding, saying it could be the tool that allows farmers to make the next big jump in crop production or get higher grain prices by growing crops that have been altered to contain specialized traits.
``We are now going to be able to do things we have dreamt about out here on the farm,'' said Gerald Tumbleson, a board member of the Corn Growers.
However, researchers cautioned that it will be years before any discoveries lead to changes in farm fields.
Still, Virginia Walbot, a Stanford University biology professor who will lead the corn project including Iowa State researchers, is encouraged. Walbot said crop yields have increased significantly about once a decade this century, and genetic research was key to those improvements.