Fox 46 Carolinas
By Digital Journalist Kacie Hollands
Concord, NC – Instead of going to summer camp, or taking a break from learning this summer, a unique group of students are studying ‘plant pathways’ at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis this summer.
Students from high school, undergraduate and graduate programs are doing plant research as part of an internship called ‘The Plant Pathways Elucidation Project’. Their research is a continuation of what was done by last year’s crop of budding scientists. This is the second year of this internship program.
The research they’re doing is ‘literature’ quality, and could impact the way we eat one day. The programs allows the students to study plant genomes and connect their findings to real food production and agriculture. Today they toured Barbee Farms in Concord to see first hand what goes into making the food we eat.
Because Barbee Farms is a small family farm — not big agribusiness — the plants grown there haven’t been genetically modified in the same way many mass produced fruits and vegetables have been. The research these students are doing relates directly to this. For example, strawberries are only grown for a few shorts months in the summer.
Bigger farms might grown plants that have been genetically modified to be more resilient and produce fruit for longer periods of time, but what these plants have in resilience, they may lack in taste and nutrition. These students are working on isolating the genomes in the strawberry plant that account for the lost flavor and nutrition, and add them back into the genetic sequence to make strawberry plants that yield resilient crops but with better taste and nutrition value.