Maize Genetics Executive Committee Meeting - March 18, 2011

In attendance: Tom Brutnell (chair), Pat Schnable, Bill Tracy, Sue Wessler, Ed Buckler, Carolyn Lawrence, Brent Buckner and two new members, Nathan Springer and Marja Timmermans. Guests: Jack Okamuro from USDA-ARS, Rick Vierling from NCGA, and Karen Cone from NSF.


NCGA (Vierling)

There was much discussion about growers' potential dissatisfaction with apparent lack of translation of discovery science to application. Clearly, a large part of this is communication. The maize community should think of ways of being more proactive with the growers - perhaps a Maize Genetics Blog on the NCGA web site or a link to a blog at MaizeGDB to inform of how major breakthoughs are having impact. A set of one pagers of newsworthy maize stories was suggested as one mechanism that could be used to emphasize important discoveries for the popular press, members of Congress of web posts. There was also discussion of performing growouts of NAM populations in farmers' fields as test plots for phenotyping. Vierling mentioned a potential to partner with NCGA for yield trials and that the USFRA (US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance) could be involved. This would be one way to engage farmers directly with basic science.

USDA (Okamuro)

Many ARS scientists are in National Program 301 (Plant genetic resources, genomics, and genetic improvement), which is in its 5th year cycle and about to start a customer/stakeholder workshop. Input is desired for the current needs, issues, and challenges in the field. University partners and stakeholders are welcome to contribute. For maize, ARS supports genetics, genomics, databases, and computational tool development. Thus far for FY2011, a ~$140M cut has been absorbed. The stock center is not affected thus far. For maintenance of B73 genome, there was an update at PAG and there was another update at the maize meeting. The MaizeGDB Working Group reports on this topic were received by the ARS National Program Staff and NPS will also be willing to take guidance from the MGEC on B73 genome stewardship.

NSF (Cone)

Cone emphasized that what NSF wants to fund is compatible with the maize genetics research community and there are new funding opportunities. For example, G2P is a new collaboration with USDA NIFA to have new direction in phenomics and there will be a St. Louis workshop on phenomics coming soon. Rob Last and Tim Close are serving to organize this event. There is an emphasis on international collaboration including a solicitation on metabolomics with Japan's equivalent of the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) to serve as a "new collaborator incubator". The NSF OISE's new administrative director is Machi Dilworth. BREAD also emphasizes international collaboration.

Other topics discussed with NSF, USDA, and the Corn Growers:

Need to store large datasets

NCBI SRA is closing except to human datasets (this policy has subsequently been reversed, but it is not clear how long SRA will be open to plant scientists). Buckler, Lawrence, and iPlant are open to making changes for large dat

There was concern that PGRP will lose its impact in IOS. In 2012 there was no line item. Vierling mentioned that NCGA and growers want to see PGRP continued. (See Sept 2011 Meeting with NSF representatives for a more detailed discussion on this point)

Discussion on the 2010 meeting with NSF

Buckler, Brutnell, Walbot, Lawrence met with Diane Okamuro and Jane Silverthorne. Main points were (1) that we need new genome assembly and build mechanisms and that the data should be hosted and stored, (2) community annotation is needed, (3) basic, single-investigator granting opportunities are not apparent, and (4) help for funding the Maize Genetics Cooperation - Stock Center are needed. (see also 2011 Meeting with NSF representatives)

Sequencing projects at BGI in China

There is growing sequence capacity at BGI in China and many in the community are beginning to use this resource. However, sequence access and visualization do not seem to be priorities of BGI. Although data should be provided to GenBank prior to publication, it is not clear that publishers are enforcing this rule. Reviewers should be more insistent on this point. US collaborators with BGI need to get a copy of the sequence and RELEASE IT. Authors should communicate to editors, talk to reviewers, and alert the community that this is an issue. It was noted that this should not be an issue because people want to publish their papers and the publishers have the ability to enforce this rule. They just need to be more diligent.

Plant Summit planned for end of September by ASPB

It was noted that a Plant Science Research Summit is planned to bring attention to plant science and begin a dialog aimed at increasing funding for plant science research. (members of the MGEC in attendance at the Plant Science Summit included Bennetzen, Brutnell, Buckler, Buckner, Lawrence, Schnable)

Stock Center

The Stock Center experienced the untimely death of Janet Day Jackson. Marty is currently putting in the paperwork to allow him to refill the position but, at the time of this report (Nov 2011), has been unable to do so.

- Tom Brutnell on behalf of the MGEC Nov 2011.

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