2019 - 2020 CAPS Seed Grant Program Awards



We are pleased to announce that after a thorough internal and external review process, 8 awards have been made to fund exceptionally promising, innovative materials research on campus through the 2019 CAPS Seed Grant Program.

The awardees/colleges are listed here with additional information below:

alison bennett


Lead PI: Alison Bennett 

Team Members: Ankush Prashar, Jessica Winter

Title: In situ measurement of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal activity in response to controlled release nutrient patches

Lay Summary: We can effectively promote soil health, sustainable agriculture, and reduce chemical use by enhancing positive interactions between crops and soil microbes. We aim to develop new experimental models and materials to discover, explain, and predict the kinetics of nutrient uptake by arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi to plants at multiple scales.


Lead PI: Richard P. Dick

Team Members: Christine Charles, Yueh-Fen Li, Laura Mason, Virginia I. Rich,

Title: Shrub-Crop-Microbiome Interactions: A Novel Rhizosphere Alliance to Mitigate In-Season Drought in the Sahel

Lay Summary: Globally, drought contributes greatly to food insecurity, and is increasing under climate change. Some farmer practices increase crop resilience to drought. We will characterize the mechanisms underlying one such practice, a West African shrub intercropping system for millet, using controlled greenhouse experiments, to identify generally applicable principles.


darren drewry


Lead PI: Darren Drewry

Team Members: Alex Lindsey

Title: Remote Detection of Crop Structure and Function

Lay Summary: As sensor technologies develop, small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) have increasing potential to effectively monitor and manage our agricultural systems. We will deploy both in-situ and airborne sensors over a set of maize treatments (nutrient x water) to determine the ability of modern sensing systems to remotely characterize maize stress.


thaddeus ezeji


Lead PI: Thaddeus Ezeji

Team Members: Ajay Shah and Victor Ujor

Title: Development of new platform for biohydrogen production from lignocellulosic biomass

Lay Summary: To help reduce our dependence on fossil fuel and develop sustainable high-energy fuel with little to no emission of greenhouse gases during combustion, this collaborative proposal aims to develop a new biological platform with compatible bioreactor system wherein agricultural wastes are formulated and activated to generate hydrogen at profitable levels.


jonathan jacobs


Lead PI: Jonathan M. Jacobs

Team Members: Jules Butchacas, Dave Mackey, Veronica Roman-Reyna, Jason Slot, Pearlly Yan

Title: Single cell transcriptomics for understanding plant-microbe interactions

Lay Summary: Gene expression governs cellular behavior and development of plants and

microorganisms. The responses of single cells during plant-microbe interactions is

poorly understood. This CAPS SEEDS grant aims to define gene expression with single

cell RNA-seq to define tissue-specific, cellular responses to pathogen infection.


sami khanal


Lead PI: Sami Khanal

Team Members: Christopher Stewart, Kelly Tilmon

Title: Unmanned aerial vehicle-based method for soybean pest detection and monitoring

Lay Summary: Insect damage to crops poses a serious threat to productivity and food security worldwide. Timely monitoring of pest pressure is critical for mitigating yield loss and environmental concerns related to insecticide application. This project focuses on using drone technology to identify pest

pressure on soybean to facilitate precision insecticide application.


lucy stewart


Lead PI: Lucy Stewart

Team Members: Luis Canas, Andrew Michel, Pierce A. Paul

Title: Characterizing thrips vector populations driving emergent global disease threat to food security, maize lethal necrosis (MLN)

Lay Summary: We propose to develop foundational information on the corn thrips vector

(Frankliniella occidentalis) driving the current global epiphytotic of maize lethal necrosis

(MLN). Our objectives are to: 1) sample for corn thrips in the U.S., and 2) develop corn thrips genetic data to compare U.S. and global populations.


guo-liang wang


Lead PI: Guo-Liang Wang

Team Members: Charles Bell, Venkat Gopalan, Vicki Wysocki

Title: Ribonuclease P for plant resistance (CAPS team name: RIPEN)

Lay Summary: Although plant diseases severely affect food production worldwide, the

molecular basis of plant immunity is not fully understood. We recently found a novel link between

the rice RNase P protein OsRpp30 and innate immunity, and now propose to determine how rice

immunity is modulated by the acetylation/deacetylation status of OsRpp30