UT ag institute gets $7.5M for potato-based defense study

Published: Oct. 3, 2018 at 7:44 AM EDT
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The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is receiving up to $7.5 million for a study that will use potatoes to detect nerve agents, radiation and plant pathogens to help deployed troops and civilians in war-torn areas.

The institute says the money comes from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Advanced Plant Technologies program.

Researchers at the university and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will team up for the four-year effort.

University professor of plant sciences and lead project investigator Neal Stewart says the potato has all the engineering and growth traits to be an effective “talking plant” that senses and reports environmental stimuli.

Stewart says he hopes this project and other efforts can eventually develop crops that tell farmers about problems with pests, water and nutrients in fields.

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