Currently, I'm working on industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) with a special focus on fiber- and seed-type strains using genomics, phenomics, and anatomy. Four undergraduate students at the Prairie View A&M University are involved in all aspects of this project.
Hemp has recently been legalized and identified as a potentially valuable industrial crop (e.g., seed, fiber, phytochemicals, etc.) for Texas. However, exploration of the best hemp strains for different ecological regions of Texas and end-usage in the industry is currently a challenge. Due to genetic reticulation resulting from domestication and intensive breeding, identification and authentication of hemp for germplasm collections are difficult. As hemp is a unique crop that specifically needs to be screened for regulatory aspects, diverse industrial capabilities, yielding parameters, and field performance, a combined ‘omics’ is ideal to establish a beneficial germplasm collection.
Therefore, I'm working on an essential aspect of understanding the genetic diversity of hemp using genomics. Additionally, I integrate phenomics, which is an emerging field that characterizes plant behavior and yield-related traits on a large scale in a way that allows linking phenotypes to genetic control. My undergraduates are involved in each part of this project.
Fiber-type hemp strains
I study the anatomy of hemp stems to understand the diversity of fiber-type hemp strains. Here, I use both hemp stems and extracted fibers to understand both the internal structure and mechanical properties of fibers and employ computational analyses to determine the suitable strains for industrial applications. Camille Pierre was the undergraduate who involved in this project.
Grain-type hemp strains
Morphology, anatomy, and genomics of grain-type hemp strains provide insights into their diversity and patterns. Undergraduate student, A'naya Ware, is collecting data on these hemp strains and we will integrate all this data to generate predictive models to select suitable strains for breeding.