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Honors Student Wins Summer Internship to Breed Sustainable Plants



Young woman tends to seedlings in a greenhouse.

Honors horticulture student Raven Bough checks on the progress of apple seedlings grown using different organic groundcovers.

April 27, 2012

Honors College student Raven Bough will have an opportunity to help develop plants that taste better, smell better, and are better for you this summer. A junior horticulture student in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, Bough has been awarded a summer internship at the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center in St. Louis as part of the highly competitive National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. She will be working with Oliver Yu, a professor from Washington University, to develop plant hybrids that thrive without fertilizers and pesticides.

“We’ll be looking for enzymes that contribute to flavor, scent and nutrition, isolating and cloning them to make plant hybrids that enhance these qualities,” Bough said. “Creating plants that can be grown sustainably and possibly organically is the big goal. We’ll integrate these into heartier plants so that they’re more appealing.”

Bough’s summer internship will expand on her honors thesis research on organic groundcovers begun during her freshman year. She is working with Curt Rom, horticulture professor and director of the honors program in Bumpers College, to determine whether shredded paper, woodchips, or green compost is most effective in promoting mycorrihizal fungal colonization of organically managed apples and strawberries. Mycorrhizal fungi are important to plant root growth, phosphorus absorption, and water uptake, and may increase resistance to pathogens.

“Raven’s honors project is part of a larger USDA-funded grant studying best practices for organic orchard management and nutrition in the south. She is a bright young scientist who can see how very fundamental scientific questions have broad significance and application to the real world,” Rom said. Bough received an Honors College Undergraduate Research Grant in support of her honors thesis research, and presented preliminary findings at the 2011 American Society of Horticultural Science National Conference, where she won second place in the undergraduate horticulture science knowledge competition. She serves as president of the university’s horticulture club.

“The Danforth Internship is testament to Raven’s quality as a scholar and will help prepare her for graduate school. I have no doubt she will make a difference to agricultural plant sciences in her career,” Rom said.



Kendall Curlee, director of communications
Honors College