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Breeder Q&A: All about basil

While basil is popular with consumers and economically important for the industry, the culinary herb has yet to benefit from the intensive research treatment enjoyed by crops such as corn, wheat, and soy.

It is also no secret that the pipeline of new degreed or experienced talent simply is not flowing as freely as it did in years past. Recruiting new talent who have either the credentials or experience you need for your growing operation is only getting tougher.

Lara Brindisi, a PhD student at Rutgers University, is a basil breeder studying how to make basil that can better adapt to climate change, diseases, and other abiotic and biotic stresses.

"My lab works directly with growers, both outdoor and indoor, to improve basil. New Jersey has a large acreage of outdoor basil production, but also several indoor controlled environments, vertical farming, and glasshouse production systems. Personally, my work with the indoor growers in and outside of New Jersey has been on observing the changes in plant chemistry and nutrition and working with the Tepper lab to observe the changes in human sensory perception in response to altering the environment." 

"We have made a ton of progress in a relatively short period of time. We recently sequenced a reference genome, for instance, and this will help us and other labs learn so much more about genetics, which we can apply directly to improving basil varieties. I am also working on CRISPR/Cas9 editing for basil, which is an exciting technique to learn, as it has an immense amount of potential for helping crops adapt to climate and disease."

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