Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Growing, Together

MU Researchers Hope Their Model of Cooperation Can Help Feed the World

Plant science professors Robert Sharp, left, and Felix Fritschi plant crops under a state-of-the-art “rain-out shelter.” The giant glass structure on rails shields crops from rain, allowing the experimenters, rather than nature, to determine how much moisture the plants get and when. Photo by Randy Mertens.

Doug Randall shakes his head when he thinks about professors at other top-flight universities who won’t admit anyone from a rival colleague’s lab into their own lab.

Robert Sharp

I’ve been at institutions — very prestigious places — where faculty say: ‘Don’t let any of your students cross my threshold. I don’t ever want to see them in my laboratory.’ That doesn’t exist here in the plant biology world,” he says. “I just don’t believe it’s the right way to go.”

In the mid-1970s, an effort to foster and preserve a far different culture at Mizzou led Randall and a half-dozen colleagues to found the Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG).

The IPG is neither a dues-paying society nor a club with monthly meetings. Rather, it’s a collection of colleagues who say, “We want to work together.”

Operating on the principles of openness, communication and collaboration, the IPG has created a community of 57 researchers — including 19 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) — across MU colleges, schools and departments. The IPG continues to transform campus culture, pulls in about $12 million in research funding a year and helps make Mizzou one of the 15 best plant and animal science institutions in the world, as ranked by Thomson Reuters.

Known for its work in plant genetics, plant hormone signaling, and insect and fungal resistance, the group is now bringing its cooperative model to bear on the vital issue of food security (consistent access to nutritious food) and joining as a lead partner in the International Food Security Alliance.

Read the rest of the story at the MIZZOU Magazine >>