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  2. Researchers

Maria Monteros, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Current Research

problem
The Problem

Challenges to local and global agriculture include: variable and unpredictable weather conditions that alter rainfall patters causing both flooding and droughts; increased demands for agricultural, commercial and personal uses of existing water resources; shifts in insect and disease populations; and desire for low-input agricultural systems that produce more or equal yields with reduced agricultural inputs (water, chemicals and fertilizers). These are the driving forces behind the need for continuous crop improvement strategies to develop new plants that can produce more food, feed and fiber with less inputs or do so in marginal soils with limited water and nutrient availability.

approach
The Approach

Plant breeding and genomics-based approaches can be used to increase plant yield, forage quality, and stability of production across gradients of water and nutrient availability. We are implementing better strategies to evaluate the performance of plants under a range of stress conditions, identify better performing plants, and integrating multiple strategies to understand mechanisms plants use to cope and thrive under abiotic and biotic stress. One of those strategies is to evaluate, integrate and deploy plants with root systems that are more efficient at capturing water and nutrients from the soil. Also, the availability of genome sequences and a breeder's toolbox for alfalfa and other target species can be used to more efficiently identify genes that allow plants to have higher yields, persist longer in the field, be grazing tolerant and address emerging threats to agricultural productivity including emerging insects and diseases.

Current Projects

  • Developing resources and tools to enhance breeding efforts: Alfalfa Breeder's Toolbox
  • Genome sequencing and annotation of the alfalfa genome
  • Root system architecture to optimize nutrient and water use in alfalfa
  • Improving water use efficiency and persistence of alfalfa under drought stress
  • Understanding alfalfa adaptation to acid soil syndrome (low pH, Al toxicity and P deficiency)
  • Gene regulation mechanisms in alfalfa via miRNAs
  • Alfalfa germplasm characterization, trait development and trait integration
  • Pecan genomic resources for germplasm characterization and understanding resistance to pecan scab disease
Education
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Agronomy (Plant Breeding and Genetics), University of Georgia, 2006
  • Licentiate in Biochemistry, Universidad del Valle, Guatemala City, Guatemala, 2001
  • Bachelor of Science, Biochemistry, Universidad del Valle, Guatemala City, Guatemala, 2000
Grants

Project Title: Coordinated development of genetic tools for pecan
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Term: October 2016 to October 2020

Project Title: Research and grower education programs on scab disease in pecans
Source: Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry specialty crops grant program
Term: January 2015 to August 2016

Project Title: Development and curation of the alfalfa breeder's toolbox and integration with other legume databases
Source: Noble Foundation, Forage 365
Term: Jan. 2, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2017

Project Title: Enhancing soil resource acquisition through the improvement of root system architecture
Source: Noble Foundation, Forage 365
Term: Jan. 2, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2017

Project Title: Improving water use efficiency, drought tolerance and persistence of alfalfa and tall fescue
Source: Noble Foundation, Forage 365
Term: Jan 2, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2017

Project Title: Improving phosphorus acquisition and use efficiency in Medicago spp. using candidate genes and natural variation
Source: Noble Foundation, Forage 365
Term: Jan 2, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2017

Project Title: Root traits to enhance nutrient and water use in alfalfa
Source: National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Alfalfa and Forage Research Program
Term: Oct. 1, 2014 to July 31, 2015 (no-cost extension until July 31, 2016)

Project Title: Identification of microRNAs and their role in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in alfalfa
Source: Forage Genetics International, Inc.
Term: Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2014

Project Title: Enhancing biomass yield and processing efficiency in alfalfa
Source: National Science Foundation EPSCoR Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Term: May 14, 2012 to Aug. 15, 2012

Project Title: Development of low lignin alfalfa varieties with enhanced forage quality for Oklahoma
Source: Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology
Term: April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2013

Project Title: Characterization and evaluation of annual and perennial Medicago germplasm for crop improvement
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Term: Aug. 8, 2010 to Oct. 1, 2011

Project Title: Improving alfalfa as a biofuel feedstock
Source: U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Research and Extension Services
Term: Sept. 1, 2009 to Aug. 31, 2011 (no-cost extension to Aug. 31, 2013)

Project Title: Improving the performance of transgenic plants with improved efficiency for bioethanol processing
Source: Oklahoma Bioenergy Center
Term: Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2010

Project Title: Development and application of genomic tools for drought tolerance enhancement in alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)
Source: Oklahoma Bioenergy Center
Term: Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2010

Honors
  • Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, 2006
  • Who's Who among students in American universities and colleges, 2006
  • Gerald O. Mott award for outstanding graduate student in Crop Science, 2005
  • Tinker Foundation research travel award, Brazil, 2005
  • Graduate School research travel grant, UGA
  • College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences research travel grant, UGA
  • Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society of Agronomy, 2003
  • Glenn and Helen Burton 'Feeding the Hungry Fund' scholarship, 2003
  • Outstanding research in a Licentiate thesis, UVG, 2001
Patents
  • Monteros, et. al., Methods for identifying pecan tree cultivars. Unpublished (filed Mar 21, 2016).
  • Khu, et al., Methods and compositions for producing aluminum tolerant alfalfa. U.S. Patent No. 9,456,561 (issued Oct 4, 2016).
  • Khu, et al., Methods and compositions for producing aluminum tolerant alfalfa. U.S. Patent No. 8,664,473 (issued Mar 4, 2014).
  • Han, et al. Plant transcriptional factors as molecular markers. U.S. Patent Appl. Publication No. 20100235946 (filed Dec 10, 2009).