“It’s very important for us to understand how plants solve the problem of getting iron because even though it’s generally abundant on Earth, the form that plants can use is actually scarce.”
While flowers and shoots are the more visible features of plants, what lies beneath the surface is just as important: Plants’ roots are critical for obtaining water and nutrients from the soil. But how plants process environmental information and which genes and molecular mechanisms determine how a plant root decides to grow in a certain direction in the soil are still open questions.
Busch uses a systems genetics approach—which combines techniques from genetics, genomics and other science fields—to understand how root growth in given environments is determined by a plant’s genes. Discoveries in this area could reveal critical insight into growing plants (and food) that can thrive in more extreme environments prompted by climate change, such as drought. He focuses mainly on Arabidopsis thaliana, a commonly studied weed that grows all over the world, to understand, model and predict the molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for root growth.