Kevin Dorn is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Dr. Jesse Poland’s lab at Kansas State University working on the genomics of intermediate wheatgrass (scientific name - Thinopyrum intermedium, commercial name - KernzaTM). Intermediate Wheatgrass is a strong perennial species with prolific biomass production, relatively large seeds and high grain yield. As a perennial crop, IWG can provide essential ecosystem services to current agricultural practices such as stabilizing soil with its deep (>3 meters) root structure, reducing nutrient runoff, and limiting weed growth. For biofuels, IWG produces biomass quantities similar or greater than switchgrass, with the added potential of >1,000 kg/ha of grain that is comparable to wheat in food products. Perennial crop species are central to the overall sustainable intensification of cropping systems for food, feed, fiber, and fuel. Dual-use crops that can serve as a biofuel feedstock in addition to a source of edible grain add additional economic potential to the cropping systems that are needed to meet projected demand for both food and fuel.
There have been significant efforts to improve IWG through traditional breeding with focus on important traits such as plant height, biomass production, seed size, free threshing ability, and early maturity. While some progress has been made, accelerating the improvement of IWG is likely possible using modern genomics-based breeding tools. However, there has been limited molecular breeding and genomic efforts in IWG due to its large hexaploid genome. The availability of genomic resources opens vast possibilities for accelerating the breeding process of IWG while providing a foundation for functional and comparative genomics approaches to understand mechanisms of perenniality in the Pooideae.
As a part of a Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute Community Science Program project and with funding from the Perennial Agriculture Project (The Land Institute & The Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation), we are generating the core set of genomic resources needed for IWG, including an anchored genome sequence and annotated gene space. The scope of this work is to develop high quality genome resources for IWG to enable genomics-assisted breeding and gain insight to the genetics of perenniality using a cross-species comparative transcriptomic approach.
Previous Research Experience
As a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota under the direction of Professors M. David Marks and Don Wyse, Kevin led the development of genomic resources for field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense). As a part of the Forever Green Initiative, Kevin’s research has empowered a genomics-driven domestication program to develop pennycress as a new winter annual cover crop and biofuel feedstock that fits within the corn/soybean rotation in the upper Midwest. He also contributed to other projects within the Forever Green Initiative, including genomics research on Camelina sativa and Silphium integrifolium.
PhD - University of Minnesota, Plant Biological Sciences - 2015
Advisors: M. David Marks and Donald Wyse
Dissertation: ‘Genomics and Domestication of Field Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.)
Post Baccalaureate Certificate - University of Minnesota, Innovations in Undergraduate Multicultural Teaching and Learning – 2012
Specialization: Multicultural scientific teaching, universal instructional design
B.S. - University of Minnesota, Genetics, Cell Biology and Development / Plant Biology double major - 2008