Postdoctoral award winner focuses on increasing yield of food crops
Rohit Kumar wants to help feed the world.
“My interest is to serve society by contributing to sustainable food security for the growing world population,” said College of Science postdoctoral fellow Rohit Kumar, who works in the laboratory of Rajandeep Sekhon, an associate professor of genetics and biochemistry.
Kumar’s overall research focuses on understanding complex traits that underlie nutritional value and stress tolerance to develop climate-resistant crop plants.
At Clemson, his research has focused on regulatory systems that govern senescence — the process of biological aging — and stalk lodging in corn, which refers to stalk breakage below the corn ear. Lodging reduces the U.S. corn crop by as much as 25 percent annually.
Sekhon said Kumar’s work could help improve yields for a wide range of annual crops, including corn, soybeans, rice and wheat. “These crops only survive for one season, and even then, their lifespan is limited,” Sekhon said. “During that lifespan, the most important thing the plants do for us is convert solar energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis, which is what basically sustains us. Our big idea is that if we can delay senescence, that can lead to the production of more chemical energy for human consumption.”
Since he came to Clemson in 2018, Kumar has authored or co-authored five peer-reviewed publications in various scholarly journals, including The Plant Cell and Plant, Cell & Environment. The Clemson University Postdoctoral Association named Kumar its 2021 Distinguished Postdoctoral Award for his efforts to understand how to extend the productive life of food crops.
In addition to his research, Kumar frequently serves as a reviewer of international journals and a judge in student-oriented competitions, including the Three-Minute Thesis program and the University’s Undergraduate Science Symposium.
“Dr. Kumar is an outstanding young scientist with a steady upward trajectory,” Sekhon said.