FACE Foundation

Supporting French-American Cultural Exchange in Education and the Arts

Thomas Jefferson Fund


Conversation with Dr. Erin Sparks

Thomas Jefferson Fund laureate Dr. Erin Sparks

Projet Title: Engineering aerial roots for plant stability
In collaboration with Dr. Christophe Pradal.

About the project

Climate change brings an increase in severe storms, which can bring, among other effects, intense forces in the face of which plants are confronted with the challenge of staying upright. Dr. Erin Sparks, Assistant Professor at the University of Delaware and Dr. Christophe Pradal, Associate Researcher at the French Agricultural Center for International Development (CIRAD) are dedicating their research to this issue. While Sparks is focusing on field experiments, Pradal masters computer simulations. Together they are leading an agronomy project, “Engineering aerial roots for plant stability,” funded by the Thomas Jefferson Fund and supported by the Make Our Planet Great Again Initiative.

Sparks and Pradal have been conducting research to determine the function of aerial roots, or brace roots, in plant stability to prevent lodging (the failure of plants to stay upright) and crop loss. When presented with the obstacle of feeding a growing world population, mitigating crop losses due to lodging is one area in which rapid production gains can be made. By using a wide variety of methodology, including robots, the two teams are attempting to define brace root development, response to the environment, and identify the genes that control these processes.

In the videos, Dr. Sparks shares how the Thomas Jefferson Fund has impacted her career, helped build her research program, and how the fund helps launch new cooperations.

Conversation with Thomas Jefferson Fund laureate: Dr. Erin Sparks (1/2)

Conversation with Thomas Jefferson Fund laureate: Dr. Erin Sparks (2/2)


French Embassy in the U.S.
Higher Education Department