Professor of Crop Science and Plant Biology
4405 Williams Hall
Campus Box 7620
Raleigh, NC 27695-7620
Office: 4405 Williams Hall
The research in my laboratory centers on cellulose synthesis and the assembly of plant cell walls, particularly the secondary walls of cotton fibers and tracheary elements. Knowledge gained from these systems is expected to be applicable to improvement of cellulose biomass crops, such as wood, forage crops, and agricultural residues. An underlying theme of the research is the effort to achieve a better understanding of fundamental processes in plant biology as a foundation for production of value-added crops through genetic engineering or marker-assisted breeding.
Cellulose is the world’s most abundant renewable material, and it exists with plant cell walls as crystalline fibrils. Its biogenesis is essentially a nanoscale structural manufacturing process with multiple levels of control (genetic, hormonal, biochemical, metabolic, cellular, and biophysical), and we still have much to learn about the details. We are especially interested in cotton fiber because, uniquely among plants, its secondary wall contains almost 100% cellulose. Cotton fiber is used intact for textiles and filler materials, and chemical cellulose purified from cotton fiber is a foundation for many industries.
We are interested in 21st century strategies to produce improved materials from cotton fiber, as well as in traditional quality parameters such as strength and fiber maturity. Our research is an integral part of the emerging transition to viewing cotton fiber, not as a bulk commodity, but instead as a higher value material grown from different genetic stocks for product-specific requirements.
Research in the Haigler lab is achieved through a unification of techniques including bioinformatics, genomics, molecular genetics, reverse genetics in the model plant Arabidopsis, fluorescence and electron microscopy, biochemistry, physiology, and plant transformation. Collaborators are sought whenever necessary to contribute expertise over this broad range.