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Research Projects

WheatCAP – Validation, characterization and deployment of QTL for grain yield components in wheat

Our group is a member of the Wheat Coordinated Agricultural Project (WCAP), a multi-institution project funded by USDA-NIFA to validate and characterize genes for grain yield in wheat. There is an urgent need to improve wheat yields because current year-on-year gains are insufficient to meet future global demand.

Yield is a complex trait comprised of multiple components such as spikelet number and grain size. We have only a poor understanding of the genes controlling each of these components, limiting our ability to breed for higher-yielding varieties. The goals of this project are to identify genetic variation associated with yield components in wheat, to characterize the genes underlying this variation and to deploy this material into breeding programs to aid the development of more productive varieties.

We are studying a genetic variant that affects grain size and weight and are performing field and genetic mapping experiments to identity the gene underlying this variant. We are working closely with the wheat breeding program to deploy beneficial variants in CO breeding lines to assess their impact on yield in CO and the Great Plains.

Full project details can be found on the WheatCAP website.


Mutagenesis and wheat breeding

In a project funded by the Colorado Wheat Administrative Commission (CWAC) and the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation (CWRF), we are applying mutagenesis to characterize the roles of wheat genes and to develop novel traits for the CSU wheat breeding program.

We are using TILLING to screen chemically-mutagenized populations of wheat plants for individuals carrying genetic variants which may confer advantages in wheat breeding. We are screening sequenced TILLING populations (Krasielva et al. 2017), as well as our own TILLING population to target genes with roles in abiotic stress tolerance, and which determine quality and production traits in wheat. We are studying plants carrying mutations in target genes to characterize the role of that gene and to gauge their potential to deliver improved traits in elite wheat varieties.

Genome editing is a technology with enormous potential to impact wheat breeding. Our first applications using CRISPR-Cas9 will be to develop targeted gene knockouts in wheat. In contrast to chemical mutagenesis, genome editing provides the capacity to target highly-specific changes to multiple genes in the wheat genome, including large deletions encompassing multiple genes. We are exploring the techniques to apply gene targeting in wheat, to deliver more subtle changes to the wheat genome, including insertions of novel genes and to make small edits to genes of interest to modify their function.

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