INTERNATIONAL WHEAT
CONGRESS AWARDEES

 
samir.jpg

SAMIR ALAHMAD

Biography

I recently completed my PhD in June 2019 at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. I subsequently started a GRDC Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Queensland. The Fellowship aims to create elite durum introgression lines that combine root biomass and root angle in unique combinations and develop distinct ideotypes that will be evaluated under water-limited conditions. The objective of this fellowship is to deliver germplasm to breeding programs and assist accelerating the development of new resilient varieties with improved adaptation to drought in the face of climate change.

The main focus of my PhD was plant physiology, quantitative genetics and genomics, specifically in the area of developing or improving new phenotyping methodologies, genetic mapping and population genetics. During the course of my PhD I worked on durum wheat pre-breeding and genetics. To expand durum wheat production in the marginal rainfall areas, my research investigated the role of physiological traits including root architectural traits, staygreen and plant developmental traits for enhancing durum wheat yield under both drought and crown rot conditions. More importantly, it included work on optimizing root system architecture to improve the ability of plant access to water in the soil profile and avoid drought. My education, training and experience in plant physiology and breeding has fuelled my desire to contribute to crop improvement and yield enhancement through the delivery of impactful research to the industry. I am now an early career scientist and looking forward to networking and establishing collaboration with wider national and international scientific community to exchange novel research ideas.

Abstract Summary

The optimal root system architecture (RSA) of a crop is highly context-dependent and critical for efficient resource capture in the soil space. Narrow root growth angle promoting deeper root growth is often associated with improved access to water and nutrients in deep soils during terminal drought. RSA, therefore is a key drought-adaptive trait that could minimise yield losses in regions often experiencing limited rainfall. Here, we report a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for RSA in durum wheat (Triticum turgidum ssp. durum). Using the rapid generation advance technology, ‘speed breeding’, we developed a nested association mapping population (NAM) derived from crossing Australian cultivars to elite breeding lines from the International Centre for Agriculture in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) pre-selected for drought adaptation in Syria and Morocco. A subset of 393 F6 lines was phenotyped for seminal root angle (SRA) using the ‘clear pot’ method and genotyped with 2,541 high-quality polymorphic DArTseq markers. Phenotyping the panel of parents and standards using ‘shovelomics’ revealed a strong correlation between SRA in the glasshouse and nodal root growth angle in the field. GWAS for seminal root angle (SRA) found seven significant marker-trait associations clustered on chromosome 6A, representing a major quantitative trait locus (qSRA-6A). This QTL co-located with previously reported root and yield component traits in durum wheat. High levels of pairwise LD (r2 = 0.67) were observed between seven significant markers on 6A, suggesting high allelic fixation for this chromosomal region. Subsequent haplotype analysis using those seven markers revealed eight haplotypes, of which two were most frequent in the population. A total of 142 lines carried hap1 (36.13%) and 120 lines carried hap2 (30.28%). Comparing RSA phenotypes between those major haplotype groups found that hap1 was associated with a significantly narrower RSA than hap2 (difference of 7.7°, P<0.001). Candidate gene analysis revealed loci related to gravitropism, polar growth and hormonal signalling. Root biomass was assayed for selected lines and no differences were observed for root biomass between lines carrying hap1 and hap2 for qSRA-6A, highlighting the opportunity for durum wheat breeders to perform marker-assisted selection for the qSRA-6A locus and directly select for wide or narrow RSA targeting different environments, without influencing root biomass. We also demonstrated that durum wheat with distinct root ideotypes can be achieved by combining alleles for qSRA-6A and root biomass. Our study revealed that the genetic predisposition for deep rooting was best expressed under water-limitation yet the root system displayed plasticity producing root growth in response to water availability in upper soil layers. We discuss the potential to deploy root architectural traits in cultivars to enhance yield stability in environments that experience variable rainfall.

TWITTER HANDLE

@samir_alahmad


Sisay's photo.jpg

SISAY ALEMU

BIOGRAPHY

Mr. Sisay Kidane is a researcher at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and is based at the National Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center Holeta, Ethiopia. He is working in plant biotechnology research activities involving identification of genes in wheat resistant to stem and stripe rusts for use in marker assisted introgression in to well adapted, high yielding but susceptible wheat cultivars. Sisay has also been involved in molecular characterization of barley, enset (false banana) and other crops with SSR marker system. In his earlier research career as well, Sisay worked on improvement of crops like common-bean and sesame and has contributed for the development and release of improved soybean varieties.

Currently, Sisay is doing his PhD in Agricultural Biotechnology stream at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. Sisay’s PhD research focuses on identifying genes for resistance to stripe rust in durum wheat through Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) and haplotype analysis. He has already done the phenotyping (in Ethiopia) and genotyping in Cristobal Uauy’s lab JIC Norwich, UK. At the moment, he is working mainly on thesis writing and manuscripts. Resistant genotypes, SNPs significantly associated with the resistance are among the expected results of his study. Sisay has received his MSc degree in plant sciences, specialization Breeding and Genetic Resources from Wageningen University, The Netherlands (2006-2008) and BSc degree is in Plant Production and Dry land farming from Hawassa University (former Debub University), Hawassa Ethiopia (1999-2003).

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

Stripe (Yellow) rust caused by Puccinia striiformis f.sp. tritici (Pst) is one of the most devastating diseases of wheat in the highlands of Ethiopia. Identification of resistant genes helps in battling yellow rust and maximize wheat production. Virulence phenotyping was carried out on ten Pst isolates originally collected from three testing sites (Meraro, Kulumsa and Chefe-Donsa) using a set of 35 stripe rust differential lines corresponding to 19 resistance genes: Yr1, Yr2, Yr3, Yr4, Yr5, Yr6, Yr7, Yr8, Yr9, Yr10, Yr15, Yr17, Yr24, Yr25, Yr27, Yr32, YrSp, YrAvS and Yr Amb. Three isolates (Pst_Is1, Pst_Is4 and Pst_Is8) that combined virulence to all but Yr5, Yr15 and YrSp were identified and used to test 300 durum wheat lines for seedling resistance in the greenhouse at Kulumsa research center. The result showed that, 56.3%; 63.3%; and 46.3%, of the lines exhibited highly resistant infection type (0 ≤ IT ≤ 3) in response to Pst_Is1, Pst_Is4, and Pst_Is8 respectively. Percentage of resistant lines ranged from 43.6 - 64.1, 38.7 - 61.5, and 12.8 - 17.9 within landraces, selections and cultivars respectively. Presence of seven Yr genes was investigated with haplotype analysis of 16 linked KASP-based SNP markers on the same set of durum lines including Yr-differentials and YrAvS as positive and negative controls respectively. Twelve of the markers gave clear co-segregation of the tested lines between positive and negative controls of the Yr genes. On the average, 80.7% and 56.2% of the lines clearly co-segregated with the positive controls of Yr7 and Yr15 respectively. Only two lines (0.7%) co-segregated for YrSp while 98.7% co-segregated (including the negative control) for Yr5 suggesting the need for retesting them with perfect diagnostic markers. No evidence was found for the presence of Yr1, Yr17 and Yr36. Average co-segregation of lines with Yr7, Yr15, Yr5 and YrSp positive controls was 61.4%, 65.4% and 41.8% within landraces, selections and cultivars respectively. In conclusion, in both phenotypic and molecular screening, landraces and selection have shown to be better sources for Pst resistance over released cultivars. Besides, the tested lines carry haplotypes at least similar if not identical to the respective Yr genes. Our result gives evidence that in Ethiopia, Yr15 can be used for marker assisted breeding while Yr5 and YrSp can still be good candidates provided that they are reconfirmed with perfect diagnostic markers.

TWITTER HANDLE

@SisayKidaneAlem


alv.jpg

SANTIAGO ALVAREZ PRADO

BIOGRAPHY

I graduated as Agronomist in December 2008 at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. During my undergraduate research thesis, I focused principally on issues regarding comparative behaviour of ecophysiological traits in wheat and barley. After my graduation I conducted doctoral studies at Departamento de Producción Vegetal of the Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina. As a graduate student I focused on seed filling physiology and genetic controls in different maize genetic backgrounds growing under different environments.

After my doctoral thesis I continued my research activity at the “Ecophysiology Laboratory of Plants under Environmental Stress” (LEPSE) at the INRA Montpellier, France, as a Post-doc. My research project was about the analysis of a maize association panel grown under different water scenarios within a phenotyping platform. This project aims at developing novel methods and strategies for genetic yield improvement under dry environments and for enhanced plant water-use efficiency. After my post-doc I got Research position in CONICET, the research council of Argentina, at the School of Agriculture of the University of Buenos Aires. My current project is about drought tolerant mechanisms in wheat, barley, oat and triticale at field conditions.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

Climatic variability and extremes climatic events are responsible for one-third of the global variability in crop yields. Water shortage, caused by large variations in the amount, frequency and timing of rainfall during the crop cycle, is one of the major abiotic stresses limiting crop production. In this context, environmental variability creates significant challenges for farmers as optimal management practices vary from season to season. The aim of this study was to optimize wheat management practices considering rainfall variability in the west Pampas of Argentina. This region is characterized by predominantly summer rainfall with probable deficits in winter and early spring, and with high rainfall annual variability. Two genotypes, commonly used by farmers, with different time to flowering (LF: late flowering; EF: early flowering), under three initial soil water conditions (well-watered, moderately-watered and dry conditions) at three sowing dates were simulated for a series of 39 years. As expected, wheat yield was, in average, higher for the LF than the EF genotype (5437 vs. 5112 kg ha-1 for LF and EF, respectively; p<0.05). Yield differences were even more evident under no-water-restrictions due to a higher resource capture (7915 vs. 6956 kg ha-1 for LF and EF, respectively; p<0.05). However, in dry years (less than 200 mm) opposite results were observed with the EF genotype yielding more than the LF genotype (4128 vs. 3255 kg ha-1 for EF and LF, respectively; p<0.05). Variations in grain yield were associated with changes in grain number (r2 = 0.80) rather than grain weight, which remained stable across different environmental conditions. Reductions in grain number were a consequence of a lower partition to reproductive organs (p<0.05), principally limited by water shortage. The LF genotype, with a longer vegetative phase, used more water than the EF genotype before anthesis and therefore depleted soil water reserves (p<0.05) that were scarce for reproductive phases. Differences between genotypes were more evident under initial soil well-watered conditions (16%) rather than moderately-watered (13%) or dry conditions (9%). Therefore, by better matching crop cycle length with changed rainfall distribution, genotype selection can partially compensate the deleterious impacts of water deficit on rainfed wheat yield in the West Pampas of Argentina. Results highlight the need to design management practices in a scenario-dependent manner in order to reduce yield gaps. 


harel.jpg

HAREL BACHER

BIOGRAPHY
I grow on farmer community in the north of Israel, working as a child in the fields, asking many questions and learning from the farmers. When I grow, I decided to learn more about agriculture and plant science. I started my bachelor degree in the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Hebrew university of Jerusalem. During my masters, I specialized in Field Crops and Vegetables department, working on the effects of heat stress on cotton yield.

Today I am a third year Ph.D candidate in collaboration program under professor Zvi Peleg and professor Harkamal walia, from the Hebrew university of Jerusalem, Israel and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, USA. Studying the physiological and genetic basis of drought-responsive traits derived from wild emmer wheat. My field of interest are crop wild relatives physiology and genetics, functional genetics, high throughput phenomics and data mining. My connection to agriculture derives me to study and doing research that targeted to find new drought adapted mechanisms in wheat that could be meaningful to the farmers in this changing environment

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

Drought is the major environmental factor limiting wheat production and sustainability worldwide. The wild emmer wheat (Triticum turgidum ssp. dicoccoides) genepool harbors a rich allelic repertoire for numerous important traits, including drought tolerance. In the current study we investigated the potential of wild alleles for enhancing drought tolerance. A set of adapted Near Isogenic Lines (NIL) was developed by introgression of wild emmer accession Zavitan into elite durum wheat (T. turgidum ssp. durum; cv. Svevo). The NILs were genotyped and linked to the Zavitan and Svevo genomes. The NILs population was phenotyped using high-throughput image-based phonemics approach and resulted in a wide range of drought adaptive strategies. Cluster analysis of morpho-physiological traits revealed five clusters of drought responsive strategies, resulted from a shift in plant growth rate, architecture, and water-use-efficiency. Highly productive NIL with enhance drought adaptation was selected for further characterization. Using high-resolution lyzemeters platform we inform the specific physiological changes from the shoot and root-soil water uptake.  A significant shift in resources allocation between root and shoot was found, which was supported by enhance photosynthesis capacity under drought.  Using transcriptomic analysis of the identified NIL we were able to identify novel genes and metabolic pathways associated with plant adaptations to drought and especially root-specific differently express genes. The identified genetic factors underscore the potential benefit of introducing wild alleles into modern cultivars and is likely to be useful for the selection of drought-adaptive lines in future breeding programs.

TWITTER HANDLE

@BacherHarel


IMG-20190510-WA0015.jpg

PRIYANKA BASAVARADDI

BIOGRAPHY

Priyanka Basavaraddi is a PhD student at the University of Lleida, Spain. Her expertise is focused on crop development, yield, and physiology of water use efficiency and abiotic-stress in cereal and horticulture crops. Currently, she is working on “Developmental phases affecting dynamics of organ development and physiological attributes underlying major yield components in elite wheat”. Priyanka has already presented part of her doctoral work in two Spanish symposia on physiology and breeding of Cereals (2018 and 2019). She graduated from University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, India (2009-2013) where her interest for agronomy grew. She did her Masters in crop physiology at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, India (2013-2015) and received a merit scholarship from the Department of Biotechnology - Ministry of Science and Technology, India.

In her Master’s thesis Priyanka showed that variations in stomatal and mesophyll characteristics of rice affected growth through WUE and identified lines with traits that improved WUE. She began her first job as “Senior Research Fellow” in the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bengaluru, India (2015-16), to gain work experience in research field and to evaluate her decision of taking up a research career. She worked on improving flooding tolerance in tomato through grafting technique. This involved screening of tolerant eggplant lines to use as rootstocks and evaluating the physiology of graft combinations under artificial floods in specially designed structures. After being offered a PhD position and winning fellowship from the Government of Catalonia – AGAUR, she began her PhD in 2016.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

Identifying and understanding the relevant traits and trait combinations that influence grain yield (GY) is of greatest importance in wheat breeding. Identifying prospect parents having such traits is one of the critical choices by breeders, as strategically selecting prospect parents may increase the likelihood of transgressive segregation for yield and therefore reach higher rates of genetic gains. The two major yield components are grain number per m2 (GN) and grain weight (GW). Having higher genetic variability and being relatively more plastic, GN has been critical in improving GY. Hence, improved understanding of the biological basis and traits that influence GN is needed to converge this into practical breeding programs. Elite lines are an important source of complex traits and trait combinations that can be exploited for further yield improvements through increasing further GN. We carried out two field experiments during the cropping seasons of 2016-17 and 2017-18 in NE Spain evaluating 231 lines which were originally selected from 1200 of a NAM population (made of 13 bi-parental crosses, all of them elite lines) from an evaluation study carried out in CIMMYT, Mexico. The selection of these lines aimed to reduce variation in both plant height and time to anthesis for lines possessing high GN within each of the 13 crosses. The criteria behind choosing these lines was to identify critical traits, beyond time to anthesis and height, influencing GN. The lines exhibited high variability in GY and GN both between and within the crosses. There was high GxE interaction for GY in these lines when two season’s data were compared. Most of the variability in GY was significantly explained by GN. On the other hand, fruiting efficiency (FE) was related to both the GY components,  relation was positive with GN and negative with GW. GN was positively related to spike dry weight at anthesis (assessed indirectly as chaff weight). As GY was predominantly explained by GN and FE was mainly driving GN, the trade-off between FE and GW did not imply competitive compensation. Furthermore, the two component phases of the anthesis time – from sowing to the onset of stem elongation and from then to anthesis- late reproductive phase- were negatively related to each other and positively related to anthesis time. However, the little variation observed in anthesis time was mostly explained by OSE. In conclusion, these elite lines with optimised plant height and anthesis time prove to be an important sources of variability in GN which is better explained by their differences in FE. The relation between anthesis time and pre-anthesis phases suggests that there would be room for optimising the pre-anthesis phases without modifying anthesis time to enhance dynamics of organ development during discrete pre-anthesis phases.

TWITTER HANDLE

@PriyankaAB2


Professional headshot Francisca Castillo 1.jpg

FANCISCA CASTILLO

BIOGRAPHY

My name is Francisca Castillo, I was born in Santiago-Chile. I am 30 years old and I am single mother of a 14 years old son. I studied Biochemistry (2007-12, Best GPA Award) and hold a PhD in Agricultural Sciences at the Austral University of Chile (2013-17). During my PhD, I was supervised by Prof. Daniel Calderini and my research was focused on the physiological and molecular determinants of grain weight in sunflower crop. In parallel, I joined to Prof. Simon McQueen-Mason (UK) and Prof. Calderini's team (Chile) in a project that involved the overexpression of an expansin gene in wheat grains funded by Community Resource for Wheat Transformation of NIAB, UK. In this context, I completed an internship at The University of York, UK (2015). The work that I carried out in wheat during three independent experiments is now bearing fruits in a publication. During my early career, I have published the results of my PhD thesis as a first author in WoS Journals, and, I presented my research in several national and international conferences. Recently, I was awarded as Principal Investigator a Postdoctoral Project funded by National Commission for Science and Technology (CONICYT-Chile, 2019-2022) entitled: "Functional analysis of a rotamase involved in thermotolerance processes in wheat grains". Currently, my research interests are focused on wheat yield and production under heat stress using Crop Molecular Genetics and Genomics approaches. In the future, my aspiration is to continue contributing to knowledge that improves wheat varieties for growers, industry and consumers.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

Wheat is the most widely cultivated cereal and provides around 20% of the calories consumed by the world population. In a climate change scenario, the crop yield is negatively affected due to heat shock events. In response to heat stress, a cascade of events is triggered at the molecular level, activating and repressing numerous genes. In this context, there are few studies focused on the response of wheat grains to heat stress, therefore, our research group shown that heat stress treatments during a short period of the grain-filling, decreased grain size and weight (from 16 to 30%) in wheat. In the present work Triticum durum was sown in greenhouse conditions in two seasons. The plants were exposed to heat stress for 4 days, starting ten days after flowering. An RNA-sequencing analysis on grain showed almost 4000 transcripts differentially expressed related with protein folding, photosynthesis and RNA metabolism. We identified a gene of the family of peptidylprolyl-isomerase, known as Rotamase, whose mRNA levels increased more strongly in wheat grains by heat stress treatment and its expression levels was validated by qRT-PCR. To functional analysis of this gene in thermotolerance processes of wheat grains, we developed and selected mutant lines of the Rotamase gene by CRISPR-Cas9 approach. Further functional characterization of this candidate gene will provide insights about its potential influence in the final grain weight under a heat stress condition and could contribute to mitigate the effects associated with the increase of the global temperature.

TWITTER HANDLE

@FranM_Castillo


IMG-20190701-WA0006.jpg

KHAOULA EL HASSOUNI

BIOGRAPHY

Khaoula EL Hassouni was born and raised in Rabat, Morocco and completed her engineer’s degree in agronomy with specialization in plant pathology at the national school of Agriculture in Meknès, Morocco. Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate in plant breeding working on durum wheat breeding at the Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). She will be able to fulfill one of her life’s wishes: to receive her doctoral degree in few weeks. Khaoula’s Ph.D. is funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). Her work focuses on understanding the plant adaptive mechanisms and molecular basis of tolerance to drought and heat in durum wheat. Khaoula examines (1) the response of a global durum wheat collection to heat stress at flowering and (2) works on improving the drought adaptation of durum wheat through a number of root traits. Khaoula has dedicated to shape her career in agricultural research for improving the livelihoods for people.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

Heat and drought stresses reduce significantly durum wheat production. Terminal heat stress affects anthesis and grain filling resulting in a severe reduction in yield. Hence, a durum wheat panel was exposed to simulated heat stress at the time of flowering by applying plastic tunnels in the field over two seasons. Mean yield was reduced by 54 % under heat compared to control conditions and grain number per spike found to be the most critical trait for tolerance to warm conditions. Drought stress occurring at the time of flowering blocks the normal nutrient movement within the plant and results in severe reduction in grain size, and hence in yield. 100 of entries were screened for adult root types under normal and simulated drought conditions using the pasta strainer method. These same entries were also tested under field conditions in drought prone sites, to reveal that narrow root angle (deep roots) generated a 38% yield advantage. The panel was genotyped with 8,173 polymorphic SNPs markers via 35K Axiom array. Association analysis corrected by Bonferroni critical LOD and using flowering time as covariate, revealed that yield under heat stress was controlled by four QTLs located on chromosomes 1A, 5A, 5B and 6B, of which three overlap with spike fertility traits. For yield reduction in case of drought, this trait was controlled by three QTLs on 3A, 3B and 7B. Haplotype analysis confirmed that the positive allele at three of heat stress QTLs resulted in yield advantage of 8% under the heat-stressed conditions of the Senegal River. Similarly, the positive alleles for the three of QTLs for drought tolerance achieved 15% yield advantage under the extremely dry conditions of Kfardan, Lebanon.  Two of the QTLs for heat tolerance were successfully validated into KASP and explained >10% of the phenotypic variation for grain yield in an independent germplasm set tested under severe heat. Similarly, two QTLs for root angle were successfully converted to KASP and explained >10 of the phenotypic variation for grain size and grain yield of an independent validation set tested under severe drought. These four QTLs can now be pyramided via MAS to obtain superior cultivars well adapted to two major abiotic stresses.

TWITTER HANDLE

@K__ELHassouni


Fizza_Fatima_Photo.jpg

FIZZA FATIMA

BIOGRAPHY

Fizza is a Master’s student studying Biology at the University of Ottawa. She is currently working in Dr. Sylvie J. Cloutier’s lab at the Ottawa Research and Development Centre (ORDC), a regional branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). Her lab is primarily interested in studying biotic and abiotic stress tolerance, agronomic and quality traits in wheat and flax. They perform trait association studies on large-scale next generation sequencing data from worldwide collections of wheat and flax. Fizza’s thesis focuses on investigating genomic patterns of diversity, ancestral relationships and trait associations in a diverse collection of cultivated wheat, synthetic hexaploid wheat, progenitors and wild relatives. She is using single nucleotide polymorphism data to identify marker-trait associations for disease and agronomic traits ranging from height and yield, to leaf rust and Fusarium head blight.

As a part of her Master’s program, Fizza is also specializing in bioinformatics. She is interested in developing and utilizing bioinformatic tools and resources to analyze large-scale omics data. She enjoys combining mathematical and computational models to investigate complex biological problems. During her undergraduate, she worked on research projects in fields of cancer systems biology, network biology and computational therapeutics at the Biomedical Informatics Research Laboratory (BIRL), Pakistan. In her spare time, Fizza rejoices in hiking, travelling, and teaching.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY
Bread wheat is an allohexaploid that formed through the sequential hybridization of three species. Polyploidization, subsequent natural selection, domestication and breeding bottlenecks have reduced the genetic diversity in cultivated wheat compared to its progenitors and wild relatives. These are now widely recognized as important resources from which to harness useful traits for cultivated wheats. Various genotyping methods can be used to study genomic patterns of diversity, ancestral relationships and trait associations. A number of SNP genotyping arrays have been developed to characterize genomes of important crops and animals. Here, we assessed a collection of 385 accessions with the wheat Infinium 90k array. The collection comprises 29 different species of cultivated wheat, synthetic hexaploid wheat progenitor species, and wild relatives where ~40% have a winter growth habit. Genotype calling, SNP clustering and filtering were performed to extract reliable and informative sets of SNPs. These SNPs were validated using SNPs from using exome capture and re-sequencing data of 136 accessions. To picture the relationship among various Triticum and Aegilops species in the collection principal component and phylogenetic tree analysis was carried out. Wild Aegilops species, such as Ae. tauschii , Ae. speltoides , Ae. cylindrica , Ae. geniculata , and Ae. crassa , clearly clustered separately from the cultivated subspecies of T. turgidum and T. aestivum. Additionally, Wild and cultivated emmer wheat clustered separately and, synthetic hexaploid wheat originating from wild emmer clustered with the wild tetraploid group while those obtained from crosses with cultivated emmer clustered with durum and other cultivated Triticum species. Phenotyping for leaf rust was performed in the field at two locations for three years. Indoor tests for leaf rust reaction type using six races were also performed. A genome-wide association study was conducted for these traits using seven single and multi-locus models to identify quantitative trait nucleotide in cultivated and wheat wheat. In summary, our results highlight the potential of SNP arrays for analyzing genome-wide variations in wheat and essentially create opportunities for future marker-trait association studies using wild wheat. We hope findings from this research will aid pre-breeding decisions and create potential for developing locally adapted superior lines.

TWITTER HANDLE

@FizzaFatima311


marwa laribi.png

MARWA LARIBI

BIOGRAPHY

I Marwa LARIBI, PhD student, earned an engineering degree (BSC) in food industry in 2015 from the College of Food Industries of Tunis. I have benefited from various internships I had at various institutions in Tunisia, France, and CIMMYT Mexico on several research areas. I had trainings in food production and quality. Following my training at CIMMYT (Advanced wheat improvement course) in 2017 and while working with the Tunisia Septoria phenotyping platform of CIMMYT for 4 years as a research assistant with Dr Amor Yahyaoui, I developed an interest in interacting with plants, that later grew into a passion for wheat and pathology research. I am currently pursuing my PhD studies at the National Agricultural Institute of Tunisia (INAT), University of Carthage.

My research interests are to investigate the race structure of Pyrenophora Tritici-repentis (causal agent of Tan spot) in Tunisia and to eventually identify novel resistance sources. I attended the Congress of EUFOAMS 2016 at Dublin as well as the previous the 2nd and 3rd Septoria regional workshop in Tunisia in 2017 and 2018. I recently participated in the International Symposium on Cereal Leaf Blights in Dublin, Ireland. These conferences gave me the chance to meet international scientists working on similar areas and various aspects including epidemiology, host resistance and plant-pathogen interaction, and allowed me to discuss my work and exchange ideas. I hope that one day I become a good scientist and make a difference in this world by preventing or managing wheat diseases.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

Tan spot, caused by Pyrenophora tritici-repentis (Ptr), has become a devastating foliar disease of wheat especially under conservation agriculture practices, and where susceptible cultivars continue to be grown over large areas. Race structure analysis was performed by testing 84 single spore isolates of Ptr sampled from durum wheat varieties in Tunisia. Six Ptr races including 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 were identified for the first time in Tunisia. Race 2 is identified for the first time in North Africa although it occurred at a low frequency rate (5%). However, races 5 and 7 were the most frequent, representing 39% and 43% of isolates tested, respectively. The occurrence of six races on durum wheat is a clear indication of high diversity of Ptr population in Tunisia. Therefore, in order to develop durable resistance to tan spot, the identification and characterization of resistance genes is of crucial importance to national and international research institutions. In this context, a core collection of durum wheat landraces from Algeria (104), France (45), Italy (185), Morocco (117), Portugal (187), Spain (63), and Tunisia (145) were assessed for their resistance at seedling and adult plant growth stages under controlled and field conditions with different Ptr isolates. Different levels of resistance were observed amongst the tested collection indicating that they may be potentially possessing different resistance gene(s). Hybridization and selection schemes involving these sources of resistance could result in production of durable resistance in durum varieties. These varieties can be commercially cultivated in areas prone to tan spot under conservation agriculture and still not suffer the losses due to tan spot.


Bethany Love_Pic1.jpg

BETHANY LOVE

BIOGRAPHY

Bethany Love is a PhD student at the University of Nottingham and CIMMYT Mexico, funded by the International Wheat Yield Partnership. Bethany’s interest in crop science was first sparked during her undergraduate degree in Plant Science at the University of Manchester, where she was lucky enough to undertake a placement year at NIAB. At NIAB she worked on a number of projects but focused on exploring wheat’s D-genome progenitor Aegilops tauschii for wheat improvement.

During her PhD, her focus has been on identifying ways to maximise conversion of biomass growth in spring wheat to the grain through decreasing structural stem dry-matter partitioning. She has also been exploring the link between plant hormone signalling and grain partitioning, and does so through field experiments in northwest Mexico and glasshouse experiments in Nottingham, UK. Outside of the field, Bethany is an AgVocate, and is passionate about tackling the challenge of feeding a growing population by 2050, and later in the year will be representing the UK at the Youth Ag Summit to push progress to a world without hunger.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

To feed the growing population we must double cereal production by 2050. One way to improve yield potential is to increase radiation use efficiency, but it will also be crucial to identify traits to maximise harvest index (HI, proportion of above-ground biomass in the grain). A key trait to increase grain number and HI is the fruiting efficiency (FE, ratio of grain number to spike dry weight at anthesis). Previous studies suggest that genetic variation in grain number in cereals is associated with plant growth regulators (PGRs). One PGR, cytokinin, has been found to be crucial in controlling cell division and lateral meristem activity. An example of this can be seen when reduction in expression of QTL Gn1a in rice, which codes for cytokinin oxidase/dehydrogenase (OsCKX2), increased grain number. However, information in wheat is still limited and we don’t fully understand how different PGRs interact with grain number traits such as FE. Our objectives were to (i) quantify genetic variation in grain number traits associated with  HI and grain yield and (ii) test for associations between grain number traits and PGR levels of spikes.  A high biomass association panel (HiBAP II) of 150 CIMMYT spring wheat genotypes was phenotyped for grain partitioning traits in the field under irrigated conditions in NW Mexico. A subset of 10 lines representative of field variation for FE was grown in glasshouse experiments at University of Nottingham, UK in 2017 and 2018 to investigate the association between FE and plant hormone levels (cytokinins, gibberellic acid, jasmonates and auxin). Preliminary results showed a significant positive association amongst genotypes between FE measured in the field at anthesis +7d (range 38.2 - 88.8 grain g-1) and in glasshouse experiments at anthesis (range 85.7 - 124.8 grain g-1). Genetic variation in the levels of cytokinin zeatin at booting in 2017 and 2018 showed a linear association with FE (P< 0.05) in glasshouse experiments. Ongoing work is sampling hormones in the field in CIMMYT, Mexico for all 150 genotypes at anthesis, and a genome-wide association study to identify marker-trait associations and candidate genes for the plant growth regulator traits. A further glasshouse experiment is currently underway to look at the distribution of hormones within the plant (spike, stem, lamina) and within the spike (basal, central, apical spikelets). Establishing molecular markers for these plant growth regulator traits will allow their deployment in breeding to ehance HI and grain yield.

TWITTER HANDLE

@Bethany_Love94


DSCF6248-2.jpg

SOPHIA LÜTTRINGHAUS

BIOGRAPHY

Sophia is an agricultural economist focusing on agricultural research for development, climate change impact assessment and the economics of plant breeding.She works as a research analyst at the independent, agricultural consultancy HFFA Research based in Berlin, Germany. There she analyzes the economics of plant breeding, plant production and climate change with quantitative methods. Furthermore, she is a PhD student at the Humboldt University in Berlin and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and investigates the economic benefits and return of investment to plant breeding research in Germany and other countries. Therefore, she collects and imputes data on the monetary investments to plant breeding research and more general agricultural research and development along with the productivity changes in plant production induced by it.

The work presented here was done within the research consortia Breeding Innovations in Wheat for Resilient Cropping Systems (BRIWECS) where Germany’s wheat breeding universities and institutes come together to investigate changes in wheat production induced by plant breeding. Prior Sophia conducted research at different institutions of agricultural research for development, international cooperation and at universities. She worked for the think tank Climate Analytics supporting low income countries with the scientific climate change knowledge for the COP conferences. At the German Agency for Development Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, GIZ) she monitored biodiversity projects for the International Climate Initiative and at the International Potato Center (CGIAR Center) she investigated potato diversity as an adaptation measure in the Peruvian Andes.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

In light of climate change, population growth and changing dietary habits, the development and improvement of agricultural production systems through technological innovations, among others, is vital. Conventional as well as new breeding methods provide such innovations. For decades, modern plant breeding has made large contributions towards resilient production systems by producing yield-enhancing, resource efficient and healthy varieties. As part of the research consortium Breeding Innovations in Wheat for Resilient Cropping Systems (BRIWECS) we analyze the economic and environmental impacts of the so-called breeder’s exemption, which is an integral part of the German plant variety protection legislation. It ensures that breeders can freely use other breeders’ licensed varieties for their own breeding activities and aims to foster a faster transfer of genetic improvements and, thus, speed up the development of improved varieties. Our analysis of a comprehensive pedigree shows that most winter wheat varieties were created by making use of the breeder’s exemption, of which the majority were bred with one external parent variety. Hence, we divided 140 varieties into one treatment group (varieties bred by using the breeder’s exemption for both parents, i.e. both parents are from an external breeding institution) and one control group (varieties for which only one parent stems from another breeder) to conduct an impact assessment of the breeder’s exemption. Therefore, we merged the pedigree with field trial data (comprised of agronomic traits such as yield, plant health and nitrogen use efficiency) to detect and analyze differences between both groups. It turns out that using the breeder’s exemption offers some remarkable agronomic benefits which result in higher market revenue, lower production costs and increased natural resource efficiency. In particular, our results suggest that on average the treatment group had higher yields, improved plant health and higher nitrogen efficiency. Further positive economic impacts induced by breeding can be found at the sectoral level as well as for the economy at large when scaling up these results. Also, environmental indicators, such as land and water use, are positively influenced by the enhancement of improved varieties’ productivity and resource efficiency caused by the breeder’s exemption. Thus, our research provides novel insights regarding the value of winter wheat breeding and sharing plant genetic resources for farmers and society at large.

TWITTER HANDLE

@S_Luettringhaus


ASAMI.jpg

ASAMI MICHIKAWA

BIOGRAPHY

Asami received her Bachelor of Agriculture from Kobe University in Japan. Currently she is pursuing her Master of Agricultural Science from the Graduated School of Kobe University in Japan. Some of her published research includes “Genome‑wide polymorphisms from RNA sequencing assembly of leaf transcripts facilitate phylogenetic analysis and molecular marker development in wild einkorn wheat.” She was given a presentation award for “RNA-seq based discovery of genome-wide polymorphisms in einkorn wheat and their utility. No. 202, The 133rd Japanese Society of Breeding.” Her current research topic is on A and Am diploid wheat species, Triticum monococcum and T. urartu. She found genome-wide polymorphisms such as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and insertions/deletions (indels) in 15 accessions of the two diploid species using RNA-seq analysis. The SNP and indel data should facilitate further genetic studies in wild einkorn wheat.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

Two wild diploid wheat species, Triticum monococcum ssp. aegilopoides (Link) Thell. and T. urartu Tumanian ex Gandilyan, are closely related, and respectively harbor the Am and A genomes. The A-genome donor of tetraploid and common wheat is T. urartu, and T. monococcum ssp. monococcum L. is the cultivated form derived from the wild einkorn wheat T. monococcum ssp. aegilopoides. At least two superior traits are present in T. monococcum ssp. aegilopoides for wheat breeding, and the spikes and grains are generally larger in T. monococcum ssp. aegilopoides than in T. urartu. Thus, T. monococcum ssp. aegilopoides is considered to be a useful genetic resource. Although the genome information of T. urartu has been updated, genome-wide molecular markers have not been sufficiently developed in the subspecies aegilopoides. Here, we performed RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) analysis of leaf transcripts to survey genome-wide polymorphisms such as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and insertions/deletions (indels) in 15 accessions of the two diploid wheat species. The detected SNPs and indels covered the entire chromosomes of these species, and the phylogenetic study based on the polymorphisms showed recent divergence between the two subspecies, aegilopoides and monococcum. The phylogenetic study also allowed to compare the genetic diversity among the two diploid wheat species, the D-genome species Aegilops tauschii Coss., and the U-genome species Ae. umbellulata Zhuk. The wild einkorn wheat had the larger genetic diversity than Ae. umbellulata, whereas the diversity was smaller than that in Ae. tauschii. Similar to the previous reports, the subspecies aegilopoides accessions were grouped into three lineages, and the cultivated einkorn wheat was originated from one of the lineages. Next, we tried to confirm the addition of the subspecies aegilopoides chromosomes in nascent allohexaploid lines with AABBAmAm genomes, which were produced through interspecific crossing between a durum wheat cultivar Langdon and the various subspecies aegilopoides accessions. Cleaved amplified polymorphic sequence (CAPS) markers were designed to distinguish SNPs between the A and Am genomes. Use of the CAPS markers enabled to construct linkage maps in a mapping population of the subspecies aegilopoides accessions. The constructed linkage map allowed to detect successfully QTLs for heading and flowering time. Thus, the SNP and indel data should facilitate further genetic studies in wild einkorn wheat.


headshot_Danara.jpg

DANARA ORMANBEKOVA

BIOGRAPHY

Danara Ormanbekova conducts her research activities in the field of cereal genomics and bioinformatics. She currently carries out her studies on durum wheat at the University of Bologna (Italy), Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, under the supervision of Professors Roberto Tuberosa and Marco Maccaferri. Her work mainly focuses on the genomic approaches to the qualitative and quantitative improvement of wheat. She has a Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology from the University of Reading, United Kingdom, and a Master’s degree in Bioinformatics from the University of Bologna. During her Master’s degree, she started working on durum wheat, particularly on the transcriptome annotation of the Italian cultivar Svevo. After that, she joined Professor Roberto Tuberosa’s research group as a scholar and subsequently as a PhD student. During her PhD, she has visited Plant Genome and Systems Biology Group at the Helmholtz Center Munich. Additionally, she has been involved in tetraploid wheat domestication studies, which has been published in Nature Genetics in April 2019 (Maccaferri et al, 2019. DOI: 10.1038/s41588-019-0381-3). Moreover, she is a co-author of 11 articles in agriculture and genomics related journals. At the moment, she has been working on pan-transcriptome of elite durum wheat varieties and candidate genes identification of agronomical important traits of durum wheat.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

Variation of gene content and gene expression in terms of relative quantitative expression and tissue/organ specificity is a substantial factor affecting phenotypic diversity. In crops, particularly in cereals, the pan-transcriptome and pan-genome concepts are being increasingly investigated after the reference genomes were made available. Characterizing the gene expression presence-absence variation (ePAV) of tetraploid durum wheat (Triticum turgidum ssp. durum) enables to investigate the association between the genotypic and phenotypic variation at an unprecedented level of precision. The current study presents the transcriptome analysis for 13 elite varieties from worldwide germplasm. Gene expression variation is described in relation to a high-quality reference genome sequence assembly of durum wheat cv. Svevo (c/o International Durum Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium). cDNA libraries were produced from roots and leaves at the seedling stage and from developing grains. In order to study the gene expression pattern, these RNA-seq libraries were aligned to the durum wheat genome and the transcript abundance was calculated. Overall, 75.0, 70.5 and 74.5% of high-confidence Svevo genes were expressed in grain, leaf and roots, respectively. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) analysis showed a clear gene expression clustering lead by organs. Hierarchical clustering based on PC scores clearly differentiated up- and down-regulated gene clusters based on tissues and varieties. Variance expression analysis projected on the Svevo assembly allowed us to identify the chromosome regions that drove the major expression variation patterns. Interestingly, by clustering the gene expression profiles and the cultivar’s expression profiles several gene expression patterns related to the ancestry relationship among cultivars were evidenced, particularly for the grains. The functional annotation of these gene clusters is in progress. Towards assembly of a pan-transcriptome in durum, the cultivar-specific reads that could not be mapped on the Svevo genome (4-30% referred to the Svevo Illumina sequencing data) are being de novo assembled.

pic_IWC.jpg

MARTINA BRUSCHI

Please note that Martina is presenting research on behalf of IWC Awardee, Danara Ormanbekova.

BIOGRAPHY

I obtained a PhD in Biotechnological and Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2018, after working for 3 years at the Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences of the University of Bologna under the tutoring of Professor Roberto Tuberosa and Dr. Marco Maccaferri (Genetics lab). Since January 2019 I’ve been working as postdoctoral research fellow in the same research group, focusing my studies on genomics analysis in durum wheat. In 2018 I worked for 10 months at Società Produttori Sementi S.p.A. – Syngenta in Argelato (Bologna) as Seeds Development Unit specialist Cereals (R&D division).

In 2013 I obtained a Master’s degree in Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnologies at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and since 2014 I’ve been qualified for the practice of the Biologist Profession. I have an Undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences obtained in 2010 at the University of Bologna. During the university years, I undertook several abroad experiences. Between 2015 and 2016 I lived in Manhattan Kansas for 9 months, working at Kansas State University on a project titled “Development and characterization of a whole-genome radiation hybrid panel for reference tetraploid wheat cultivar Svevo” under the supervision of Dr. Vijay Tiwari in the research group led by Professor Bikram Gill. Between 2008 and 2009 I lived in Santa Barbara California for 10 months, studying and working at the Marine Science Institute of UCSB as an undergrad student. Between 2006 and 2007 I lived in Berlin for 10 months while studying and working at the Freie Universitaet as an undergrad student.


SINGH.png

DALJIT SINGH

BIOGRAPHY

Daljit is working as a post-doctoral research associate in Dr. Jesse Poland’s Applied Wheat Genomics Lab at Kansas State University. His research work is focused on digital phenomics and quantitative genetics of wheat. He obtained his BS degree in agriculture from Punjab Agricultural University with plant breeding and genetics specialization. He holds a MS degree in Crop Physiology from Virginia Tech. He recently completed his PhD at Kansas State University where he leveraged novel aerial phenotyping techniques to dissect the genetic architecture of complex wheat traits such as lodging, early ground cover and plant height.

In his current post-doc role, he is collaborating with USAID Feed the Future project partners in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh) and CIMMYT (Mexico) to implement digital phenomics and genomic selection for rapid assessment of thousands of wheat breeding plots in South Asian environments. The novel applications of emerging technologies in breeding and genetics excite him. His long-term goal as a crop geneticist is to effectively contribute towards the cereal crop improvement through better understanding of genotype-to-phenotype linkage. He spends his free time gardening and reading on world current affairs.

ABSTRACT SUMMARY

Increasing the yield potential of wheat is highly critical to feed the growing global population.  A better understanding of biological underpinnings of crop yield requires precise component trait information. Plant height is a key growth trait that is an important breeding target in many crops due to its association with biomass and grain yield.  However, the slow and static nature of the conventional height measurements is a major bottleneck in elucidating the genetic basis of the temporal dynamics of plant height in field experiments.  To overcome these limitations, we used a semi-automated image analysis pipeline and estimated canopy height measurements on a large panel of 546 elite spring wheat breeding lines grown in normal and early planting field experiments.  Plant height estimates were extracted from 2400 plots recorded at 34 timepoints using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) derived digital elevation models.  A non-linear logistic growth function was fit across timepoints in each experiment to derive genotype specific growth parameters, namely: upper asymptote (final height), slope (growth rate), and inflection point (time to reach half the maximum height).  These growth parameters exhibited very high repeatability (0.82-0.93) in the two studied environments.  By leveraging these highly heritable phenotypic measurements, we uncovered 35 genetic signals associated with crop growth.  Multiple coincident signals at known developmental genes were observed for growth rate, heading and maturity dates, as well as agronomic traits, suggesting a significant genetic interdependence of morphological and developmental processes in wheat.  Significant physiological tradeoffs associated with faster crop growth in two environments were also uncovered.  Through integration of dynamic height measurements with physiology and genomics, our study demonstrates the considerable power of field high-throughput phenotyping to dissect the biological underpinnings of growth traits. The work is currently underway to integrate this information with crop growth models to better predict the yield potential of wheat genotypes in diverse environmental conditions. Overall, this work highlights an important role of field phenomics and genomics in increasing the genetic gains in breeding programs.

TWITTER HANDLE

@daljitSingh02