My research has both a basic and applied side. On the applied side, I develop new cultivars of soft winter wheat adapted to Ohio and the Midwest. These are either sold as public varieties or licensed to private companies. The basic side is focused on improving the efficiency of crop improvement, mainly using high-density, genotype-by-sequencing molecular marker data. This type of marker data, coupled with extensive phenotypic data, allows us to identify regions of the genome that affect a trait. This can lead to developing efficient marker-assisted selection systems, identifying candidate and functional genes, and eventually gene cloning. Many key traits in wheat are quantitative and controlled by many genes of small effect. With these traits we are developing genomic selection methods that can greatly reduce the duration of a breeding cycle and the cost. Together this can significantly improve genetic gain per unit of time and per dollar spent.
A challenge is to integrate the molecular, the statistical, and the field aspects of the research into a cohesive, comprehensive, effective, and flexible program for crop improvement. Students in the project develop skills in phenotyping (field, diseases, greenhouse, machinery), growing crops, molecular biology, marker technology, statistics, bioinformatics, genetics, and breeding.