Plant breeding is one of the most important milestones in human history because it led to agriculture thereby creating the food surpluses that gave rise to modern civilizations. Successful plant breeding has recently contributed to more than doubling of crop yields. Breeding involves an evaluation of the genetic merit of lines by distinguishing the genotypic effects from environmental and noise components. Discerning the effects of genes and their interaction with the environment for complex quantitative traits like grain yield in crops requires an understanding of:
- micro-environmental variation to optimize experimental designs that can better distinguish noise from genotypic effects
- the interaction between the genotype and the environment and how to model it and,
- the underlying genetic architecture of those complex traits.
Our group is recognized as one of the leaders in experimental design for genomic studies as well as genotype by environment interaction modeling. We have developed new experimental designs and documented the importance of proper designs for genomic studies. We integrate state-of-the-art genotyping technologies with large phenotyping studies to understand the genetic determinants of genotype by environment interaction in complex traits of cereal crops—such as wheat, barley, rice, and oats—by either mapping quantitative trait loci or predicting genotypic performance. Overall, our quantitative genetics focused research directly benefits farmers, breeders, and the society since cereals represent more than 50% of the world caloric intake.