Crop Quantitative Genetics

The quantitative genetics research group focuses on how genetic variation between different crop accessions can influence their phenotypes, particularly for traits controlled by many genes. Our research involves investigating statistical genetics, breeding methodologies and a vast range of data exploration techniques. The group contributes to the analysis and design of important NIAB wheat and barley collections, with the aim of advancing crop genetics and contributing to achieving sustainable agriculture in changing climates.

Research areas

On the voyage to discover wheat diversity

For over a decade NIAB has been creating ‘diversity-enriched’ wheat with the aim of targeting the diversity bottleneck in modern cultivars. This work has formed NIAB’s contribution to large multi-partner projects such as the BBSRC funded public-good wheat projects ‘WISP’ and ‘Designing Future Wheat’. Through these projects, NIAB has formed large, diverse, and powerful Nested Association Mapping (NAM) resources that capture genetic diversity from wheat’s wild relatives and progenitors.

The crop quantitative genetics group has been involved in the genetic investigation of NIAB’s diversity panels, including genotyping, genetic mapping, designing phenotyping experiments and analysing trait data. We are also working with UK-based seed breeding companies to integrate years of field data and form genomic selection pipelines for making predictions over which genotypes could be the most valuable to breeding.

More tools for the breeders’ toolbox

Using our expertise in quantitative genetics we are developing analysis pipelines and tools for breeders, as well as academics, to explore crop genetics via statistical approaches. In collaboration with EMBL-EBI, we are currently involved in a BBSRC funded project called ‘Ensembl Plant Populations’. This project will integrate our genetic mapping pipelines with an online genome browser, to empower users to conduct statistically rigorous analyses on genetically diverse populations, from many different crop species.

Through DEFRA funding, we are also investigating how the use of molecular technology could improve DUS testing for spring barley. This project focuses on using genetic markers and varied analysis approaches to shorten the DUS timeline for assessing potential varieties.

Harnessing genetics to improve crop photosynthesis

We are working to breed for increased photosynthetic efficiency in an African orphan leafy crop as part of a collaboration between NIAB, the Universities of Cambridge and Abomey-Calavi, Benin.

Our group also has experience in exploring crop photosynthesis and we are investigating if we can underpin the genetic variation associated with photosynthetic differences observed in wheat leaves and ears.

About the group leader

Tally is a scientist from a Cambridgeshire farming background with a diverse background in genetic data analysis and crop physiology. Before his current role, he served as a postdoctoral researcher at NIAB in the Genetics and Breeding group, where he contributed to projects generating large genetic datasets for crop genomic investigation.

Tally earned his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2018, focusing on crop physiology. His research, funded by a BBSRC PhD studentship centred around ‘Agriculture and Food Security’, was based at NIAB. During his PhD, he explored photosynthetic diversity in wild wheat species and investigated how this diversity could be leveraged to improve modern wheat varieties. In recognition of his contributions, Tally received the PhD MonoGram Early Career Excellence Award in 2018.

Led by

Tally Wright

Tally Wright

Head of the Quantitative Genetics group

Other research groups

Ian Henderson

Genetic and Epigenetic Inheritance in Plants

Led by Ian Henderson

The Genetic and Epigenetic Inheritance group investigates plant genome structure, function, and evolution. T

Kostya Kanyuka

Pathogenomics & Disease Resistance

Led by Kostya Kanyuka

Kostya leads the Pathogenomics & Disease Resistance group at the Crop Science Centre and is Head of Plant Pathology at NIAB where he leads strategic, applied, and commercial research encompassing biology, detection, surveillance, and management of di

Johannes Kromdijk

Environmental Plant Physiology

Led by Johannes Kromdijk

This group studies the physiology of photosynthesis and its interactions with environmental drivers such as light, water, temperature and CO2 with the ultimate aim to improve crop productivity and water use efficiency.

Stéphanie Swarbreck

Crop Molecular Physiology

Led by Stéphanie Swarbreck

Crop Molecular Physiology group researches nitrogen responsiveness at the gene, the whole plant and the plot level, in order to discover and select crop varieties with a low nitrogen requirement and well adapted to regenerative agriculture practises.

Phil Howell

Crop Genetic Resources

Led by Phil Howell

Our research group carries out the development and characterisation of existing and new crop genetic resources, drawing on NIAB’s experience in genetics, pre-breeding, field testing and tissue culture.

Ji Zhou

Artificial Intelligence and Data sciences

Led by Ji Zhou

This group combines AI, computer vision, and data analytics with expertise in plant phenotyping, breeding, and agronomy to enhance crop production in the UK and developing countries

Natasha Yelina

Crop breeding technologies

Led by Natasha Yelina

Novel breeding technologies in legume crops to enhance the production of new cultivars adapted to changing climatic conditions, as well as having sustainable yields.

Jeongmin Choi

Crop resilience

Led by Jeongmin Choi

As sessile organisms, plants have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to help cope with environmental stress.

Uta Paszkowski

Cereal symbiosis

Led by Uta Paszkowski

The mutually beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis is the most widespread association between roots of terrestrial plants and fungi of the Glomeromycota.

Lida Derevnina

Crop pathogen immunity

Led by Lida Derevnina

We aim to functionally characterise the NRC network and determine the molecular basis of NLR network mediated immunity.

Giles Oldroyd

Sustainable crop nutrition

Led by Giles Oldroyd

The availability of sources of nitrogen and phosphorus are major limitations to crop productivity. This is primarily addressed through the application of inorganic fertilisers to augment these limiting nutrients.

Sebastian Eves-van den Akker

Plant-parasitic interactions

Led by Sebastian Eves-van den Akker

Combining genomics and molecular biology to understand fundamental questions in host:parasite biology

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