Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics
The genetic diversity between plant species is huge as observed by the large differences in many traits. However also within species substantial genetic variation is present in nature or has been generated by breeders and researchers. With the development of molecular genetics, this genetic variation can now also be studied at the molecular level. This has led and is leading to our improved understanding of the processes underlying plant growth and development and the interaction of plants with their abiotic and biotic environment. In addition, this knowledge has led to new tools for plant breeders that allow a more efficient breeding by the use of genetic markers that ‘tag’ traits of interest that sometimes are difficult to select for.
For further development of these tools a more in depth knowledge on the genes that show genetic variation for specific traits and also about the genetic mechanisms underlying these traits is required. Many of these traits show quantitative variation encoded at quantitative trait loci (QTL), which is due to their polygenic nature and large environmental effects on trait expression. Such traits are more difficult to study than traits for which qualitative and often monogenic variation is found. Their analysis therefore requires procedures of computational genetics such as quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping and association mapping.
Our objective is to further develop knowledge on important processes that determine plant growth and development including plant architecture, plant metabolism and mechanisms of developmental arrest by making use of genetic and genomic tools available and being developed for both crop and model plants. Furthermore, we will analyse the significance of genetic variation present in nature and crop plant for their adaptation to specific environments.
Major research topics include:
- Molecular markers to assist population genetics and breeding in potato
- The study of plant development, especially branching, in tomato and Arabidopsis.
- The genetics and genomics of plant performance using natural variation in Arabidopsis and tomato.
- The genetic dissection of seed dormancy and growth properties in Arabidopsis and barley.
- Natural variation in control of genome integrity by repairing damaged DNA and maintaining chromatin structure at repetitive sequences.