Our research programs focus on the discovery of the genetics of crop traits with economic impacts, with a particular interest in the genomics of crop resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and the development of high yielding conventional and specialty cultivars of wheat, barley, and soybean, as well as breeding programs that are focused on the development and release of cultivars adapted to Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region. Our department has two signature research areas within Crop Improvement, Breeding, and Genomics.

Crop Improvement and Breeding  The small grains breeding program conducts research leading to the development of improved traditional and specialty varieties of small grains whose production and utilization produces increased economic returns, high quality and safe food, feed, fuel, and a cleaner environment. A major portion of the research program has focused on the identification, genetic characterization, mapping, and utilization of durable disease resistance genes. Our soybean breeding program aims to release specialty and standard soybean cultivars adapted to the mid-Atlantic region.

Crop Genomics   The goal of our research program is crop improvement through the use of molecular markers and the emerging genomics and bioinformatics tools. Our soybean genomics research focuses on a) the genetic basis of host resistance to soybean mosaic virus and Phytophthora sojae (root/stem rot) diseases, and b) identification, discovery, characterization and deployment of genes controlling soybean seed quality and composition traits including phytic acid, carbohydrate and protein content. Tobacco genomics research focuses on quantitatively characterizing the mechanisms and inheritance of disease resistance. We also investigate regulatory mechanisms underlying response and tolerance to precipitation extremes (drought, flooding) in rice and economically important crops in Virginia. New expertise in computational genetics will allow us to mine large, multi-dimensional datasets to understand the genomic architecture of quantitative phenotypes in crop plants.

Faculty contributing to Crop Improvement, Breeding, and Genomics research: Fukao, Griffey, Saghai-Maroof, Wilkinson, Zhang