Geneticist in major project to breed new varieties of wheat

Our University has been included in one of three high-value, long-term research projects totalling £13.9M that have been awarded funding by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The grants, funded through BBSRC's Strategic Longer and Larger grants (sLoLas) scheme, give world-leading research teams five years of funding and resources to address major challenges.

Dr James Higgins (pictured) from our Department of Genetics is part of a consortium of universities that has won a total of £3.6million to increase the efficiency of wheat breeding and to improve the breeder’s ability to generate high yielding varieties able to withstand climate change.

The consortium, led by Bristol and including academics from Cambridge, Birmingham, Leicester and the John Innes Centre as well as wheat breeders from RAGT and KWS, will use a range of advanced molecular and cytological techniques to dissect and re-engineer pathways leading to the generation of novel gene combinations. This will give breeders unprecedented access for selecting advantageous traits from natural variation.

Dr Higgins said: “We will achieve this through a programme of research that builds on recent understanding of how genetic crossovers are controlled, combined with cutting edge molecular cytogenetics, genomics and synthetic biology. The scale of the project will allow novel scientific insights as well as providing plant breeders with tools to generate resilient wheat varieties for the 21st Century.”