Revisiting Mendel's peas in the age of genomics

Generating a dynamic and evolving gene pool for field peas

If successful, Mendel’s peas could help us change the way we breed the world’s major crop plants. The concept is simple – why not breed plants as if they were animals?

Of course, we must make some adjustments for selfing plants, which include most of the world’s major food crops. Such annual crop plants normally self and set seed before we can measure important traits. Selfing upsets the 'animal model' of selection. We propose a new model for breeding of selfing plants, where selection occurs on early selfing generations, and the new model is based on the 'animal model'.

The 'animal model', when it is developed for selfing plants, will be called the 'plant model'. It has some selfing in the pedigree.

Otherwise, it is very similar to the very successful 'animal model' which shows major genetic improvements based on relationship information from relatives in the pedigree, or relationship information from whole genome markers. The latter case is called 'genomic selection'. With the 'plant model', we believe we can greatly accelerate improvements in plant breeding.

We propose a PhD project which will investigate the ability of the 'plant model' to accelerate plant breeding outcomes for complex traits, with low heritability. We will use Mendel’s peas to test this with a low heritability trait called black spot resistance. We will apply genomic information to test the improvements based on genomic selection.

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Research team leader: Professor Wallace Cowling

I hold a research academic appointment in The UWA Institute of Agriculture, and lead a team breeding canola in a company-funded research project based at UWA. The goal of my research is to develop and apply new technology that improves the speed, profitability and long-term sustainability of plant breeding.

PhD opportunities

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirements specific to this project:

  • a high level undergraduate degree or Master of Science which demonstrates research potential in plant breeding, including sound background in genetics, molecular genetics and statistics.

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an applicationDifferent application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


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