Comparative genomics in annual and perennial barley
Perennial crop plants represent an effective strategy for sustainable and resource efficient agriculture. However, breeding of perennial cereals has been challenging with limited technologies and resources, and currently few perennial cereal varieties are commercially available. Understanding the genetic basis of perennial growth behavior in grasses would greatly enhance current breeding efforts by providing selection targets that can be altered by marker assisted backcrossing or novel gene editing techniques. In this project, I plan to use a comparative genetics and genomics approach to dissect the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms that control the development and evolution of life strategies in barley, wheat and their wild relatives. Firstly, I will determine the core endogenous and environmental cues that differentiate perennials from annuals using environment-controlled growth chamber experiment and in-depth developmental phenotyping. Secondly, I will reveal the underlying core molecular differences between annual and perennial grasses using comparative genomics in closely related sister-pairs of annual and perennial Triticeae. Thirdly, I will identify the genomic regions and associated molecular markers linked with perenniality using barley and wheat introgression lines. The project will provide novel insights into the genetic and environmental control of life history traits in Triticeae and thus contribute to current breeding efforts for high-yielding perennial cereal crops.
Key words: life cycles, annual and perennial, evolution, comparative genomics, Triticeae