Sandra PLP Dunckel

Climate change, increased variability of microclimates, shift of weather patterns and extreme events, greater prevalence of drought and heat stress represent a great challenge to future agricultural production. The development of heat and drought tolerant wheat is a crucial factor to increase wheat production facing a rapidly growing world population, uncertain climatic conditions and decreasing availability of natural resources, especially water. Heat and drought stress affect wheat production worldwide and are a threat to world food security.

With the research performed in the Poland lab we hope to contribute to the immense challenge of feeding a growing world population. Applying and further developing innovative statistical and molecular methods such as genomic selection (GS) and genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) enables us to get a step closer to our goal.

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Research objectives:

My main research project is in collaboration with CIMMYT in the context of my Monsanto Beachell-BorlaugInternational Scholarship and focuses on the genome-wide characterization of exotic alleles for increased yield from primary synthetic bread wheat. Furthermore, I focus on new discoveries of OTLs of heat tolerance loci in Kansas’s winter wheat varieties and high-throughput phenotyping. Applying GS and GBS I hope to achieve my research objectives and contribute to global wheat germplasm improvement, especially for heat and drought stressed environments.

Short research outlook:

To address the loss of genetic diversity due to domestication and breeding of modern wheat cultivars, exotic alleles from bread wheat progenitors Triticum dicoccum and Aegilops tauschii have been captured in primary synthetic bread wheat lines developed by the CIMMYT Wide Cross Program. Grain yield, agronomic, and physiological measurements were collected at CIMMYT over several years in high-yield potential, heat and drought-stressed environment. We observed several synthetic derived lines outperforming the elite parent Opata in all environments indicating that the primary synthetics contribute alleles increasing yield. I will apply specifically developed GS models to rapidly introgress valuable alleles and develop high-yielding breeding lines. Allelic predictions and GS models will be validated in yield trials in all three environments.