Sarah Battenfield

Sarah Battenfield is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Dr. Jesse Poland’s lab at Kansas State University working on wheat quality and genomic selection.

Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) is the second most widely grown cereal grain and a primary staple food crop. Current estimates predict a global population of greater than 9 billion humans by the year 2050 (Gerland, 2014). Wheat per capita consumption is 65 kg per year, which supplies approximately 16 g of protein daily for each person in the world (FAOSTAT, 2013). To meet the growing demands for human consumption, overall wheat production must increase and wheat cultivars must possess suitable end-use quality for release and consumer acceptability. However, breeding for quality traits is often considered a secondary target relative to grain yield, largely due to amount of seed needed and overall expense of testing. Without testing and selection, many undesirable materials are advanced expending additional time and resources and reducing overall genetic gain in breeding programs.

Wheat processing and end-use quality improvement is a difficult challenge in addition to improving yield. Bread wheat flour is traditionally used for a variety of products including leavened, unleavened and steamed breads, as well as cookies, cakes, and pastries. Additionally, wheat is used for ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, malt in brewing, and there are growing markets for healthier or value-added whole-wheat alternatives and convenience foods such as frozen or refrigerated dough products which are purchased ready-to-cook. These food products represent even wider specific end-use quality requirements for optimal production in an industrial process. Each of these products demands flours with specific best-fit quality profile. Wheat must be assessed as grain, flour, dough, and bread or other final product to assess the suitability of wheat flour from a given variety for each specific end-use product. However, wheat quality is usually not assessed until late in the breeding program, initially because it should be a pure line, then also due to amount of seed necessary and cost of testing.

Now, the cost of genotyping has decreased to the point that many possible candidate wheat lines may have whole-genome profiling each year. Thus, models have been developed to utilize these high-density genetic markers as predictive tools of wheat quality. Sarah has demonstrated the ability of these models to have good predictive abilities, and is continuing her efforts in wheat quality improvement in the context of wheat breeding programs.


Previous Research Experience

As a Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholar at Kansas State University under the direction of Drs. Allan Fritz, Jesse Poland, and Rebecca Miller, Sarah worked cooperatively with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) with advisors Drs. Ravi Singh and Carlos Guzman to develop genomic selection models and map the underlying genes for wheat processing and end-use quality in the CIMMYT and Kansas State breeding programs. She also assisted in selection and advancement of wheat candidate lines in the hard winter wheat varietal breeding program at Kansas State University, global spring wheat breeding program at CIMMYT, and the wheat germplasm development program at Oklahoma State University. 



PhD. – Kansas State University, Genetics - 2015

Advisor: Allan Fritz

Dissertation: ‘Genomic selection and association mapping for wheat processing and end-use quality’


MSc. – Oklahoma State University, Plant and Soil Sciences – 2011

Advisor: Art Klatt

Thesis: ‘Genetic yield potential improvement of semi-dwarf winter wheat in the Great Plains’


BSc. – Oklahoma State University, Human Development and Family Sciences-2009