The Buckler Lab with the Institute for Genomic Diversity uses functional genomic approaches to dissect complex traits in grasses, cassava, and a wide range of other crops. Plant genetics and breeding has already come a long way using molecular tools to identify genomic regions and genes associated with crop traits. However, if we can create a detailed catalog of each functional site in a genome, breeding can be accelerated even further, genome editing can be applied, and, most importantly, knowledge discovered in one breeding program can be transferred effectively to breeding in other environments. Our group is focused on combining the basic science of the molecular basis of natural variation with applied breeding.
We use the natural diversity of plant genomes to identify the individual DNA changes responsible for complex (quantitative) variation. While we start with natural variation and learn from evolution, we leverage every high-tech, cutting-edge approach available to measure and understand diversity. We are conducting research on comparative genomics, chromatin structure, gene expression, protein levels, metabolites, and robotically collected field-based phenotypes. Our group integrates these data with a combination of computational biology, machine learning, and statistical approaches.
While our group develops these approaches initially in maize, sorghum, and related grasses, the principles underlying these approaches are applicable to numerous species. Some of our approaches have been applied to over 2,000 species. The tools we are developing may also be used as a template system for other genetics research, including research for other crops, animals, and even human genetics.