Investigating strategies to control recombination in plant genomes

Genetic recombination is one of the catalysts for creating a diversity of traits among organisms.  By harnessing this powerful capability, Dr. Ian Henderson is researching how to control recombination frequency and location to create better tools for crop breeding. View Halo Profile >>

Tell us about your research

My group investigates recombination, which is a vital process for crop breeding and improvement. Recombination allows us to combine useful traits from domesticated and wild strains that are better adapted to the changing climate. We are interested in both control of recombination frequency and location along the chromosomes. 

Recombination allows us to combine useful traits from domesticated and wild strains that are better adapted to the changing climate.

Can you explain that to a non-scientist?

Recombination is just as important for humans as for crop species! For example, the reason siblings can differ so much despite sharing parents is because the recombination process mixes up genetic variation in different ways each time a child is conceived. This process is identical to that which breeders use to create new crop varieties that combine useful traits. We are interested in controlling and harnessing this recombination in order to better adapt our crops. 

Why did you choose this area of research?

Recombination is a fundamental process that shapes genetic variation in plant and animal genomes. It also has applied impacts, as I explained earlier. Therefore, understanding recombination is a multifaceted question that brings basic insights into how genomes work and evolve, and also has applied impacts in crop breeding. 

Therefore, understanding recombination is a multifaceted question that brings basic insights into how genomes work and evolve, and also has applied impacts in crop breeding. 

How could your Grants4Ag project someday impact #healthforall #hungerfornone?

This support will allow us to obtain proof of principle data that one of our strategies to increase recombination has worked in a key crop–tomato. If this experiment works, it will galvanize us to further develop this technology as an approach to accelerate crop breeding.