Breeding for growth and development

The group focuses on investigating the genetic regulation of phenotypic diversity. The two main crop species that we work on are Brassica oleracea and B. rapa on the one hand, and potato at the other hand. In Brassica a main topic is to understand the enormous phenotypic diversity, ranging from cabbages to tuber forming and oilseed crops, and the role of the recent genome triplication in this. In potato, the main goal is to understand tuber development. The cloning of the earliness gene was a major break-through and is continued, with special attention to the role of external factors on tuberization.

Brassica research

In Brassica a main team is to understand the enormous phenotypic diversity, with in B. oleracea cauliflowers, cabbages, kohlrabi’s, Brussels sprouts  and kale and in B. rapa a similar diversity in crops, ranging from Chinese cabbage and pakchoi to turnips and rapeseed. We develop core collections and biparental populations  from crosses between different morphotypes for (association) mapping and resequence inbred lines, landraces and modern hybrids to search marks of domestication. This illustrated that the genome triplication shared by these Brassica species facilitated diversification and showed that subgenome parallel selection is associated with convergent domestication of the different crops. Key traits for investigation are leafy head formation of cabbages and tuber formation of turnips and kohlrabi’s. In addition both flowering time and leaf development, which are strictly related to diverse morphotypes, are studied. We also studied seed quality and variation in  glucosinolates, both in planta but also the variation in degradation kinetics during food processing in collaboration with Food Scientists.

Potato research

Potato tuberisation and the moment it occurs are very important in determining the final size distribution, number of tubers and total yield. Following on from the identification of an important regulator of tuberisation controlling potato life cycle published in Nature in 2013 and also additional research into the important role of hormones in this process. The research focus is on the interaction between the regulation of flowering and tuber formation in potato and the effects of environmental stress on potato tuberisation.

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Recent publications