dr.ir.ing. GW (Wilma) van EsseUniversitair docent
My research focuses on understanding how branches (tillers) and seeds are formed in cereals. Cereals are important crops, which are grown worldwide for food and feed. Cereal crop yield is controlled by the number of spike bearing tillers, the number of seeds per spike and seed weight. Yield components such as seed and tiller number, but also seed weight, are negatively correlated: More seeds often results in fewer tillers, or a reduction in seed weight. These kinds of negative correlations make it difficult for breeders to improve yield via modification of the individual yield components. What causes the negative correlation between these yield components and can we uncouple them? Addressing this question is important for the development of knowledge-based breeding strategies to improve cereal crop yield. My research uses molecular and genetic approaches to identify the key regulatory genes and pathways that control the formation of multiple yield components such as seeds and tillers. Together, this gives novel insights into the molecular basis underlying the trade-off between seed and tiller number. This knowledge can be utilized to improve cereal crop yield.