Washington State University and the USDA-ARS have multiple plant breeding programs based in Washington. Breeding efforts focus on developing cultivars with high yield potential, excellent end-use quality, and resistance to biotic and abiotic stress. We focus on adaptation to the diverse climatic regions of Washington State as critical breeding goals that reduce risk to farmers and sustain crop production systems. Our research efforts focus on disease resistance, cold tolerance, drought and heat tolerance, end-use quality and nutritional density, and low input systems. The WSU and USDA breeding programs use doubled haploid breeding, marker-assisted selection, genomics, and high throughput phenotyping (phenomics) to run more productive breeding programs. Our programs have a long record of successful cultivar release and adoption by local farmers. The research and germplasm that we develop increases economic return to local farmers, supports the global grain trade of the Pacific Northwest, and provides food to the world.
As the Orville A. Vogel Endowed Chair in Winter Wheat Breeding and Genetics, my program is focused on developing high-yielding, high-quality wheat cultivars with resistance/tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress, thereby mitigating grower risk and increasing sustainability of wheat production in Washington. My research focuses on genetic mapping of disease resistance, wheat end-use quality, and utilization of phenomics and high-throughput phenotyping to select for stress tolerance.
My research program focuses on diseases of pulse crops including pea, chickpea and lentil. I carry out applied and fundamental research on fungal diseases, ranging from disease diagnoses, epidemiology, disease management to genetics of plant-pathogen interactions to unravel mechanisms of pathogen virulence and host resistance. Current research efforts are on managing metalaxyl-resistant Pythium populations, and interactions of fungal (Ascochyta and Sclerotinia) effectors with host receptors in modulating disease development.
My research focuses on wheat breeding and genetics, development of germplasm and cultivars that mitigate grower risk due to abiotic and biotic stress factors. My main of emphasis include introgression of resistance to stripe rust of wheat, introgression of resistance to soil borne diseases especially strawbreaker foot rot, fusarium crown rot, and plant parasitic nematodes.
Stephen Jones runs the Bread Lab which works on breeding non- commodity wheat, barley and buckwheat for the coastal pacific northwest. Targets of the breeding program are flavor, nutritional density, yield and low input requirements of the crop.
My research focuses on breeding and genetics of pulse crops – primarily spring-sown peas and lentils and autumn-sown peas, lentils and chickpeas. The main emphasis of my breeding programs is developing high yielding, adapted varieties with resistance to biotic stresses (soil borne pathogens, aphid-vectored viral diseases, foliar fungal pathogens) as well as the abiotic stresses of heat, cold and drought stress. End use quality characteristics, including Biofortification for mineral nutrients, is also addressed.
My research area is in dry bean breeding and genetics with a regional, national, and international focus. Current efforts are focused on the identification, characterization, and deployment of novel disease resistance traits using traditional and marker-based approaches. Research is also directed toward characterization and development of dry beans that yield well with less inputs (less water and less fertilizer).
Director of the Western Wheat Quality Lab (WWQL). Research is focused on the underlying genetics of wheat grain quality and utilization. The WWQL collaborates on wheat cultivar development by conducting milling, baking and end-use quality evaluations on experimental wheat breeding lines.
My program, the Sustainable Seed Systems Lab, is focused on the breeding and agronomy of barley, quinoa, millet, spelt, and perennial wheat. We work closely with farmers on regional to international scales to develop high yielding, nutritionally dense seed crop varieties for a diversity of cropping systems.
Neff lab research focuses on understanding how seeds and seedlings respond to their external light environment and how these pathways interact with plant hormones such as brassinosteroids and auxins. The Neff lab uses a variety of plants for this research including the model systems Arabidopsis thaliana and Brachypodium distachyon. We use fundamental molecular genetics to understand how these pathways regulate plant growth and development. The Neff lab also uses molecular genetics and genomics to translate this knowledge to cereal crops such as wheat, and oilseed crops such as camelina and canola. The Neff lab also has a breeding program focusing on various turf grasses and the orphan crop teff.
As the Orville A. Vogel Endowed Chair in Spring Wheat Breeding and Genetics, my program is focused on the development of biotic and abiotic stress tolerant, high-yielding, and high-quality wheat varieties for diverse Washington production environments. Genetic dissection of disease resistance, grain quality, and abiotic stress tolerance traits are major research areas.
My research focuses on defining the gene expression and physiological responses of wheat plants to freezing stress with the goal of improving winterhardiness and climate change resilience.
Camille Steber’s research examines the hormonal control of seed dormancy, germination, and plant responses to environmental stress. The goal of her wheat research program is to provide the breeding tools needed to reduce the risk of low Hagberg-Perten falling numbers, an indicator of starch degradation in wheat flour. Low falling numbers can result both from preharvest sprouting in the rain and induction of late maturity alpha-amylase (LMA) by temperature fluctuations during grain maturation. Her fundamental research program uses molecular genetic approaches to understand how the plant hormones GA and ABA control seed dormancy, germination, and the expression of the alpha-amylase enzyme that causes low falling numbers in wheat.
My research focuses on developing improved cultivars of chickpeas that are adapted to the “Palouse” region of Washington and Idaho, and the Northern Plains regions of Montana and North Dakota. I am especially interested in coupling increased yield to enhancements in other traits including nutritional quality, resistance to soilborne diseases, and capacity to for form symbiotic associations with beneficial rhizobacteria.
Dr. Zhiwu Zhang is an Assistant Professor in Department of Crop and Soil Sciences with Endowment of Distinguished Professorship for Quantitative Genetics. His research is to develop innovative, cutting-edge statistical methods and computing tools to advance genomic research toward the sustainability of food production and healthcare management. Dr. Zhang teaches a graduate level course, Statistical Genomics (Crop_Sci545), mainly covering gene mapping through Genome Wide Association Studies and molecular breeding through genomic prediction.