Over the coming decades there is a projected 60% increase in the demand for staple crops such as wheat. At the same time, hotter and dryer climates with shifting pathogen pressures are expected to decrease current production by up to 20%. To meet global food security under these scenarios, the rate of gain in productivity for staples such as wheat must double from the current rate of 1% per year to over 2% per year. Given this serious challenge of food security in the coming decades, classical genetics theory and proven breeding methodology must merge with next-generation approaches to push beyond the current frontiers of plant breeding programs around the world. In this context, the Poland Lab is broadly focused on accelerating the rate of genetic gain in breeding by understanding the wheat genome and applying genomics in predictive modeling to increase selection intensity and selection accuracy. Complementing the phenomenal advances in genomics, we are developing novel approaches in field-based high throughput phenotyping to rapidly and precisely measure important phenotypes in breeding. Finally, we have a broad scope to characterize and utilize novel genetic diversity found in wild relatives of wheat as the raw material for future gains. I will present case studies from this research looking at novel approaches that meld genomics, predictive modeling, high-throughput phenotyping, deep-learning, and germplasm characterization with classical breeding and genetics. While pushing the frontiers of ‘next-generation breeding’, we are able to realize the transformative advancements in farmer’s fields by working directly with public breeding programs throughout the world. With these integrated, multi-disciplinary teams we can make strong step changes at the nexus of next-generation breeding and genomics. However, given the challenges facing agriculture in this century, trajectory changing approaches must be sought with a confluence of cutting-edge and transformative innovations from across the sciences. I will also discuss and vision how these same next-gen breeding approaches can be used to accelerate improvement of undomesticated, novel crops that could flourish under the most severe environments and help agriculture step beyond its current limits.
Dr. Jesse Poland is an Associate Professor at Kansas State University in the Department of Plant Pathology. He is appointed to the graduate faculty in Genetics, Plant Pathology and Agronomy where he serves as major professor and committee member for students in plant breeding and genetics. Dr. Poland is the Director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics with focus on applying genomics tools to accelerate wheat breeding and develop climate resilient wheat varieties throughout the world. As Associate Director of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center, Dr. Poland leads research to characterize wild wheat germplasm and leveraging valuable genetic diversity for wheat improvement for increased resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses.
The overall focus of the Poland Lab is on quantitative genetics, genomics and high-throughput phenotyping for use in breeding, diversity studies, and association genetics with the overall goal of understanding the wheat genome and increasing genetic gain in wheat breeding. In collaboration with public breeding programs, Dr. Poland is implementing the use of genomic selection methods to accelerate wheat breeding. In the area of germplasm development, Dr. Poland’s group is focused on developing new breeding lines with resistance to the major pests of wheat including stem rust, stripe rust, leaf rust, Barley Yellow Dwarf virus and Hessian Fly while increasing the understanding of the genetic basis of these traits. To compliment advances in genomics, Dr. Poland’s lab is actively developing and applying high-throughput phenotyping approaches for field-based evaluation of breeding lines with the primary focus being genetic characterization of heat and drought tolerance and development of improved germplasm.
Dr. Poland currently supervises five graduate students as major professor and is mentor to nine post-doctoral scholars. He teaches graduate courses in plant genetics and serves as advisor for the plant breeding and genetic graduate student club.