The TAM Wheat Genomics Team was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Award of Excellence in the team category on Jan. 8 at the 2020 AgriLife Conference in College Station.
The Vice Chancellor awards, established in 1980, recognize the commitment and outstanding contributions displayed across Texas A&M AgriLife and allow for the opportunity to celebrate those contributions and achievements of faculty, students and staff members.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Wheat Genomics Team has been integrating DNA/RNA sequencing into the wheat improvement programs. Texas A&M AgriLife Research’s two Centers of Excellence conduct variety development and basic genetic studies in wheat, oat and triticale.
The seven-member team recognized with the award represent a larger group of individuals who contribute their expertise and knowledge to the TAM Wheat Genomics Team.
Team members recognized were: Jackie Rudd, Ph.D., Center of Excellence in wheat breeding, Amarillo; Amir Ibrahim, Ph.D., Center of Excellence in wheat breeding, College Station; Shuyu Liu, Ph.D., wheat genetics, Amarillo; Chenggen Chu, Ph.D., research scientist leading the wheat doubled haploid development and genomic prediction analyses, Amarillo; Charles Johnson, Ph.D., director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Genomic System Engineering, College Station; Shichen Wang, Ph.D., bioinformatic scientist, College Station; and Richard Metz, Ph.D., scientist who conducts the actual DNA/RNA sequencing, College Station.
The Amarillo-Vernon Center of Excellence targets the High Plains and Rolling Plains of Texas, with primary breeding objectives aimed at resistance to drought, wheat curl mite, wheat streak mosaic virus, greenbug and Russian wheat aphid.
The College Station Center of Excellence targets Central Texas, South Texas and the Blacklands, with primary breeding objectives directed toward heat stress, leaf rust, stripe rust, stem rust, powdery mildew and Hessian fly resistance.
“The members of this team provide a significant contribution through selecting and advancing important genetic material to combat the most prevalent issues for Texas wheat producers,” said Rodney Mosier, Texas Wheat Producers Board executive vice president in Amarillo, in a letter of support.
“The extensive and advanced work in the lab and field by this team has provided significant financial benefit to wheat farmers. In turn, those wheat farmers continue to invest in the important work of TAM wheat development through the use of Texas Wheat Producers Board check-off funds,” Mosier said.
The wheat-genomics team’s recent achievements recognized are:
• Received over $11 million in funding from state and federal agencies and private companies to support breeding and genetics research in wheat.
• Identified genetic elements controlling resistance to drought, rust, greenbug, Hessian fly,
wheat curl mite and wheat streak mosaic virus, releasing seven varieties with those resistance traits since 2013.
• Synthesized phenotypic data from breeders, physiologists, pathologists and entomologists with genotypic data to map traits to genes and loci.
• Implemented a highly automated, genotyping pipeline with robotics, machine learning and the latest biochemistry.
• Developed high-throughput markers that breeders can apply in marker-assisted selection.
• Integrated unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the wheat-improvement process to accelerate trait identification and variety selection.
• Implemented advanced breeding techniques – doubled haploid – to accelerate propagation and testing of new cultivars.
• Trained and/or supervised 32 doctoral and 31 master’s students over the last five years.
• Incorporated end-use quality considerations rather than solely grain or forage yield into the wheat-improvement process.
“The Texas A&M AgriLife Research Wheat Genomics Team exemplifies the ideals of transdisciplinary research in pursuit of a more profitable, sustainable, consumer-facing, small-grains industry in Texas and the High Plains,” said Brent Auvermann, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center director in Amarillo.
The nomination states: producers will have better cultivars resilient to the changing climate with more stresses and molecular marker confirmed traits can help them to choose adapted cultivars. Approximately 22% of the 2.5 million acres of harvested wheat are planted to recommended wheat varieties identified from statewide testing.
This impact has generated roughly 7.7 million additional bushels of wheat over the past five years, resulting in a cumulative $34.4 million in additional revenue for Texas wheat producers.
The team initiated the release of nine cultivars since 2013 with the two hard red winter wheat cultivars, TAM 115 and TAM 205, released in 2019 that are popular for their superior end-use quality, disease and pest resistance, as well as their high yield. They have also established a wheat doubled-haploid system and developed about 2,500 lines in two seasons.
The TAM Wheat Genomics Team has done an excellent job in forming an interdisciplinary group to solve complex problem that an individual team could not accomplish and set an example for collaboration, the nomination stated.