Dr Judith Irwin

Senior Scientist
Crop Genetics

Judith’s research investigates the process of vernalisation, or cold requirement, for flowering in vegetable and oilseed Brassicas.

Judith researches the molecular basis of flowering time and is interested in using this new knowledge for crop development.

She has identified variation in the flowering time gene FLC which can be used to develop vegetable crops with a range of flowering times or cropping dates.

In addition, she has produced a very short cycling Brassica which can go from seed to harvest in 8-10 weeks.

  • Control of flowering in vegetable Brassicas and oilseed rape
  • Genetic mechanisms for the response to vernalisation
  • Breeding for crop scheduling and climate proofing in Brassicas


The aim of Judith's research is to translate fundamental research on the control of flowering from the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana to Brassica crop species.

Flowering is a key component of plant adaptation, affecting geographical distribution and suitability for farming practices. It is highly relevant to yield, quality and environmental considerations as flowering at the appropriate time ensures best use of the available growing season, promoting sustainability and reducing the need for inputs. 

Judith's focus is the genetic mechanism responsible for variation in vernalization response in Brassica.  Vernalization is important in agriculture, allowing the development of spring and winter sown varieties. 

The Brassicas include species with many morphological forms cultivated for use as vegetables, oils, fodder and condiments. Much of this diversity is attributable to variation in flowering time. By understanding this variation and how it is influenced by a changing climate we aim to facilitate predictive breeding of varieties to suit the UK market. 

JIC scientists remove reliance on seasonality in new line of broccoli – potentially doubling crop production

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Variation in vernalization gene could help us breed more climate resilient brassicas

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Recent Publications

Eckes A. H., Gubala T., Nowakowski P., Szymczyszyn T., Wells R., Irwin J., Horro C., Hancock J. M., King G., Dyer S. C., Jurkowski W. (2017)

Introducing the Brassica Information Portal: Towards integrating genotypic and phenotypic Brassica crop data

F1000 6 p465

Publisher’s version: 10.12688/f1000research.11301.1

Love J., Graham S., Irwin J. A., Ashton P. A., Bretangnolle F., Abbott R. J. (2016)

Self-pollination, style length development and seed set in self-compatible Asteraceae: evidence from Senecio vulgaris L.

Plant Ecology and Diversity 9 p371-379

Publisher’s version: 10.1080/17550874.2016.1244576

Hawkes E. J., Hennelley S. P., Novikova I. V., Irwin J. A., Dean C., Sanbonmatsu K. Y. (2016)

COOLAIR Antisense RNAs Form Evolutionarily Conserved Elaborate Secondary Structures

Cell Reports 16 p3087-3096

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.08.045

Irwin J. A., Ashton P. A., Bretagnolle F., Abbott R. J. (2016)

The long and the short of it: long-styed florets are associated with higher outcrossing rate in Senecio vulgaris and result from delayed selp-pollen germination

Plant Ecology and Diversity 9 p159-165

Publisher’s version: 10.1080/17550874.2016.1181116

Irwin J. A., Soumpourou E., Lister C., Ligthart J. D., Kennedy S., Dean C. (2016)

Nucleotide polymorphism affecting FLC expression underpins heading date variation in horticultural brassicas.

Plant Journal N/A pN/A

Publisher’s version: 10.1111/tpj.13221

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Judith Irwin

  • Emily Hawkes Postgraduate Student
  • Eleri Tudor Postgraduate Student
  • Alexander Calderwood Postgraduate Student


For media enquiries, please contact the JIC communications team 01603 450962, jic.communications@jic.ac.uk

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