Brian’s main research interests include disease resistance in cereal crops, genetic diversity in the wild crop progenitors, host-parasite genetics, and virulence/molecular diversity in plant pathogenic fungi.
As the Lieberman-Okinow Endowed Chair at the University of Minnesota, Brian’s primary mission is to identify, characterise, isolate, and use genes from wild species for the enhancement and improvement of wheat, barley, oat, and rye.
Small grain cereals were first domesticated from their wild progenitors about 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and have undergone strong selection pressure from the time of early domestication through modern plant breeding, resulting in the loss of genetic diversity.
To make future gains in yield, quality, and disease resistance, we must exploit the genetic diversity that exists in the wild species. We are developing large collections of wild cereal species from across their natural range and are evaluating them for economically important traits.
Molecular mapping studies are then conducted on these wild accessions to determine the number, chromosomal location, and effect of loci contributing to these traits, especially disease resistance.
They are also collaborating with Professor Brande Wulff to clone disease resistance genes from wild wheat and barley progenitors.