Nikolai’s research aims to increase yield in wheat, a global crop that provides 20% of the calories consumed worldwide.
Yield is a complex trait that is difficult to manipulate; changing a single yield component often results in so-called compensation effects that negate most of the yield gain.
Grain weight is a yield component that is determined late in the life cycle of a wheat plant and is thus less likely to be compensated by other effects. This makes it an ideal starting point to try and dissect yield in wheat.
Nikolai is looking both at natural variation of grain weight, e.g. between different cultivars of wheat as well as induced variation such as can be found in the wheat TILLING population and is interested in elucidating the function of known regulators of grain weight such as TaGw2 as well as identify and characterise novel loci.
By understanding when, where and how these loci act on grain development Nikolai aims to increase grain weight and hopefully yield as well. To achieve this, he employs a wide range of different techniques including molecular biology, microscopy field trial and bioinformatics.