Nikolai studies the development of spikes and flowers in wheat by exploiting diverse sets of germplasm. This includes landraces, different subspecies, and mutant populations. He is using genetic approaches to identify the causal alleles underlying phenotypes of interest (spike or glume length, spikelet number, spike shape) within this germplasm. These alleles are tested for their potential benefits to the plants’ agricultural performance.
He is also characterising these alleles to gain a fundamental understanding of their mode of action and to identify their genetic networks.
This combination of discovery and applied science is a huge motivator for him and will hopefully prove useful in terms of breeding and engineering more high-yielding wheat varieties.