Noam is an applied crop geneticist who has led the Germplasm Resource Unit team since 2018.
Noam’s vision has been to associate crop conservation with crop genomics and high throughput seed phenomics, aiming at broadening the gene-pool diversity used in crop science, and empowering crop improvement through traditional and modern (precise) plant breeding.
Noam represents the John Innes Centre in The UK Plant Genetic Resources Group and for the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing. He is a member in the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources, in the working groups for wheat, and grain legume.
The GRU team focuses on three aspects of crop conservation research, where identified technological and knowledge gaps impede cost-effective genebanking delivery in support of improving global food security:
Developing improved seed regeneration processes
With the responsibility to conserve a living collection of over 50,000 accessions, we aim to optimise the captured regenerated genetic diversity, the seed yield and the expected seed longevity while allowing informative phenotyping and genotyping for diverse downstream applications.
We aim to transform the GRU from a ‘seedbank’, to a ‘research genebank’ delivering characterised allelic diversity. To do this we embarked on a strategic collaboration with the group of Professor Shifeng Cheng from the Agricultural Genomic Institute in Shenzhen (AGIS-CAAS). Together we are developing genomic resources to decode the global collections’ population structures, to obtain usable genetic distances between the conserved accessions and to allow association genetics for gene discovery and genomics assisted breeding.
Importantly, by linking the openly accessible purified germplasm accessions to genomic data (existing or newly generated), we unlock the long-lasting potential impact of crop genomics projects. It allows reusability of resources and reproducibility of results, underpinning true open access plant science and enhance international collaborations.
High throughput phenotyping for grain nutritional quality
Food security means that “all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food” (FAO, UN). The collections in our custodianship are used in breeding programs commonly aiming to increase yields. Nutritional quality traits are seldom prioritised by the private sector. We aim to add value to the highly utilised germplasm by investigating its nutritional quality diversity. We acquired high throughput non-destructive means to characterise the macronutrient levels (e.g., protein and starch) as well and micronutrient (e.g., Iron and Zinc) levels and to uncover their naturally occurring diversity. Using forward and reverse genetics, we aim to explain the genetics underlying the changes in grain nutrient levels and exemplify the use of the developed genebank- genomics resources.