Ensuring and creating food security is one of the greatest challenges we face in the 21st century. Food security is defined as all people having access to sufficient high quality, nutritious, safe food at all times.
My area of research aims to contribute to this goal by manipulating the plant sexual reproductive pathway at meiosis: the point at which genetic variation is introduced. This variation is introduced via inter-homolog recombination, which results in the production of genetic crossovers (COs). Altering where these COs form, and influencing how many of them there are, will allow us to harness previously inaccessible areas of the genome. In barley, for example, it is estimated that approximately 30% of the genes rarely recombine, posing a barrier to plant breeders.
Altering where these COs are designated could lead to breeders finally having the ability to increase the number of useful traits in new cultivars, as well as improving crop quality via the reduction of 'linkage drag' where a non-desirable trait is carried over due to its association/proximity to the useful gene(s).
I will be conducting this research in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.