Invited Speaker: Dr. Marco Todesco – Research Associate, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia
This seminar will be presented in a hybrid format. Audience members are welcome to attend either in person at the MSL Lecture Theatre (room 102) or via the zoom. Those connecting via zoom will be able to ask questions during the Q&A portion using the chat function.
Zoom registration link:
Talk title: Massive inversions, invisible colours and pathogen resistance: Understanding natural diversity for crop improvement
Abstract: Plants have evolved an impressive array of strategies to adapt to their environment. In particular, wild relatives of crop species can often tolerate many of the same conditions that limit production in their cultivated counterparts: drought, extreme temperatures, presence of pathogens, nutrient limitations, etc. Understanding this diversity can provide novel solutions for crop improvement, and help addressing some of the existential challenges of modern agriculture: achieving food security, increasing sustainability, and addressing both the causes and the consequences of climate change. I will present two examples of how genomics-enabled studies of diversity in wild sunflowers provide not only insights into the evolution and genetic basis of complex adaptations, but can also identify useful alleles and adaptive strategies that are beneficial for crops. I will discuss how large, ancient inversions act as supergenes, controlling several traits that help plants survive in different environments; and how a single gene controls extensive variation for floral ultraviolet patterns, affecting both pollinator preferences and resistance to drought. Finally, I will discuss how we are using leading-edge genomics to explore genetic and phenotypic diversity in cannabis, and to bridge the gap in genetic knowledge and breeding resources that currently separates cannabis from other modern crops.