There is immense variation in the size, shape, and colour of fruits and leaves on flowering plants. We use high-throughput phenotyping data (i.e. phenomics) to comprehensively measure variation in plant traits. These data allow us to untangle the complex effects of factors impacting variation in shape including the consequences of grafting, environmental variation, species and genotype. We may also link phenomics with genomics to perform genetic mapping and identify markers associated with these traits.


Genetic Mapping

Fruit flavour (taste and aroma) as well as nutritional value are critical targets for fruit breeders. Unfortunately, breeding new perennial fruit crops is a slow and expensive process due to an extended juvenile phase prior to the production of fruit. We use genetic mapping (genome-wide association studies) to identify genetic markers associated with fruit quality traits to improve the efficiency of fruit breeding in strawberry and apple. Using these genetic markers (marker-assisted selection) allows breeders to select for traits of interest prior to the production of fruit.



Grafting woody perennial fruit crops like grapevine allow us to propagate genetically identical individuals across years and environments. Grafting different root systems (rootstocks) may also impart desirable attributes to the shoot system (scion) such as resistance/tolerance to pests and diseases. To better understand the transmissible effects of rootstock on scion, we use grapevine as a model and explore variation in a multitude of traits including physiology, mineral composition, shape, and micro-organism communities across grafted plants.


Crop Wild Relatives

Plant biodiversity is fundamental to the future of food security and agriculture. The crop wild relatives of cultivated perennial fruit crops are a source of immense diversity and potential including for future breeding of new varieties with desirable traits or as rootstocks. We use phenomic and genomic tools to examine variation in these species, while highlighting opportunities (and the need) for both in situ protection and ex situ conservation.