Research interests

The Wallace Lab focuses on using quantitative genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, and statistics to understand complex traits in crop plants. Most of our own research focuses on the interactions between maize (corn) and the microorganisms that live on and inside it. We also have several fruitful collaborations with other labs that let us work on more traditional traits (yield, nutrient use, etc.) in other crops here in the US and elsewhere in the world.

Crop-Microbiome Interactions

The microbiome refers to the collection of microbes (mostly bacteria and fungi) living on and inside an organism. We have recently begun investigations into how a crop plant interfaces with and shapes its own microbiome, and how the microbiome in turn affects plant performance. Our work focuses on using the tools of genomics and quantitative genetics to tease apart these relationships. Although very little is known about plant-microbiome interactions, research in animals (especially humans) indicates that these sorts of relationships are extremely important for host health, and the same will probably hold true for crop plants.

Genomics of Complex Traits in Crops

Quantiative genetics deals with traits that are controlled by many (sometimes thousands) of individual genes. We use advanced statistical and computational methods to tease apart the relationship between plant phenotypes and the genes controlling them. These results not only inform us about how a plant's phenotype is determined but also can be used by breeders to create improved varieties with better disease resistance, lower water or fertilizer requirements, and/or improved nutrition.


Patterns of genetic control in maize

Drought-resistant maize for Africa

Genetic tools for minor crops

Thanks to the low cost of modern sequencing, we can develop genetic and genomic tools for crops that have traditionally been too underfunded to afford them. These minor or neglected crops are not as widespread as the big staple crops (maize, rice, wheat, etc.), but they are still very important. Many fruit, nut, and vegetable crops fall into this category, as do staple crops that are important in the developing world. We use high-throughput sequencing to quickly analyze populations and develop genetic tools to help breeders better manage these important crops.


Population analysis in barnyard millet and foxtail millet

Linkage map construction in Pearl Millet

Assembly of the pearl millet genome sequence (in submission)

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