Kearney Field

Pre-Breeding & Genomics

The pre-breeding and genomics side of GEMINI is led by Dr. Christine Diepenbrock, with Dr. Sassoum Lo (postdoctoral researcher), Jonny Berlingeri (graduate student), and Antonia Palkovic, M.Sc. (Associate Project Scientist) as key personnel. The Pre-Breeding & Genomics sub-team is working to improve sorghum and grain legume breeding pipelines by co-developing and implementing—including through collaborative partnerships with the key partners mentioned below—approaches to quantify and dissect the effects of genotype, environment, and management (G, E, and M) on crop productivity and quality of the edible portion of the crop, along phylogenetic and environmental gradients.

The extensive field trialing work involved in this project is focused on ‘groundtruth’ data collection of several agronomic, nutritional quality, and end-use traits as well as integration of these data with high-resolution genomic data, modeling and sensing data streams. We are thrilled to be working with populations in each of the crops of focus—common bean, cowpea, and sorghum—that are burgeoning resources for the respective crop communities, and that we anticipate will enable high-resolution dissection of the G, E, and M basis of priority traits while also leading to additional translational outcomes (e.g., with regards to identification of candidate germplasm and co-testing of germplasm by multiple partners within and across mega-environments) in each of these crops.


Plant breeders in Senegal, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania are key partners in this work. These partners are also carrying out field trials, conducting method co-development and implementation, and performing data analysis, with a focus on applied outcomes—e.g., feasible quantification of new and replacement traits at the field and population scales, and (relatedly) the accelerated delivery of improved crop varieties. A focus on staple (i.e., providing a primary source of daily calories in human diets) and nutritional security crops such as sorghum and grain legumes is critical for ensuring an adequate and nutritious food supply, including as changes in climatic factors (and their interactions) impose abiotic (non-living) stresses and other constraints on crop production, including for small-scale producers. We are also taking part in gender-intentional activities to identify trait preferences on a disaggregated basis and develop quantitative product concepts for these crops in target geographies, as led by the breeding programs and their colleagues across disciplines within those respective geographies.