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Department of Plant Sciences

ian henderson

Professor Ian Henderson, Head of the Department’s Genetic and Epigenetic Inheritance in Plants Research Group, has been  awarded a highly competitive Bayer Crop Science grant. Awarded to researchers with unique ideas on helping farmers protect their crops, the Grants4Ag 2021 include both financial support and scientific guidance, with the opportunity for successful projects to become future collaborations with Bayer. Professor Henderson beat more than 600 proposals from researchers across 39 countries to be one of 24 scientists selected to receive the funding, which will enable him to continue his research investigating strategies to control recombination in plant genomes.


The grants have been designed to support ideas focused on advancing agriculture, with a focus on accelerating precision agriculture, reducing chemicals, enhancing soil health and fighting pests to preserve biodiversity. Each awardee will receive between €5,000 and €15,000 and be paired with one of Bayer’s own scientists, who will provide guidance, with the outlook that this initial grant could end up as an investment in a larger, longer-term collaboration. Phil Taylor, Open Innovation Lead for Bayer’s Crop Science Division comments that “Ideas from this year’s winners represent all research and development areas in crop science. We love the idea that, given support, these research proposals could develop into the next advancement that helps farmers.”


Professor Henderson is researching how to control recombination frequency and location to create better tools for crop breeding. Genetic recombination is one of the catalysts for creating a diversity of traits among organisms and is a vital process for crop breeding and improvement. By harnessing the power of this process, useful traits from domesticated and wild strains, which are better adapted to the changing climate, can be combined.


“Recombination is just as important for humans as it is for crop species!” says Professor Henderson. “For example, the reason siblings can differ so much despite sharing parents is because the recombination process mixes up genetic variation in different ways each time a child is conceived. This process is identical to that which breeders use to create new crop varieties that combine useful traits. We are interested in controlling and harnessing this recombination in order to better adapt our crops.”


The Bayer Grants4Ag grant will enable Professor Henderson to further his research investigating strategies to control recombination in plant genomes , looking at both control of recombination frequency and location along the chromosomes.  “This support will allow us to obtain proof of principle data that one of our strategies to increase recombination has worked in a key crop – the tomato,” remarked Professor Henderson. “If this experiment works, it will galvanise us to further develop this technology as an approach to accelerate crop breeding.”