In November 2018 Elsabet Wessels had the opportunity to attend the Designing Future Wheat (DFW) Course in Wheat Genetics at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich, UK. She was one of only 16 participants from all over the world selected to attend this course. We are grateful towards Grain South Africa’s Winter rainfall regions 26 and 27 that provided the funding that allowed her to utilise this wonderful opportunity. The course was presented by several leading wheat researchers from the UK as part of the DFW Institute Strategic Programme – a joint research programme funded by the BBSRC that aims to develop new wheat germplasm with new key traits of interest. Eight leading UK research institutes and universities are involved with the DFW programme. Renée visited some of these institutes whilst on her trip to the UK in February and this workshop was therefore the ideal opportunity for the CenGen group to follow up on the connections that she had made and to build on the information that she gathered.
The course stretched over five days and included lectures and practicals on topics such as QTL mapping, the genomic resources available to wheat researchers, the Wheat breeders’ toolkit hosted at JIC, the use of molecular markers in wheat breeding and where to find them, wheat development, synthetic wheat and diversity obtained from the wild relatives of wheat. The participants also had the opportunity to visit the Limagrain research station in Woolpit, UK, and attended a lecture by a cereal molecular geneticist employed at RAGT Seed who provided valuable insights into how the topics covered during the week are practically implemented in a breeding programme.
The DFW course was a truly valuable experience and the knowledge that Elsabet gained will greatly aid CenGen’s efforts to assist the South African wheat breeders to develop well adapted, genetically advanced cultivars. Elsabet’s attendance was also a direct outcome of one the Science and Innovation Network (SIN) as well as AgBiz Grain’s initiatives to build partnerships between UK and South African scientists.