Developmental genetics of domestication in foxtail millet and other grasses

foxtail millet field in China red2

Foxtail millet (Setaria italica (L.) P. Beauv.) is a panicoid cereal crop grass that was domesticated from green millet (Setaria viridis L.) in Northern China approximately 11,000 years ago. It is grown for human consumption in Northern China and India, and for animal consumption in temperate regions around the world. Its wild progenitor, green millet, is a troublesome weed of temperate crop systems. Foxtail millet is of particular interest because it:
1) has C4 photosynthesis
2) is closely related to potential biofuels grasses such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.) and napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach.)
3) is diploid
4) has a small genome size (~500Mb)
5) has a fully sequenced genome that will be publicly available later this year
5) is physically small, annual, and fast-cycling
It is thus an excellent model system for the study of vegetative architecture and branch dynamics.

Our previous work has shown that quantitative trait loci (QTL) can be identified that control both vegetative and inflorescence branching, using a cross between foxtail and green millet. We are refining the results of those experiments using F7 recombinant inbred lines (RILs). We are also very interested in how branching develops over the life of the plant, and so are now studying this in the F7 RIL population.  Part of this work is in an NSF-funded collaboration with researchers from West Virginia University, Brigham Young University, and University of California at Berkeley.  See our web pages detailing our research ( and research experience for teachers (

Evolution of fruit shape in Paysonia (Brassicaceae)
Paysonia is a small genus of 8 species in the Brassicaceae, that we are developing as a model evolutionary system. We are examining phylogeny, genetics and developmental morphology, through transcriptome sequencing, genetic crosses, SSR and SNP marker development, and QTL mapping. The 8 species have diverse fruit shapes, and some are federally endangered.

Evolution of hydroxylated fatty acids in Paysonia (Brassicaceae)

We are currently investigating the genetic regulation and evolution of seed oils in the genus, as they contain a diverse collection of hydroxy fatty acids.  Understanding the regulation of hydroxy fatty acid production may help in producing better oils for industrial feedstock and other uses.

Lesqlesc8 ABPaysonia stonensis lab
P. lescurii flowers P. stonensis flowers

Paysonia growth room
Experimental crosses between P. stonensis and P. lescurii.

fruit shape pleplstf1
Fruit: P. stonensis P. lescurii F1 hybrid