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Use of multi-omics in plant genetics - is it the key to understand how roots can feed the world?

PhD defence, Friday, 23 October 2020. Pernille Bjarup Hansen.

2020.10.23 | Kathrine Nielsen

Image of the grass rhizotube experiment.

Pernille Bjarup Hansen

Grasses were grown in clear rhizotubes in semifield conditions. Here it was possible to observe both difference in intensity of the roots in top soil and root depth. The grasses established deep and intense root systems at different speed. In her PhD project, Pernille Bjarup Hansen identified clusters of genes correlated to these traits by extracting RNA from the root tips and using bioinformatic tools. This provided the researchers with information useful for the understanding of root growth.

Image of the grass rhizotube experiment

During her PhD studies, Pernille Bjarup Hansen researched the genetics underlying the root growth of important forage grasses and barley. Faster growing and deeper roots helps the plants survive periods of drought. The plant reacts to stresses such as drought by altering the active genes through different mechanisms, such as epigenetic modifications and differential gene expression. Pernille Bjarup Hansen identified genes and clusters of genes related to roots by investigating and integrating different omic layers from DNA to the epigenome and RNA. She also found that different omics could be useful to integrate in prediction models in order to develop more climate stable crops.

The new research findings shows how implementing root phenotyping in modern plant breeding programs can lead to more drought tolerant crops with deeper roots. The use of different omics can be applied even further and useful in order to feed to world in 2050.


The PhD study was completed at Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (QGG), Faculty of Technical Sciences, Aarhus University.

This summary was prepared by the PhD student.

Time: Friday, 23 October 2020 at 13:00


Place: The PhD defence will be held online. To receive a link to the event, please send an e-mail to Torben Asp at torben.asp@qgg.au.dk.


Title of PhD thesis: Genetic Dissection and Prediction of Complex Traits in Barley and Festulolium Grasses

Contact information: Pernille Bjarup Hansen, e-mail: pernille.bjarup@qgg.au.dk, tel.: +45 87154983

Members of the assessment committee:

Professor Emeritus Søren Kjærsgaard Rasmussen, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Professor Odd Arne Rognli, Department of Plant Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway

Senior Researcher Goutam Sahana (chairman), Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics, Aarhus University, Denmark

Main supervisor:
Professor MSO Torben Asp, Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics, Aarhus University, Denmark

Co-supervisor:
Professor Luc Janss, Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics, Aarhus University, Denmark

Language: The PhD dissertation will be defended in English

The defence is public.
Due to the coronavirus situation, the PhD thesis will not be available for reading at the offices of the PhD administration. Instead, interested parties may send an e-mail to gradschool.tech@au.dk to receive a digital copy of the PhD thesis. Please note, it may in certain cases be necessary to make an individual arrangement to read the PhD thesis.

PhD defence
17427 / i43