WISP course on Wheat genetics
John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK
17-20th November 2014

The BBSRC funded Wheat Improvement Strategic Programme (WISP) aims to identify new and useful genetic variation to support the vital contribution of wheat breeding to food security.  The aim of this course is to offer training in the genetic analysis methodologies employed in WISP at the John Innes Centre.  The participants will gain the skills necessary to apply these methodologies in their own research.


The course is aimed at anyone with an interest in cereals research and crop breeding.  The course is an entry level introduction, giving a taste of wheat genetics, from field trials to QTL analysis.  Applications are welcome from UK and international undergraduates, junior breeders, PhD students, and postdocs. A total of 12 places are available for this course.

The four day course involves classroom lectures, hands-on lab exercises, and phenotyping methods appropriate for a wheat genetics programme. A guest speaker and a visit to a commercial breeding programme will expand the topics covered. There will also be opportunities for the whole group to enjoy social activities and discussions. 

You can view a breakdown of feedback on last year's course in the WISPCourseEvaluation2013.pdf

Provisional Programme and Course Content

The aim of this course is to offer training in the methodologies employed at the John Innes Centre for genetic analysis of wheat as part of WISP. We hope to give participants some insight into our work and equip them with skills and techniques that they may be able to apply within their own research. The course has been separated into several sections, which mimic on a smaller scale the different steps that make up the whole analysis process. A pipeline of the steps involved is shown below:
Generation of mapping populations.
Collection of phenotypic data (height, flowering time etc.).
Selection of markers (From currently available ones or design of new ones).
Genetic analysis with these markers.
Production of map using marker data.
QTL analysis.
Make NILs (Near Isogenic Lines) though backcrossing programme.
Check validity of QTL.
Make stepwise recombinant populations.
Identification of novel gene that has effect on desired trait.

Day 1 Monday 17 November, 9am-6pm
Strategies for the identification of useful genes in wheat germplasm collections.
We will welcome the participants and give an introduction into the wheat genetic analysis.
Collecting phenotypic data and wheat crossing techniques.
The plant based section describes the process of creating novel genetic material through plant breeding. It explains the development of this material through the self-pollination process of single seed descent to produce a genetic mapping population and eventually leading to the production of material for field bulking and phenotypic data collection.
Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) marker design.
The aim of this part of the WISP course is to take the route from a gene sequence to molecular markers that are appropriate for genetic mapping and marker assisted selection. We will use different bioinformatics tools to gather the information needed to design genetic markers for a specific gene. There are many bioinformatics tools available and this is a good way to become familiar with some of them. This will be a very hands-on way of working but the concepts are the same if and when one wants to scale up to high throughput approaches.


Day 2 Tuesday 18 November, 9am-6pm
Marker design continued.
Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) genotyping.
In this part of the course the participants will get lab experience in genotyping some of our WISP material using the designed markers. Genotyping will be done using the KASP platform.

Guided tour of Norwich (after 6pm).


Day 3 Wednesday 19 November, 9am-6pm
Genetic Mapping.
Molecular breeding relies on the presence of markers and genetic maps in order to identify and later use chromosomal regions or genes that affect qualitative or quantitative traits. Genetic maps are needed as single markers are usually not linked close enough to the gene of interest, so that a single marker would be good enough to tag this gene. It is also easier to integrate loci into a breeding programme, when the chromosomal position of the loci is known, particularly when comparisons of QTLs can be made across populations and even across species. In this part of the course we review basic principles and concepts underlying genetic map construction and give a practical introduction into genetic mapping using MapDisto.
Trip to a wheat breeding station.
Main dinner (after 6pm).

Day 4 Thursday 20 November, 9am-5pm
Guest speaker: Jacob Lage, KWS UK Ltd.
Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) identification.
We will review basic principles and techniques used to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL). In the practical part we will use J/qtl for QTL mapping.
Outlook on Marker Assisted Selection and final summary.
The content of the course will be summarised and together with the participants we will discuss and compare views on best ways to breed future wheat crops.


It is essential that participants are fluent English speakers, as this intensive course will be given in English. Successful applicants will be provided with bibliography to read in advance.


The registration fee is £ 250, payable in advance. This includes: Accommodation for four nights: Sunday 16 November to Wednesday 19 November, inclusive meals and transport within Norwich for the duration of the course.

Participants are responsible for making and paying for their own visa and travel arrangements to and from the accommodation in Norwich, situated in walking distance from the JIC at the nearby University of East Anglia.

Successful applicants will be notified shortly after the application deadline and will be sent an invoice for their registration fee to be paid by bank transfer within two weeks.


The deadline for submission of application is 5pm, Tuesday 16 September 2014. Applicants are required to submit their completed application form, CV (maximum length two sides of A4) and a letter of recommendation from their Head of Department (or equivalent). Applications should be sent by email to wisp.course@jic.ac.uk quoting reference "school 2014"

See also the Course Flyer and use the Course Application Form to apply.

The course is funded by the BBSRC