Yu, Jianming

Jianming Yu is Professor, Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding, and Director of Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding in the Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University. The focus of Yu’s program is to address significant questions in quantitative genetics by combining cutting-edge genomic technologies and plant breeding. Maize and sorghum are two major crops with annual nurseries with thousands of research plots, but the group has worked on many other crops through collaboration and open data (rice, wheat, oat, peanut, and soybean). He earned his B.S. from Northwest A&F University in 1994, M.S. from Kansas State University in 2000, and Ph.D. from University of Minnesota in 2003. He worked at Kansas State University from 2006 to 2012 and then moved to Iowa State University in 2013. His research integrates knowledge in quantitative genetics, genomics, plant breeding, molecular genetics, and statistics, and has the goal of developing and implementing new strategies and methods in complex trait dissection and crop improvement. He has made significant contributions in research discoveries and community leadership and service. Among other honors, Yu was elected to Fellow of Crop Science Society of America and Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Much of Yu’s research has been focused on investigating the genetic architecture of quantitative and qualitative traits with evolutionary and agricultural importance, the interplay of genes, environment, and development underlying phenotypic variation, and the strategies to enhance crop improvement by design optimization and prediction. Yu’s significant research contributions include developing the integrated framework for both gene discovery underlying phenotypic plasticity and performance prediction across environments, developing the mixed model framework for genome-wide association studies, outlining the nested association mapping strategy, pioneering genomic selection research in crops, prototyping a comprehensive strategy to turbocharge genebanks to mine the natural heritage, quantifying genic and nongenic contributions to quantitative trait variation in maize, identifying the Shattering1 gene and its homologs underlying the parallel domestication of multiple cereal species (sorghum, maize, rice, and foxtail millet), uncovering a domestication triangle involving sorghum tannin and the pair of Tannin1 and Tannin2 genes, and revealing the patterns in DNA base composition divergence and chromosome size variation across multiple species.

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Suza, Walter

I serve as George Washington Carver Endowed Chair. The Chair is dedicated to the memory of George Washington Carver who was Iowa State University’s first Black student and faculty member. The Endowed Chair honors Carver’s spirit of service to all humans regardless of their race, gender, class, religion, or national origin.


Plants produce several sterols which accumulate preferentially in different organs. However, there is a gap in our knowledge about the direct role of individual sterols in plant growth and development. Fluctuations in the content of sitosterol and stigmasterol during development and conditions of stress suggest that these sterols modulate plasma membrane components or signaling activities essential for plant development and stress compensation. We are probing maize and Arabidopsis systems to increase our understanding of the direct roles of sitosterol and stigmasterol in plant growth and development. A full appreciation of the biological relevance of sitosterol to stigmasterol conversion will advance our understanding of the direct role of sterols in plant growth and development.

  1. Aboobucker, S.I., Showman, L.J., Lübberstedt, T., Suza, W.P. (2021). Maize Zmcyp710a8 mutant as a tool to decipher the function of stigmasterol in plant metabolism. Frontiers in Plant Science 12:732216. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.732216
  2. Aboobucker, S.I., Suza, W.P. (2019). Why do plants convert sitosterol to stigmasterol? Frontiers in Plant Science 10:354. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.00354
  3. Suza, W.P., Chappell, J. (2016) Spatial and temporal regulation of sterol biosynthesis in Nicotiana benthamiana. Physiologia Plantarum 157:120-134. https://doi.org/10.1111/ppl.12413


I teach courses on Genetics and Biotechnology and Crop Physiology for Agronomy majors. I strive to create a classroom environment that is interactive and accepting of the diverse views and beliefs of my students. Not only do I aspire to ensure that my students learn the nature of science, but I also challenge students to be appreciative of science application to address society’s challenges. My students learn to work in teams for critical evaluation of plant molecular biology, genetics, physiology, and biochemistry.

Explore Genetics OER Textbook

Genetics, Biotechnology, and Agriculture

Building Crop Improvement Capacity in Africa:

In addition to co-developing courses for the Iowa State University’s Distance MS in Plant Breeding Program, I served as the director of Plant Breeding e-Learning in Africa Program ​(PBEA) for 8 years. PBEA increased access to open educational resources (OER) on topics related to the genetic improvement of crops. PBEA OER were developed for use in curricula to train African students in the management of crop breeding programs for public, local, and international organizations. PBEA OER hone essential capabilities with real-world challenges of cultivar development in Africa using Applied Learning Activities. The PBEA team worked in collaboration with faculty at Makerere University in Uganda, University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana.

  1. Suza, W. P., Mahama, A. A., Gibson, P., Aboobucker, S. I., Sibiya, J., Madakadze, R., Akromah, R., Edema, R., Lübberstedt, T., Retallick, M. S., & Lamkey, K. R. (2023). Educating the Next Generation of Plant Breeders in Sub-Saharan Africa. OpenISU. https://doi.org/10.31274/b8136f97.4e7ae532
  2. Suza, P., Gibson, P., Edema, R., Akromah, R., Sibiya, J., Madakadze, R., & Lamkey, K. R. (2016) Plant breeding capacity building in Africa. Nature Climate Change 6:976. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3139

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Crop Biotechnology Outreach

  1. Esquivel, M. M., Aboobucker, S. I., & Suza, W. P. (2023) The impact of ‘framing’ in the adoption of GM crops. GM Crops & Food, 14:1-11. doi: 10.1080/21645698.2023.2275723
  2. McMillen, M. S., Mahama, A. A., Sibiya, J., Lübberstedt, T., & Suza, W. P. (2022). Improving drought tolerance in maize: Tools and techniques. Frontiers in Genetics 13:1001001. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2022.1001001
  3. Carzoli, K., Aboobucker, S. I., Sandall, L. L., Lubberstedt, T., & Suza, W. P. (2018) Risks and opportunities of GM crops: Bt maize example. Global Food Security 19:84-91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2018.10.004     
  4. Suza, W. P., Kena, A., Akromah, R., Mugwanya, N., & Zeller, M. (2018). Fear holds back gene-edited crops — educate the public. Nature 563:626. doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-07547-y.

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Bhattacharyya, Madan

Bhattacharyya Lab is engaged in studying the molecular bases of two serious soybean diseases; the sudden death syndrome (SDS) and root and stem rot that are caused by Fusarium virguliforme and Phytophthora sojae, respectively. They have shown that FvTox1, a phytotoxin produced by F. virguliforme is involved in foliar SDS development. They then showed that by expressing an anti-FvTox1 plant antibody or FvTox1-interacting synthetic peptides one can enhance SDS resistance in soybean plants. They have mapped several quantitative trait loci governing SDS resistance and de novo sequenced F. virguliforme to identify pathogenicity genes involved in SDS development. They have shown that overexpression of two soybean genes, which are suppressed by F. virguliforme infection, enhances SDS resistance in transgenic soybean lines. One of these genes enhances resistance of soybean also against soybean aphids, spider mites and soybean cyst nematode. They have cloned the complex Rps1-k locus that governs the race-specific resistance of soybean against P. sojae pathotypes or races. There are two highly similar CC-NB-LRR-type genes in the Rps1-k locus that have been conferring Phytophthora resistance in soybean since 1980s. They have mapped several Rps genes including Rps1-k, Rps4, Rps6, Rps8, Rps12 and Rps13.

Bhattacharyya lab is also involved in understanding the nonhost resistance mechanisms of Arabidopsis against F. virguliforme and P. sojae. They identified 14 Arabidopsis mutants that are susceptible to both pathogens; and have cloned five genes that govern nonhost immunity of Arabidopsis against the two soybean pathogens. It appears that nonhost resistance mechanisms are highly complex and expression of these genes in transgenic soybean plants enhances SDS resistance.