Seed World

NIAB Names New Plant Breeding Lead

UK crop research organisation NIAB has appointed Dr. Alison Bentley as its new director of genetics and breeding.

Bentley joined NIAB in 2007 and currently leads its trait genetics research programme. She will take up her post on 4th April 2016 and succeeds Professor Andy Greenland, who is retiring from the position he has held since 2005. He was instrumental in the establishment of the pre-breeding platform at NIAB, focused on delivering new sources of crop genetic diversity and improving the productivity, efficiency and sustainability of UK crop production systems. The NIAB Genetics and Breeding division has grown to become a global leader in crop transformation, crop genetics and pre-breeding with a 40-strong team of plant breeders, crop scientists, post-doc researchers and PhD students.

Announcing Bentley’s appointment NIAB chief executive Dr Tina Barsby said: “Part of NIAB’s vision to lead the UK in crop innovation is a further expansion of our pre-breeding capabilities, alongside a clear commitment to invest in, and to attract, high calibre employees. We are delighted to be able to promote a scientist of Alison’s strength and experience from within our organisation; going forward she is the ideal candidate to lead and develop our research activities.”

An agricultural science graduate from The University of Sydney, where she also completed her PhD, Dr Bentley has a strong interest in the genotype x environment interactions controlling complex traits and in the application of genomics in the breeding of high yielding, climate resilient cereals. She has worked on a range of projects within NIAB’s flagship wheat pre-breeding programme, including research on characterising flowering time response and the exploitation of novel genetic diversity and genomics tools for wheat improvement. Dr Bentley is currently chair of the UK MonoGram small grain and grasses community and has been involved with the Wheat Initiative, an international partnership of private and public organisations engaged in global wheat research.

Professor Greenland said: “Alison is a fantastic asset to NIAB and will be central to the development and communication of our science direction and strategy. Her connections throughout the global plant breeding and research community will be a great advantage, and I look forward to following her career, and that of the NIAB team, as it goes from strength to strength.”

Bentley said: “It is incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to lead NIAB’s research activity in bridging the recognised gap between our basic understanding of plant genetics and our ability to apply that knowledge into practice. I am also privileged to carry on Andy Greenland’s work as no-one has contributed more to NIAB’s reputation and achievements in crop genetics. He set a high standard for research excellence and commercial success within our sector, and built a superb team around him. His colleagues across the whole organisation will miss him greatly and wish him all the best for his retirement.”