Gund Fellow, Associate Professor, UVM Department of Plant and Soil Science

Dr. Eric JB von Wettberg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont with a research program focused on understanding crop domestication as a means to harness the diversity of crop wild relatives to breed crops with improved climatic resilience and stress tolerance. He received a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Brown University in 2007 and was a NIH National Research Service Award postdoc at the University of California at Davis from 2007-2009.  Broadly trained in evolution, genetics, ecology and agroecology, Dr. von Wettberg uses a combination of field, greenhouse common garden, and laboratory approaches.

Many crops, like the grain legumes chickpea and lentil, have lost genetic variation as a result of human cultivation and selection. The lack of genetic variation reduces resilience of these crops to expected effects of climate change such as drought and disease. Von Wettberg and his research group are using a new collection of the wild relatives of chickpea to restore genetic variation to cultivated chickpea, and to better understand the genetic basis of flowering time and drought tolerance. In addition to altering genetic variation of the crop, domestication likely had far reaching consequences on the biodiversity of communities in centers of domestication.  How changes in plants resulting from domestication altered above and belowground plant communities is little explored communities in centers of domestication, where extended periods of human agricultural activities and modification of “natural” systems have occurred. Harnessing symbiotic microbes such as rhizobia and mycorrhiza can greatly improve sustainability of agricultural systems.  Furthermore, protecting crop wild relatives and the systems from which they come is essential to preserving the greatest reservoir of adapative variation available for agricultural protection.

Research and/or Creative Works

  • USAID Feed the Future Innovation Laboratory for Climate Resilient Chickpea
  • Deducing the Impact of Domestication for Nitrogen Fixation in chickpea
  • Root exudation of vegetable and forage legumes of Vermont.

Publications

  • von Wettberg EJ, Chang PL, Greenspan A, Carrasquila-Garcia N, Basdemir F, Moenga S, Bedada G, Dacosta-Calheiros E, Moriuchi KS, Balcha L, Mamo B, Singh V,Cordeiro MA, Vance L, Bergmann E,  Warschefsky EJ, Marques E, Dinegde KN, Sani SG, Getahun T, Yilmaz MA, Cacmak A, Rose J, Migneault A, Krieg CP, Saylak S, Temel H, Noujdina NV, Friesen ML, Siler E, Linday D, Akhmetov Z, Ozelik H, Kholova J, Can C, Caur P, Yildirim M, Sharma H, Vadez V, Tesfaye K, Woldemedhin AF, Tar’an B, Ayodogan A, Bekun B, Penmetsa RV, Berger J, Kahraman A, Nuzhdin SV, Cook DR.  Ecology and community genomics of an important crop wild relative as a prelude to agricultural innovation. Nature Communications, in press.
  • Varshney RK, Saxena RK, Upadhyaya HD, Khan A, Yu O, Kim C, Rathore A, Seon D, Kim J, An S, Kumar V, Anauradha G, Yamini K, Zhang W, Muniswamy Z, Kim B, Penmetsa RV, von Wettberg EJ, and Datta SK. 2017. Whole genome re-sequencing of 292 pigeonpea cultivars, landraces and wild species accessions provides targets for domestication and genomic regions associated with agronomic traits for crop improvement. Nature Genetics, doi:10.1038/ng.3872
  • Plekhanova E, Vishnyakova MA, Bulintsev, Chang PL, Carrasquilla-Garcia N, Negash K, von Wettberg EJ, Noujdina N, Cook DR, Samsonova MG, Nuzhdin SV. Genomic and phenotypic analysis of Vavilov’s historic landraces reveals the impact of environment and genomic islands of agronomic traits.  Scientific Reports, 10.1038/s41598-017-05087-5  (http://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-05087-5)
  • Warschefsky, EJ, Penmetsa RV, Cook DR, and von Wettberg EJ 2014 Back to the wilds: tapping evolutionary adaptations for resilient crops through systematic hybridization with crop wild relatives, American Journal of Botany, 101:1791-1800
  • Turner TL, Bourne EC, von Wettberg EJ, Hu TL, and Nuzhdin SV. 2010.  Population resequencing reveals local adaptation of Arabidopsis lyrata to serpentine soils.  Nature Genetics.  42: 260-263

Associations and Affiliations

  • Food Systems Initiative Affiliated faculty
  • EEEB affiliate
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences Fellow (2017-2018)
  • Fulbright Specialist, Addis Ababa Universtiy, Ethiopia

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Agroecology, climate resilient agriculture, crop domestication, crop wild relatives, microbiome, symbiosis

Education

  • PhD, Ecology and Evolution, Brown University
  • BA, Biology, Swarthmore College

Contact

Phone:
  • 802-656-9117