Jianming Yu is Professor and Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding in the Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University. The focus of Yu’s program is to address significant questions in plant breeding by combining cutting-edge genomic technologies and quantitative genetics theories. He is internationally recognized as a go-to person in the intersection of quantitative genetics, genomics, plant breeding, and statistics. Yu obtained 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 was a postdoctoral research associate at University of Minnesota from 2003 to 2004, and at Cornell University from 2004 to 2006. Yu worked at Kansas State University as Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor from 2006 to 2012 and moved to Iowa State University in 2013. Yu is a member of Iowa State University Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding and a Faculty Scholar of Plant Sciences Institute.
Yu's research integrates knowledge in quantitative genetics, plant breeding, genomics, molecular genetics, and statistics, and has the ultimate goal to develop and implement new strategies and methods in trait dissection and crop improvement. Current research includes Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) with diverse germplasm or multiple designed mapping populations, Genomic Selection (GS) to efficiently integrate high throughput genotyping into various breeding processes, Gene Identification for traits with agronomic and domestication importance, Genotype-by-Environment Interaction and Epistasis dissection to causal polymorphic sites, Genome and Chromosome Size Evolution across taxonomic groups, and Genome-Wide Base Composition changes.
In 2018, Yu's program developed an integrated framework for gene discovery underlying phenotypic plasticity and performance prediction across environments (PNAS 115:6679-6684). This work was regarded as having the potential to be a landmark paper in genotype-by-environment interaction, phenotypic plasticity, and norm of reaction. In 2016, Yu’s team demonstrated that a comprehensive strategy based on genomic selection and other relevant technologies can be designed to mine the natural heritage stored in numerous gene banks (Nature Plants 2:16150). In 2015, his research team published the first complete case of heterosis due to pseudo-overdominance (PNAS 112:11823-11828). Other significant research contributions include identifying the Shattering1 gene and its homologs underlying the parallel domestication of multiple cereal species (Nature Genetics 44:720-724), quantifying genic and nongenic contributions to quantitative trait variation in maize (Genome Research 22:2436-2444), cloning of the Tan1 gene in sorghum underlying a trait with incomplete domestication (PNAS 109:10281-10286). In addition, his team revealed the patterns in DNA base composition divergence (Nucleic Acids Research 43:3614-3625) in 2015 and chromosome size variation (Molecular Biology and Evolution 28:1901–1911) across multiple species in 2011. Yu's significant research contributions also include pioneering genomic selection (GS) research in crops (Crop Science 47:1082-1090), the state-of-the-art breeding methodology; outlining the nested association mapping (NAM) strategy (Genetics 138:539-551), an approach being replicated in multiple crops; and developing the mixed model method for genome-wide association studies (GWAS) (Nature Genetics 38:203-208), the standard method framework for complex trait dissection.
Yu received the Iowa State University Mid-Career Achievement in Research Award in 2017, the Emerging Leaders in Applied Plant Sciences Award from University of Minnesota in 2014, and the Young Crop Scientist Award from Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) in 2010. Yu was elected to Fellow of CSSA in 2018, and Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2018.