School of Biosciences

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Sean Mayes

Associate Professor in Crop Genetics, Faculty of Science


Research Summary

Dr Sean Mayes Dr Sean Mayes Associate Professor in Crop Genetics Research Director, Plant and Crop Sciences Crops for the Future (UK) CIC Biosciences c/o NIAB, 93 Lawrence Weaver Road Nottingham… read more

Selected Publications

Current Research

Dr Sean Mayes Dr Sean Mayes Associate Professor in Crop Genetics Research Director, Plant and Crop Sciences Crops for the Future (UK) CIC Biosciences c/o NIAB, 93 Lawrence Weaver Road Nottingham University, UK Cambridge, CB3 0LE, UK

Tel: +44 115 95 16080 Mobile: +44 7850 350 204 Mobile: +44 7850 350 204 E-mail: E-mail: E-mail:

Areas of Research Interest.

  • The dynamic change in plant genomes.
  • The exploitation of the genetic variation generated to produce genetic markers for marker-assisted breeding
  • Agricultural diversification through minor and underutilised crops

Recent and current grants held as PI/Joint-PI:

  1. PI (for CFF; Plant Breeders without Borders) (Bayer; EU299K Corporate Social Responsibility grant; Jan 2019 - Dec 2024) Bayer sponsored establishment of 'Plant Breeders Without Borders'. The proposal is to develop PBWOB with the originator, Mr Anthony Leddin, to undertake farmer and local partner underutilised crop breeding initiatives. Nine events over 3 years, three extended funded programmes for varietal development. ; management transferred to CFF(UK)CIC
  1. Joint PI (UK/UNM (2019-2022) UoN/UNMC; Future Food Beacon; £200K agreed) University of Nottingham Beacon of Excellence 'Future Food'. Bambara groundnut breeding strand to develop less photoperiod sensitive and easier-to-cook varieties for field trial and registration in South Africa and Ghana.
  1. PI (CFFRC): (2016-2020; International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources; R3 Window 3 Benefit Sharing Fund; $500K) 'Genetic and trait characterisation of farmer and genebank sources of bambara groundnut for the development of drought tolerant lines in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia'. Two African (Nigeria, Ghana) and two Southeast Asian (Indonesia and Malaysia) Partners
  1. PI (CFFRC): (2012 - 2020; 'BamYIELD'; £882K). Translating 18 years of research in bambara groundnut into new germplasm through an international research and breeding programme. One of five research programmes at Crops for the Future Research Centre. The Centre was created with funding of 119M MYR (£22M: PI Sayed Azam-Ali) from the Government of Malaysia. BamYIELD core projects from CFF cover 2013-2019 research
  1. Joint-PI (CFFRC): (2012-2022; CFF/UNMC; £4.26M) 'CFFRC-UNMC Doctoral Training Partnership' joint Director.
  1. PI: (UoN) (July 2018); 'Newton Links Trilateral workshop (UK-Kenya-South Africa; £54K) on translation from major crops to minor crops for community resilience. Held 9th -13th July 2018; KwaZulu Natal University, South Africa.
  1. PI (UoN): (£22.3K - from Aug 19- July 21; Beacons Innovation Grant) to sequence 300 lines of foxtail millet at x10 coverage, combined with phenotyping data from a Chinese visiting post-doc from Shanxi University and collection from Cambridge University. Lines and data will be distributed through NASC.
  1. PI(CFF/UoN): (on-going) Pilot study evaluating the use of an underutilised protein crop (winged bean; Psophocarpus tetragonolobus) as a cover crop in oil palm plantations; now moving to large-scale assessment in plantation.
  1. PI(UoN): (2021 - 2025; RADIANT (H2020) £202K) - Dynamic value chains for underutilised crops in Europe. £6M consortium led by Porto Catholic University.
  1. DEFRA Framework Agreement (UoN;2022-2025); UoN appointed as 1 of 6 Partners for sublot 2.1 focused on predictive crop breeding and new crops. £1 - £1.5M per year for three years allocated to Lot 2.1
  1. PI(CFF): (2021-2025; RADIANT (H2020) £196K) - Dynamic value chains for underutilised crops in Europe.

Databasing - CropStore-EU and CropBASE-EU.

Recent and current grants as Co-I:

  1. Co-I (CFF): (2018-2021; CFF Jahanshiri; EU Horizon 2020 - LANDSUPPORT; EU 296K). CFF is one of only two non-European partners on a 17-member consortium to develop planning for future agriculture in the member countries; being transferred to CFF(UK)CIC
  1. Co-I (UoN): (2017; Wilson; 'Newton Links Workshop; UoN - Vietnam; £32K) on drought tolerant rice for the Mekon Delta.
  1. Co-I (UoN): (October 2018 - Sep 2023) Beacon Challenge Programmes; "Future Protein" (Salter Lead; £1 million);
  1. Co-I (UoN) (2019-2022; GCRF Innovate: £250K; Mendiondo) "Improving resilience and nutrient retention of leafy vegetables for improved health in Southern Africa". Linking Nottingham, UNM, CFF, University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), University of Zimbabwe and South Cross University (Australia) andGlasshouse evaluation and nutritional profiling of promising BC3 generation leafy brassicas for stress tolerant and nutrient retentive leafy veg in UK" (to April 2022). Supported by Tozer Seed UK.
  1. Co-I (UoN) (2020; FF Beacon: £6K Bhosale) Sequencing the Moth Bean genome (India, Thailand, UK)

Current Programmes:

1. BamBreed BamBreed is a Future Food Beacon of Excellence project which builds upon research at University of Nottingham and Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC). The focus is on using the extensive knowledge which the University of Nottingham and Partners worldwide have developed on the underutilised African legume, Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea (L) Verdc.) and taking that through to registration of the first varieties of this crop in South Africa and Ghana. This grain legume is grown by around 1/3 million small-holder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as at lower levels in Southeast Asia, India and elsewhere. The species has adapted to produce yields when peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) fails under low rainfall conditions (<400mm p.a.) but also can produce yields under high rainfall conditions (>2000 mm p.a.). It is generally grown in poor soils and under traditional low-input agriculture, where its drought tolerance makes it of potential importance under climate change scenarios, which could alter rain patterns, particularly within Africa. However, as a species which has received little breeding effort, it also has a number of problems which are preventing further uptake of this species as a part of food and nutritional security. In particular, most landraces are photoperiod sensitive, which can lead to a lack of pod-filling if the day length exceeds 12 hours. In addition, few value added products exist, few cultivars have been developed and none through conventional crossing, the crop has yet to be officially registered in Indonesia and markets need assured supplies to investigate product development further. BamBreed aims to establish an international breeding programme for Bambara groundnut which will allow results from research in partner countries to be channelled into the breeding programme, allowing material to be developed and selected for a wide range of agro-ecological environments. Partners: University of Nottingham, University of Nottingham Malaysia, University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), Crops Research Institute, Kumasi (Ghana).

2. H2020 EU RADIANT (UoN) - Sept 2021 - August 2025

RADIANT aims to develop dynamic value chains for underutilised crops in Europe. Led by UCP in Portugal, UoN will be mainly involved in the development and testing of new populations for three underutilised crops; Foxtail millet, Bambara groundnut, and winged bean.

With partners, we will also screen a wide range of germplasm collections for suitable accessions in the countries of study.

Dr Luis Salazar Licea has recently started work on RADIANT as a post-doc;

A part of the UoN work, in collaboration with Prof Graham King at Southern Cross University, Australia, is to capture breeding level information in CropStore for a number of the underutilised crops. Graham has previously developed a range of use cases for Australian minor crops and also a Bambara groundnut version developed with CFF.

3. Plant Breeders Without Borders; CFF; to 2026

Plant Breeders Without Borders is an idea originated by Mr Anthony Leddin, a crop breeder in Australia, this institution focuses on Community-based breeding of minor crops.

PBWOB projects have two phases, an initial week-long workshop linking communities growing their own underutilised crops with local research institutes, or NGOs, followed by a Community-led small-scale breeding programme for that crop over 5 - 7 years.

Workshops have been held in Indonesia and Nepal, with a breeding programme under design for Indonesia. Further activities are currently on hold due to Covid-19, but we hope to run a workshop in Fiji at the end of 2022.


The CFF-led part of RADIANT is focused on the further development of crop selection tools established during the CFFRC (Malaysia) project, containing data from around 2300 species and tools to address suitability for growing based on soils, climate and location worldwide. These will be further developed during RADIANT for European locations, with the development of genotype specific data for

5. DEFRA Framework Agreement (2022-2025) UoN is one of six national partners appointed to provide expertise, reviews, and specific research on Lot 2.1 for DEFRA priorities, including for new and novel crops

6. BBSRC GCRF - "Glasshouse evaluation and nutritional profiling of promising BC3 generation leafy brassicas for stress tolerant and nutrient retentive leafy veg in UK" (to April 2022). Supported by Tozer Seed UK.


GCRF - "Improving resilience and nutrient retention of local leafy vegetables for improved health in Southern Africa" (ongoing). With University KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), University of Harare (Zimbabwe), seed company Capstone Seed (SA) and Bezen Foods a major food supplier to Bulawajo, Zimbabwe.

Two projects focused on evaluating mutations in the N-Degradon pathways and their effects on stress tolerance and nutrient retention in leafy Brassica rapa species; led by Guillermina Mendiondo.

Dr Alberto Tanzi is a post-doc on this project

PhD projects:

Mr Abdullah AlJabri. Date palm: 'Genetic analysis of the date palms of Oman'; Omani Government Scholarship

Ms Niki Tsoutsoura; Future Food Beacon - Protein Challenge: 'Winged Bean - a new soybean for the tropics'

Ms Sophie Cowling: 'O. glabberima as a source of traits for Asian rice'; BBSRC DTP2 viva in April 22

Mr Mark Wearing: 'Improvement of root shape uniformity in parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) with Tozer Seed UK. Industry funded; lead Malcolm Bennett

Mr Patrick Seed: 'Characterising the Cougar resistance allele to Septoria tritici blotch in wheat with RAGT; lead Rumiana Ray; writing up

Mr James Garner: 'Floret Efficiency as a selection criterion in the KWS breeding programme' with KWS Plant Breeders; lead John Foulkes; writing up

Ms Annie Buckley: 'Herbicide enhancement effects on sugar beet' with British Beet Research Organisation; lead Debbie Sparkes

For Sept 2022:

'Diversifying world agriculture - a common framework for crop data comparison'. a BBSRC CASE DTP3 PhD; 50% industry with Crops for the Future (UK) CIC and Prof Graham King, as part of the RADIANT project - applicants under consideration

'Understanding and preventing the bioaccumulation of insecticides in cucurbits' CTP in Agricultural Innovation; NIAB-UoN registration-Sainsbury's - will be re-advertised.

Visiting Researchers:

Ms Summra Saddique: Investigating the genetic diversity of a worldwide soybean collection for introduction into Pakistan. Jan 2022 - June 2022

Dr Admire Shayanowako: Breeding Researcher for BamBreed at University Kwa-Zulu Natal University, South Africa on a (too) brief visit to SB on a Newton scholarship (much delayed by Covid)

Future Research

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