Jaswinder Singh

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Associate Professor 

T: 514-398-7906  | jaswinder.singh [at] mcgill.ca (Email) |  Raymond Building, R2-0  |  Icône PDF jaswindersingh_cv_2016s-nb.pdf


BSc, MSc (Punjab Agricultural University)
PhD (U of Sydney)

Short Bio

Dr. Jaswinder Singh is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Science, McGill University, Canada. Dr. Singh received his PhD from the University of Sydney and CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra Australia and did his postdoctoral studies at the University of California Berkeley, U.S.A. His research focuses on the enhancement of quality traits, stress tolerance and bioenergy capability of crop plants using modern genomic, molecular breeding and biotechnological tools. Dr. Singh is an internationally recognized innovator in the use of transposon tagging in cereal crops. His findings have shown for the first time the reversal of epigenetic silencing in plants. Recently, his laboratory discovered a key gene that acts as a switch to determine how a particular plant responds to high humidity and excess rainfall. The research opens up a new epigenetic-based direction for exploration of seed dormancy and Pre Harvest Sprouting (PHS). He has delivered numerous talks in international meetings and prestigious institutes. He has published over 40 research articles in high impact peer reviewed journals, books and conference proceedings. Additionally, he is actively involved in teaching plant breeding, plant biotechnology, plant biology courses, training graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and lab assistants.  To date, he has trained over 40 researchers, which include undergraduate, technicians, graduate students and PDFs. He is also performing his duties as an editor for two international journals (Canadian Journal of Plant Science, PLOS ONE) and a reviewer for numerous granting agencies. He is honored to serve as panel member for various national and international funding organizations including US Department of Energy and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He has served as Eastern Director of Canadian Society of Agronomy (2010-2012), executive member of International Committee of the American Society of Plant Biologists (2012-15) and executive committee member of International Association of Plant Biotechnology- Canada (2013-2014). He is currently serving as a member of Gleb Krotkov award committee of the Canadian Society of Plant Biologists. In addition, he has successfully co-chaired two prestigious conferences (Canadian Plant Biotechnology -2014 and CSA-CSHS -2016) in Montreal.

Active Affiliations

  • The Canadian Society of Plant Physiologists
  • The American Society of Plant Biologists (Member International Affairs Committee 2012-15)
  • The Canadian Society of Agronomy (Eastern Director 2010-12) 
  • National Association of Plant Breeders
  • The International Association for Plant Biotechnology- Canada (Executive committee 2013-14)

Research interests

With global climate changes, crop tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses like heat, drought, salt, water logging, and freezing will become even more critical for future food security worldwide. In order to offset its detrimental effects on crop yields and meet the growing demand for food and feed, it is imperative to develop crops with improved tolerance. In the face of diminishing useable land and water resources, the challenge then is to continue providing sufficient food in an environmentally sustainable manner for the rapidly expanding world population that is expected to reach over 9 billion by the year 2050. Conventional plant breeding programs alone will clearly not be enough to overcome the colossal dual obstacles of climate change and ensuring global food security: Species survival and enhancement depends on genetic diversity, which allows them to cope with changing biotic and abiotic conditions.  Yet, as plant breeders in the past focused their efforts on improving qualities such as uniformity and yield, other important genes fundamental to future survival were unintentionally lost; for example, disease and pest resistance genes.  Consequently, in recent years, it has become apparent that important agricultural crops such as wheat, barley, rice and maize are becoming increasingly more susceptible not only to pests and diseases, but also to many other abiotic or biotic stresses as a direct result of this narrowing of genetic diversity.  In contrast, the scientific community commonly accepts that many of the genes and alleles considered to be important in a crop - those for disease and pest tolerance, adaptability, yield, and drought/flooding tolerance for instance- should theoretically be found in the wild ancestors of cultivated crops, making the wild species an incontrovertible primary source of genetic material. Despite this fact, all modern genomic efforts have been concentrated solely on the lost realm of cultivated species. Notwithstanding, we strongly believe that advanced tools should be applied to more relevant sources where unique genes actually exist; therefore it is the wild ancestors of our modern crops rather than currently grown cultivars that deserve such exploitation. Our work lay the foundation for unique methods of identify genes from wild and cultivated species for use in cereals improvement.   In essence, we are creating plant-version of the fruit-fly by transforming barley and oat varieties with a special “jumping gene” called a transposon.  Once introduced, this transposon is programmed to jump in and out of other genes, turning them on or off.  We then grow many versions of these experimental genetic lines, observing what happens when different genes are turned on or off.  When something interesting happens (e.g. improved lodging resistance) we will then identify the gene that caused this change by looking for the location of the transposon – much like a bookmark in a large novel. The transposon-tagged varieties do not need to be used directly in cereals improvement: they will simply tell us what to look for in the germplasm where better versions of the genes may already be available.

Current Research

My long-term research goal is to integrate molecular and genomic tools with plant biology to develop enhanced crop plants. In particular, I am interested to incorporate novel genes to add value to crop production by bridging the gap between molecular biology and plant breeding. Conventional plant breeding has provided excellent resources for the development of new varieties and novel germplasm. Regardless of the value of the past contributions, classical breeding alone will not provide adequate breakthroughs to increase yield and quality, to solve the complex problems of biotic and abiotic stresses, and to develop/enhance bioeneregy capabilities of plant species. In the modern era, plant improvement seems vulnerable and inadequate without the contributions of the new tools of molecular biology and genomics. Genomics provides innovative, integrative approaches to study plant biochemistry, development and physiology irrespective of species reproduction barriers. My experience in conventional plant breeding, genomics, biotechnology and proteomics encouraged me to develop such research programs aimed at creating future generation of crop plants by coupling plant breeding, genomics epigenetics and molecular biology.

The major objectives of my research program are:

  • Development of new molecular breeding and genomics tools for enhancing value of cereals and grasses.
  • Exploration of cultivated and wild germplasm for the identification of novel genes, suitable for the next generation of crop plants.
  • Epigenetic regulation of transposable elements, stress responses and grain development.
  • Cereal grain proteins, their epitopes for immunogenic response

Current research projects

  • Transposon-mediated gene exploration in barley and other cereals
  • Activation Transposon Tagging in Oat
  • Oil content in Feld pea through breeding and genetic transformation

For more information about our current research please see Leaving the past behind

See news articles on our work:

  1. https://www.mcgill.ca/channels/news/mcgill-discovery-should-save-wheat-farmers-millions-231037

  2. https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/plants-display-molecular-amnesia-103077


AEBI 210 Organisms 1 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

AEBI 306 Course not available

AGRI 480 Course not available

PLNT 435 Plant Breeding 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

PLNT 535 Course not available

Selected Publications

Kaur, S., Dhugga, K. S., Gill, K. S., Singh, J. (2016) Novel structural and functional motifs in cellulose synthase (CesA) genes of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum, L.). PLOS ONE 11(1): e0147046. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147046.

Cardinal, M-J., Kaur, R., Singh, J. (2016) Genetic transformation of Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum for the development of a transposon-based insertional mutagenesis system. Molecular Biotechnology (in press).

Singh, S., Singh, J. (2016) Sequence-based genetic mapping of Ds-tagged insertions to characterize malting-related traits in barley. The Crop Journal (in press).

Daishu, Y., Schwinghamer, T., Dalpé, Y., El-Sayed, A-A., Singh, J., Wang, X., Khanizadeh, S. (2016) Comparison of total phenolic content and antioxidant capacity of mycorrhizal-colonized spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) genotypes.  Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment 14 (2): 59-64.

Brown, R. H., Singh, J., Singh, S., Dahleen, L. S., Lemaux, P. G., Stein N., Mascher, M., Bregitzer, P. (2015) Behavior of a modified Dissociation element in barley: A novel tool for genetic studies and for breeding transgenic barley. Molecular Breeding 35: 85. doi: 10.1007/s11032-015-0193-9.

Ahmad, S., Lamb-Palmer, N. D., Kaur, S., Lefsrud, M., Singh, J. (2015) Genetic diversity and population structure of Pisum sativum accessions for marker-trait association. The Crop Journal 3: 238-245.

Syan, H. S., Prasher, S., Pageau, D., Singh, J. (2014) Dissipation of major herbicides applied in transgenic and non-transgenic canola production in Quebec. European Journal of Soil Biology 63: 21-27.

Nandha, P., Singh, J. (2014) Comparative assessment of genetic diversity between wild and cultivated barley using gSSR and EST-SSR markers. Plant Breeding 133, 28–35.

Singh, M., Singh, S., Randhawa, H., Singh, J. (2013) Polymorphic homoeolog of key gene of RdDM pathway, ARGONAUTE4_9 class is associated with pre-harvest sprouting in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). PLOS ONE 8(10): e77009. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077009.

Lamb-Palmer, N.D., Singh, M., Dalton, J. P., Singh, J. (2013) Prokaryotic expression and purification of soluble maize Ac transposase. Molecular Biotechnology 54:685–691.

Kaur, R., Singh, K., Singh, J. (2013) A root specific wall-associated kinase gene, HvWAK1, regulates root growth, and is highly divergent in barley and other cereals. Functional & Integrative Genomics 13: 167-177.


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