Hoyos-Villegas, Valerio

Academic title(s): 

Assistant Professor

Hoyos-Villegas, Valerio
Contact Information
Email address: 
valerio.hoyos-villegas [at] mcgill.ca

Raymond Building, R2-023

Research areas: 
Sustainable agriculture and climate resilience
Biotechnology and molecular genetics
Crop improvement and genomics
Extension and community engagement

Valerio Hoyos-Villegas is currently an Assistant Professor in Plant Breeding and Genetics in the Department of Plant Science at McGill University. He obtained his MS in Crop, Insect and Microbial sciences from the University of Missouri in 2011 and his PhD in Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology from Michigan State University in 2015. Between 2015 and 2019, Valerio held an appointment as Scientist in Forage Breeding and Genetics in Christchurch, New Zealand. In 2019, he joined the Department of Plant Science at McGill University where he holds a research and teaching appointment.

Active Affiliations:

  • Crop Science Society of America
  • Canadian Society of Agronomy
  • National Association of Plant Breeders
  • North American Plant Phenotyping Network

PhD (Michigan State University) – Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology
MSc (University of Missouri) – Crop, Insect and Microbial Sciences (Crop Physiology)
BSc (Universidad de Caldas) - Agronomy

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 
  • Michigan State University: Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, The Dudley and Angela Smith Graduate Student Award
  • University of Missouri: Division of Plant Sciences Excellence in Research Award
  • University of Missouri: Douglas D. Randall Young Scientist Award
  • Editor's Citation for Excellence: Outstanding Associate Editor Award – Crop Science Journal. Crop Science Society of America.
  • Co-operative Research Programme Fellow - Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
Areas of interest: 

As a plant breeder, I use and develop technologies to release new varieties of pulses with improved traits that allow farmers to produce pulse crops with reduced inputs, such as pesticides. At the same time, the varieties produced in my program provide consumers with higher quality pulse products, such as enhanced nutrition or taste. Our lab focuses on the development of pulse cultivars.

Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cultivar development is a crucial technological component of agriculture. Maintaining genetic gain means that farmers can access cultivars that can cope with disease, insect and environmental stresses which reduces dependency on pesticides and natural resources such as water. Cultivar development also provides consumers with a superior and healthier product that is produced sustainably.

Plant Phenomics

Due to the size of segregating populations, plant breeding programs are often limited by the ability to identify superior individuals. The advent of field-based sensors to measure traits coupled with artificial intelligence and machine learning is enabling breeders to select for conventional traits faster and identify novel traits that are otherwise not detectable by the human eye to develop and accelerate plant improvement. Our lab focuses on developing and implementing plant phenomics tools in plant breeding programs for agronomic traits as well as quality traits.

Genetics of Complex Traits in Plant Breeding

Breeding and achieving genetic gain for complex traits with low heritability is a difficult task given the intricate nature of plant genomes and the multiple interactions that occur among the large numbers of genes controlling complex traits as well as the dynamics of traits with low heritability within segregating populations. Our lab focuses on using large DNA marker arrays to target candidate quantitative trait loci (QTL) and identify new sources of genetic variation for breeding and selection. Our lab studies how complex traits and their effects can be predicted and modelled to establish the magnitude of achievable gain for cultivar development using statistical genetics and next generation sequencing.


Pulses are legumes that contribute nitrogen to farming systems and reduce dependency on inorganic nitrogen. They are a cheap and dense source of protein, energy and micronutrients, contrary to animal production systems.

Health and well-being

We research novel ways of increasing the nutrient content and sensory experience of pulse crops, this has a direct impact on alleviating disorders associated with malnutrition while providing greater palatability and enjoyment of pulses and pulse products.

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Research outputs from our lab provide new insight on the applications of pulses and pulse-derived products that can be used to create an edge in the market and promote new businesses and market trends.

Current research: 
  • Quantitative and population genetics
  • High-throughput phenotyping and phenomics
  • Evolutionary genomics of pulse crops and human interactions
  • Genetic gain models for increasing breeding efficiency
  • Abiotic stress tolerance (drought)
  • Human nutrition and sensory experience
  • Plant pathogen interactions

AEMA 310 Statistical Methods 1 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

PLNT 602 Advances in Agronomy 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

PLNT 690 Research Horizons: Plant Sci 1
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

PLNT 691 Research Horizons: Plant Sci 2
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

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