Harkamal Walia



Unfavorable environmental conditions such as drought, high temperature stress, salinity, and flooding result in heavy crop yield losses in the U.S. and worldwide. These stressful conditions are increasingly associated with a shift in agriculture to marginal lands, inherent uncertainty associated with extreme precipitation events and spikes in temperatures especially during yield sensitive developmental stages of crops. Dr. Walia’s research interest is in understanding how plants adapt to these environmental stresses. I am particularly interested in the physiological and genetic characterization of crop responses to drought, heat and salt stress.

Plant responses to stress depend on the developmental stage at which the stressful conditions arise. Research in the lab focuses on stress tolerance during developmental stages that are particularly sensitive to abiotic stresses resulting in yield and biomass losses. We are using genomics, biochemical, computational and physiological approaches to elucidate the mechanisms involved in abiotic stress tolerance in cereals such as wheat, maize, and rice among others. The overall research goal is to discover genes and genetic variants that can be used to improve crop performance in sub-optimal growing conditions.

Major Project Activities

  • Plant Phenomics with focus on abiotic stress responses in rice, wheat and maize.
  • Natural variation of root adaptive drought responses in wild and cultivated wheat.
  • Elucidating the genetic and physiological basis of high night temperature stress tolerance in wheat and rice germplasm.
  • Elucidating the gene networks regulating early seed development and seed size in cereals.

Featured Publications

Campbell MT, Bandillo N, Al Shiblawi FRA, Sharma S, Liu K, Du Q, Schmitz AJ, Zhang C, Véry AA, Lorenz AJ, Walia H. Allelic variants of OsHKT1;1 underlie the divergence between indica and japonica subspecies of rice (Oryza sativa) for root sodium content. PLoS Genet. 2017 Jun 5;13(6):e1006823. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006823. eCollection 2017 Jun. PMID: 28582424


Knecht AC, Campbell MT, Caprez A, Swanson DR, Walia H. Image Harvest: an open-source platform for high-throughput plant image processing and analysis. J Exp Bot. 2016 May;67(11):3587-99. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erw176. Epub 2016 May 3. PMID: 27141917


Campbell MT, Knecht AC, Berger B, Brien CJ, Wang D, Walia H. Integrating Image-Based Phenomics and Association Analysis to Dissect the Genetic Architecture of Temporal Salinity Responses in Rice. Plant Physiol. 2015 Aug;168(4):1476-89. doi: 10.1104/pp.15.00450. Epub 2015 Jun 25. PMID: 26111541


Campbell MT, Proctor CA, Dou Y, Schmitz AJ, Phansak P, Kruger GR, Zhang C, Walia H. Genetic and molecular characterization of submergence response identifies Subtol6 as a major submergence tolerance locus in maize. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 25;10(3):e0120385. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120385. eCollection 2015. PMID: 25806518


Placido DF, Campbell MT, Folsom JJ, Cui X, Kruger GR, Baenziger PS, Walia H. Introgression of novel traits from a wild wheat relative improves drought adaptation in wheat.Plant Physiol. 2013 Apr;161(4):1806-19. doi: 10.1104/pp.113.214262. Epub 2013 Feb 20.  PMID: 23426195