Dr Phil Howell

Head of Breeding
07787 413526

Since joining NIAB from the commercial sector in 2007, Phil has worked on breeding and pre-breeding projects including NIAB's flagship wheat resynthesis programme, the multi-partner WISP and DFW wheat pre-breeding initiatives, and the development of wheat MAGIC populations.

Phil is now leading and managing NIAB’s portfolio of breeding and pre-breeding work across a range of broad-acre arable crops, including cereals, legumes, speciality oilseeds and others. This is often collaborative work with industry partners from breeding companies, end-users and other parts of the supply chain.

Phil’s input forms a significant part of NIAB’s work to raise the profile of domestic plant protein production through legume crops and other protein sources

Research projects

Title: iCASE Ph.D candidate Yeorgia Argirou: Novel genetic diversity in hybrid wheat pre-breeding
Duration: 2017-2022
Partners: NIAB, KWS UK, University of Cambridge
Funding: BBSRC as part of the University of Cambridge DTP, with contributions from industrial partner KWS

Title: Designing Future Wheat
Duration: 2017-2023
Partners: John Innes Centre (lead), University of Bristol, The Earlham Institute, EMBL-EBI, NIAB, University of Nottingham, Quadram Institute, Rothamsted Research
Funding: BBSRC Strategic Programme.

Title: IWYP European Winter Wheat Hub
Duration: annual rolling funding, began 2019
Partners: NIAB, IWYP, BASF, KWS, RAGT, Syngenta
Funding: BASF, KWS, RAGT, Syngenta

Title: Review of opportunities for diversifying UK agriculture through investment in underutilised crops
Duration: 2021-22
Partners: NIAB, SRUC
Funding: DEFRA, with support from EU Legumes Translated project

Recent publications

Scott MF, Nick Fradgley N, Bentley AR, Brabbs T, Corke F, Gardner KA, Horsnell R, Howell P et al (2021). Limited haplotype diversity underlies polygenic trait architecture across 70 years of wheat breeding. Genome biology 22:1-30

Howell P (2021). Pre-breeding: hybridizing the ancient with modern wheat. In: R Cooper (ed) Ancient Grains in Modern Soils. DEStech Publications, Lancaster PA.

Mackay I, Cockram J, Howell P, Powell W (2021). Understanding the classics: the unifying concepts of transgressive segregation, inbreeding depression and heterosis and their central relevance for crop breeding. Pl Biotech J. 19: 26-34

Ober E, Howell P et al (2020). The importance of accurate developmental staging. J Exp Bot 71: 3375-3379

Tkacz A, Pini F, Turner TR, Bestion E, Simmonds J, Howell P et al  (2020). Agricultural selection of wheat has been shaped by plant-microbe interactions. Front. Microbiol. 11:132.

Full publication list on Google Scholar and ResearchGate

Meet the scientist

Find out about life as a plant breeder at NIAB as Dr Phil Howell discusses all about his role. From the big challenges ahead, his best research findings and top tips for anyone thinking of a career in crop science, Phil explains all. Plus what excites Phil most about his job and the best thing about working for NIAB.