I started my research career at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), where I evaluated the genetic diversity of an under-utilized crop, Bambara groundnut. Subsequently, as a research supervisor, I worked on the crop improvement and genetics of bananas and plantains. My Ph.D. research at Clemson University involved understanding the genetics of chilling requirement and dormancy bud break in apricot. In part, my post-doctoral research involved mapping for resistance to chestnut blight and root rot, as well as developing genetic and genomic resources for this tree crop. Further post-doctoral experience focused on identifying genetic factors underlying quantitative disease resistance to various maize diseases and a study to dissect the impact of rare and common alleles on maize evolution and domestication from its wild ancestor, teosinte.

Before joining the Entomology and Plant Pathology Department at UTIA, I worked as a research assistant professor on developing genetic and genomic tools for sweetpotato improvement at the Dept. of Horticultural Science, NCSU. By integrating quantitative genetics and the more recent genomic technologies, my goal is to understand the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying important agronomic traits. This approach will ultimately facilitate more targeted and rapid strategies for crop improvement.


Research focus

My research focuses on dissecting genome structure and function to better understand: 

  1. Complex plant-pathogen interactions. 
  2. Influence of the microbiome on plant disease resistance.
  3. Genetic factors underlying traits and their application for marker-assisted and genomic selection. 

To facilitate this in a high-throughput and streamlined manner, I am optimizing and developing genomic tools and resources that include: 

  1. An optimized genotyping-by-sequencing protocol, GBSpoly, and a user-friendly bioinformatic pipeline, GBSapp, for highly heterozygous and polyploid genomes. 
  2. Ongoing development of a protocol and software for designing inexpensive custom targeted-GBS SNP arrays, GBSarray. 
  3. Ongoing development of a new approach for de-novo whole-genome sequencing and assembly of highly heterozygous and polyploid genomes. 

Teaching focus

At the core of my teaching philosophy is an enthusiasm to not only perpetuate knowledge and inspire eagerness for learning, but to also teach independent critical listening and thinking. I hope to motivate and nurture the atmosphere of ownership and involvement by providing information in formats that accommodate differences in learning styles.


Statistical genetics and genomics
Molecular plant-pathogen/pest interactions

bode olukolu

Assistant Professor
office (865) 974-7786
fax (865) 974-4744

352 Plant Biotechnology Building
2505 EJ Chapman Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4560


B.S., Botany, Obafemi Awolowo
M.S., Genetics, University of Ibadan
Ph.D., Genetics, Clemson University

Professional appointment
90% Research, 10% Teaching

Graduate program concentrations
Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Molecular Interactions

Areas of expertise

Genetics/genomics of plant/plant-pathogen interactions, structural, comparative and functional genomics, quantitative genetics, bioinformatics

QTL, GWAS, Genotyping-By-Sequencing (GBS), defense response, molecular pathology, quantitative disease resistance

Creative Art Microscope image

Research questions in our laboratory

  • How does the soil microbiome impact plant defense response and disease resistance in sweetpotato and maize?
  • What genetic factors control trait expression in hexaploid sweetpotato?
  • What is/are the molecular mechanisms underlying rapid crop adaptation? 
  • Are DNA methylation changes across the genomic landscape a response to climatic changes and consequently crop adaptation under selection?
  • How did hexaploid sweetpotato originate from the wild diploid Ipomoea?

Current lab members

Ryan Kuster (Research Specialist)

Selected Publications

Olukolu BA, Bian Y, De Vries B, Tracy WF, Wisser RJ, Holland J, Balint-Kurti P (2016) The genetics of leaf flecking in maize and its relationship to plant defense and disease resistance. Plant Physiol. 172(3):1787-1803.

Olukolu BA, Tracy W, Wisser RJ, De Vries B, Balint-Kurti PJ (2016) A genome-wide association study for partial resistance to maize common rust. Phytopathology. 106(7):745-51.

Margaret S, Zhebentyayeva T, Olukolu BA, Fang G-C, Nelson D, Carlson JE, Abbott AG (2015) Substantial genome synteny preservation among woody angiosperm species: comparative genomics of Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) and plant reference genomes. BMC Genomics. 16:744.

Wang GF, He Y, Strauch R, Olukolu BA, Nielsen D, Li X, Balint-Kurti PJ (2015) Maize Homologs of HCT, a Key Enzyme in Lignin Biosynthesis, Bind the NLR Rp1 Proteins to Modulate the Defense Response. Plant Physiology. 169 (3): 2230-2243.

Samayoa LF, Malvar RA, Olukuolu BA, Holland JB, Butrón A (2014) Genome-wide association study reveal a set of genes associated with resistance to the Mediterranean corn borer (Sesamia nonagrioides L.) in a maize diversity panel. BMC Plant Biol. 15:35.

Olukolu BA*, Wang GF*, Vontimitta V*, Venkata BP, Marla S, Ji J, Gachomo E, Chu K, Negeri A, Benson J, Nelson R, Bradbury P, Nielsen D, Holland JB, Balint-Kurti PJ, Johal G (2014) A Genome-Wide Association Study of the Maize Hypersensitive Defense Response Identifies Genes that Cluster in Related Pathways. PLoS Genetics. 10(8):e1004562.

Olukolu BA*, Negeri A*, Dhawan R, Venkata BP, Sharma P, Garg A, Gachomo E, Marla S, Chu K, Hasan A, Ji J, Chintamanani S, Green J, Shyu CR, Wisser RJ, Holland JB, Johal G, Balint-Kurti P (2013) A Connected Set of Genes Associated with Programmed Cell Death Implicated in Controlling the Hypersensitive Response in Maize. Genetics. 193:609–620.

Kubisiak TL, Nelson CD, Staton ME, Zhebentyayeva T, Smith C, Olukolu BA, Fang G-C, Hebard FV, Anagnostakis S, Wheeler N, Sisco PH, Abbott AG, Sederoff RR (2013) A transcriptome-based genetic map of Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) and identification of regions of segmental homology with peach (Prunus persica). Tree Genetics & Genomes. 9:557-571.

Fang G-C, Blackmon BP, Staton ME, Nelson CD, Kubisiak TL, Olukolu BA, Henry D, Zhebentyayeva T, Saski CA, Cheng C-H, Monsanto M, Ficklin S, Atkins M, Georgi LL, Barakat A, Wheeler N, Carlson JE, Sederoff R, Abbott AG (2013) A physical map of the Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) genome and its integration with the genetic map. Tree Genetics & Genomes. 9:525-537.

Olukolu BA, Mayes S, Stadler F, Ng NQ, Fawole I, Dominique D, Azam-Ali SN, Abbott AG, Kole C (2012) Genetic diversity in Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea (L.) Verdc.) as revealed by phenotypic descriptors and DArT marker analysis. Genet. Resour. Crop Evol. 59(3):347-358.

Olukolu BA, Trainin T, Fan S, Kole C, Bielenberg DG, Reighard GL, Abbott AG, Holland D (2009) Genetic linkage mapping for molecular dissection of chilling requirement and budbreak in apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.). Genome. 52(10):819-828

For complete list of publications please visit my