Speakers

Mathew Abraham

Assistant Director of TCI, Cornell University

Measuring Institutional capacity in ILCI- factors influencing genetic gain in breeding programs

Dr. Mathew Abraham is the Assistant Director of TCI. He is responsible for coordinating research and offering strategic guidance and support for project implementation. He has Ph.D. from the Department of International Economics and Management at Copenhagen Business School. His research focuses on evaluation methodologies, agricultural value chains and markets, food security in developing countries, and technology and institutional innovation for agricultural development.

Sikiru Atanda

Postdoctoral Researcher, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico

Methodologies to improve the efficiency of genomic selection in CIMMYT maize breeding program

Sikiru Atanda is a postdoctoral fellow (Wheat Breeding for Zn mainstreaming) at International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico. Sikiru holds a BS in Agriculture and M.Sc. in Plant Breeding from University of Ilorin, Nigeria and PhD in Plant Breeding from West Africa Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana. He has experience in field breeding, molecular breeding, and in applied quantitative genetics. His PhD work focused on optimizing use of genomic selection in CIMMYT Maize breeding program. Current research focuses on enhancing the zinc content in CIMMYT’s wheat breeding program through the application of genomics, statistical and computational methods to accelerate genetic gain.

Dr. Fredrick A. Bliss

UC Davis – Retired

Perspectives on Managing Change: A Constant of Plant Breeding

Fredrick A. Bliss is Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Plant Sciences, UC-Davis and retired from Seminis Vegetable Seeds. He received the B.S. degree from the Univ. of Nebraska and Ph.D. degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison, joining the Dept. of Horticulture faculty at UW-Madison in 1966. In addition to teaching, public service and breeding self-pollinated vegetables, he worked as part of a UW-USAID Team building the new Univ. of Ife in Nigeria. Subsequently he engaged in research and development projects globally, including consulting work in Nigeria, Somalia, Honduras and Brazil. In 1988, he left Wisconsin to join the UC-Davis faculty as Professor and Lester Endowed Chair in the Pomology Dept., where he taught and mentored grad students along with research on genetic improvement of fruit crops, including kiwifruit, apricot and Prunus rootstocks. Fred served as Dept. Chair (1991-1994) and Chair of the Plant Biology grad Group (1990-1992) and on numerous departmental and state-wide committees, while continuing international work. In addition to the NAPB, He is a member and Fellow of the Crop Sci. Soc. America, American Assoc. Advancement of Sci., and Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. where he was elected President, 1998-1999.

Mark Bridgen

Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science Horticulture Section Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
Director, Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center, School of Integrative Plant Science
Cornell University

Breeding Impatiens for resistance to Impatiens downy mildew

Dr. Mark Bridgen is a Professor of Horticulture and Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University. He serves as Director of the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, NY. He received his PhD from Virginia Tech in 1984 and spent 18 years as a Professor at the University of Connecticut before joining the faculty at Cornell University in 2002. Dr. Bridgen’s areas of expertise include plant breeding, floriculture and ornamental horticulture, plant propagation, herbaceous ornamental plants, and plant tissue culture and micropropagation. 

Mark’s breeding research focuses on several ornamental plants including Alstroemeria, Vitex and Impatiens. He uses several in vitro tools, such as somaclonal variation, embryo culture, and micropropagation to augment his breeding programs. Currently, his main research project is the interspecific hybridization of Impatiens plants to develop resistance to Impatiens Downy Mildew.  Mark teaches Cornell University’s undergraduate classes on Plant Propagation and Plant Micropropagation. His book, “Plants from Test Tubes: An Introduction to Micropropagation” is used worldwide as a reference source for plant tissue culture.

Susan Brown

Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science Horticulture Section Cornell AgriTech

Breeding clonal fruit crops: Challenges, excitement, and diversity

Susan Brown is the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University and a faculty member in the section of Horticulture and a field member in Plant Breeding and Genetics in the School of Integrative Plant Science.  Susan leads the Cornell apple breeding program. The managed varieties SnapDragon™ and RubyFrost™ (2013) and open release apples NY 56 (‘Cordera’), NY 73 (‘Pink Luster’) and NY109 (‘Firecracker’) are the most recent releases.  Susan’s research is on breeding, genetic and genomic studies and improvement of apple scion cultivars, including breeding for disease resistance in apple.  Among her awards, Susan was a named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (2020), a fellow of The American Society of Horticultural Sciences (2019), a NY State Senate Woman of Distinction (2014) and she received the American Pomological Society’s Wilder Medal (2016) for her contributions to Pomology.

Lauren Brzozowski

Postdoctoral Associate, School of Integrative Plant Science Plant Breeding and Genetics Section Cornell University

Genomic prediction of specialized metabolic traits in oat (Avena sativa)

Lauren Brzozowski is a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University working with Jean-Luc Jannink. Her research interests are plant breeding for metabolomic traits, and how variation in plant metabolomic traits affect plant ecological interactions and human nutrition.

Dr. Donn Cummings

National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) & Agronomic Science Foundation (ASF)

Passionate About Plant Breeding?

In August 2020, Dr. Donn Cummings was named the second recipient of the NAPB Friends of Plant Breeding Award that honors individuals who through their professional activities and passion have contributed significantly to the advancement of the plant breeding discipline. Donn’s career included 30 years of active corn breeding in Pfizer Genetics, Dekalb and Monsanto in many scientific and research management roles. In 2003, he became a Monsanto scientific fellow and he served as Monsanto’s Global Breeder Sourcing Lead from 2007, until retirement in 2015. In retirement, Donn has remained active in NAPB, ASTA and CSSA, serving on several committees, including leadership roles. He was founding chairman of the NAPB Membership and Borlaug Scholars Committees and is currently serving his 6th year on the ASF board of trustees. Donn received his BS and MS degrees from Purdue and PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics from the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Zhannao Deng

Professor of Environmental Horticulture, University of Florida

Use of In Vitro Techniques to Increase Chromosome Number and Morphological Variation in Caladium

Dr. Zhanao Deng is a plant breeder and professor of environmental horticulture at the University of Florida/IFAS’ Gulf Coast Research and Education Center. His plant breeding has focused on developing new cultivars in caladium, gerbera daisy, lantana, blackberry, and pomegranate. He has released or co-released 57 new cultivars in caladium, gerbera, lantana and lisianthus and received 31 plant patents. He discovered multiple sources of resistance to major caladium and gerbera diseases and incorporated these disease resistance traits into new caladium and gerbera cultivars. His breeding effort in lantana is concentrated on genetic sterilization to produce new triploid cultivars with male and female sterility to protect native lantana species. He has elucidated the inheritance of several important horticultural traits in caladium and gerbera and revealed wide occurrence of unreduced female gametes and apomixis in lantana. Dr. Deng applies numerous in vitro and genomic techniques to his breeding program to increase plant breed efficiency or achieve specific breeding objectives. Some of these techniques include in vitro chromosome doubling, somaclonal variation, embryo culture, meristem culture, genetic transformation, and genome editing. He has authored or co-authored 108 refereed publications and was elected Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science in 2019.

Jeffrey Dunne

Assistant Professor, Crop and Soil Sciences, North Carolina State University

Scalable Evaluation of High-Throughput Phenotyping for Leaf Spot Resistance in Cultivated Peanut

Information coming soon

Adam Famoso

Associate Professor, Rice Research Station, LSU AgCenter

Implementation of Genomic Selection into an Applied Rice Variety Development Program

Adam Famoso is an Associate Professor at the Louisiana State University AgCenter, where he has worked on rice variety development since 2015. Prior to this, he worked at DuPont Pioneer from 2010-2015 in the Breeding Technologies group, focused on hybrid rice breeding. He completed his PhD in 2010 in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Cornell University, where is major advisor was Susan McCouch.

Ksenija Gasic

Professor of Horticulture, Peach Genetics and Breeding, Clemson University

Specialty crop breeding data management

Dr. Ksenija Gasic is a Professor of Horticulture and a peach breeder and geneticist at Clemson University, South Carolina, USA. Her program is developing fresh market types of peach varieties adapted to environmental conditions of Southeastern U.S. and replant tolerant rootstocks. The emphasis of the fresh market breeding is on combining high quality and consistent productivity with improved resistance to diseases, such as bacterial spot and brown rot, and increased health benefits. Rootstock breeding is focused on combining tolerance to two replant diseases that affect southeast of U.S., Armillaria Root Rot and the Peach Tree Short Life. Dr. Gasic’s research involves characterization and utilization of peach genetic diversity and development and utilization of genomic technology to improve breeding efficiency. Her program has been actively involved in development and application of modern technological tools in breeding programs.

Michael Gore

Professor and Chair, School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics Section, Cornell University

From tractors to rovers: field-based plant phenomics to bridge the genotype-phenotype gap

Michael Gore is a professor of molecular breeding and genetics for nutritional quality, Liberty Hyde Bailey professor, and international professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University, where he is a Chair of the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section in the School of Integrative Plant Science. The Gore lab combines quantitative genetics, genomics, analytical chemistry, and remote sensing to elucidate the genetic basis of complex trait variation in various crops.

Ockert Greyvenstein

Senior Plant Breeder, Ball Horticultural Company

Where will the new species for the horticultural industry come form?

I am a Senior Plant Breeder with PanAmerican Seed, a subsidiary of Ball Hort. Co. Growing up in the transition zone between Highveld and Bushveld in South Africa allowed me to fall in love with plants when I was very young. Some of my fondest childhood memories go back to growing potatoes and pumpkins with my grandfather and enjoying the beauty of sweet peas in our winter garden.
I came to the U.S. to pursue a graduate career in plant breeding and was fortunate to be accepted to Cornell University for my masters and moved to Texas A&M for my doctorate where I worked on rose breeding.
I joined PanAmerican Seed shortly after graduating from Texas A&M and have been breeding several ornamental crops species most notably violas and vinca (Catharanthus roseus). Between managing crops I juggle some managerial responsibilities with breeders in one of our Central American locations.
Being an ornamental breeder has allowed me to be part of the whole process from developmental cross to introduction on several species.
Genetics and breeding always have and still fascinates me. I am a complete nerd and enjoy learning about fungi and sheep genetics.

Phillip Griffiths

Associate Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Horticulture Section, Cornell AgriTech

Next-Gen Toscano

Originally from Abergavenny SE Wales he received a BS in ‘Genetics’ at the University of Nottingham and an MS in ‘Plant Breeding’ at the University of Wales – Aberystwyth. Received a PhD from University of Florida in Horticulture and Breeding with a research focus on tomato breeding. Started at Cornell in 1999 as a Vegetable breeder with a focus on Brassica crops, including a sabbatical at University of Western Australia. Has focused on vegetable improvement for local, national and international markets, more recently concentrating efforts on quality traits and products more closely aligned with consumer demand.

Lucia Gutierrez

University of Wisconsin – Madison

Genomic Selection in Cereals Breeding

Dr. Gutierrez is an Associate Professor and the Cereals Breeder and Quantitative Geneticist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Gutierrez earned her Ph.D. in Plant Breeding from Iowa State University and spent time as a postdoc at Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands. She was an Associate Professor in Statistical Genetics at the Universidad de la Republica in Uruguay before joining UW-Madison. Dr. Gutierrez has a strong international recognition being regularly invited to present her research in quantitative genetics and to teach advanced courses for graduate students, researchers, and plant breeders abroad. She is also active in the tri-societies and is currently the Chair of the Plant Breeding and Genetics Division of the Crop Science Society of America. Her research focuses on understanding the genetic architecture of complex traits and their response to the environment. She integrates state of the art genotyping technologies with large phenotyping experiments to study complex traits. She studies the mechanisms employed by plants for local adaptation including the study of biotic and abiotic interactions. Her research program has also an applied component, which combines strong theoretical development, genomic tools, and high throughput phenotyping to release cereals cultivars to serve the U.S. agricultural systems.

Mao Huang

Research Associate, School of Integrative Plant Science Plant Breeding and Genetics Section

Genomic selection for sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima) with a biphasic life cycle

  • Postdoc Research Associate at Cornell University plant breeding and genetics section. (2019 to current)
  • Current research area: Implementing genomic selection in sugar kelp breeding and using simulation tools to help researchers with resource allocation and improve breeding efficiency (part of the ARPA-E project, collaborating with researchers in the University of Connecticut and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution).
  • MS and ph.D in horticulture and crop science at the Ohio State University and minored in statistical data analysis (2012-2016)
  • Summer intern at Pioneer, Monsanto (2012, 2015)
  • Teaching Assistant for Agricultural Technical Institute- OSU (2016)
  • 9+ years experience for crop breeding and genetics

Dr. Diego Jarquin

Research Assistant Professor, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Historical Perspectives: Awardee talks and presentations

Information coming soon

Ndjido Kane

Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA) Centre d’Étude Régional pour l’Amélioration de l’adpatation à la Sécheresse (CERAAS) Thiès – SENEGAL

Innovations in breeding to challenge food insecurity, malnutrition and climate change in West Africa

Geneticist and plant molecular biologist, Dr. Kane’s research in Canada led to key contributions in deciphering the genetic basis of vernalization in wheat, as recognized by the Faculty of 1000 in 2003. He worked for industry and hold a US patent on how reducing the negative effects of tobacco on human health. Back to his native Senegal, he coordinated during 5 years the Agrobiodiversity Management and biotechnology program, and serve as country expert in biosafety. Lately, he uses genomics tools to identify traits governing dryland crops performance and in response to climate change. Co-director of an international joint lab (LAPSE), coordinator of the West Africa regional network of plant breeding for crop improvement (IAVAO), and Director of the regional centre of excellence CERAAS, he authors numerous publications and is Pi of one of the four centers of innovation of the FtF/USAID Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement (ILCI).

Jenny Kao-Kniffin

Associate Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Horticulture Section Associate Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cornell University

How Plant Breeders can Enhance Diversity & Equity Efforts through Extension

Jenny Kao-Kniffin is the Associate Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension and an Associate Professor at Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Land Resources, with a specialization in Ecosystem Microbiology. She then served as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the National Science Foundation (NSF) prior to joining Cornell. In 2019, she received the White House Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) that was nominated during the Barack Obama administration.
Dr. Kao-Kniffin is passionate about studying the biological component of soils, and its intricate relationship with plants. Her research subjects range from crops and model plant species to invasive plants and weeds in agricultural and natural ecosystems, with a major focus on microbiome assembly, modification, and resilience impacting plant traits.

Nicholas Karavolias

Graduate Student, University of California, Berkeley; Innovative Genomics Institute

An Overview of Gene Editing Applications in Agriculture for Climate Change

Nicholas Karavolias is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley in the Plant and Microbial Biology Department. He received a B.S. in Agricultural Sciences from Cornell University where he conducted research on rice quantitative genetics. Nicholas is interested in studying how gene-editing can be applied in agricultural systems to enhance climate resilience. His current research focus is the developmental genetics and physiology of rice stomata with the goal of enhancing water-use efficiency and photosynthesis using gene editing technologies.

Javier Kinney

Director of Office of Self-Governance, Yurok Tribe

Indigenous Thought Leadership in Natural Solutions

Javier I. Kinney is a Yurok Tribal citizen and currently serves as the Carbon Project Manager for the Yurok Tribe. He has attained a Bachelor of Arts Degrees in History and Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis, a Master of Arts degree in Law & Diplomacy, specializing in Development Economics and International Law from Tufts University-Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, and a Juris Doctorate from Suffolk Law School.
Mr. Kinney has extensive experience advising Tribal governments with expertise in areas of mediation, negotiations, public policy, economic development, youth empowerment, land acquisition, tribal governance, grant management, protection of tribal cultural resources, strategic alliances and partnerships.
Kinney has been an invited to serve as a key-note speaker and guest lecturer at various universities and colleges domestically and internationally, focusing on leadership, education, Nation-building, and Indigenous affairs. His thought leadership, work and interests have provided him the opportunity to travel and includes initiatives in Hungary, Venezuela, Jamaica, Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico, Norway, Brazil and Canada.
His commitment to global consciousness and visionary change, motive him to work with indigenous communities globally and on tribal reservations through the United States. As a graduate student at the Fletcher School, Kinney was selected as a delegate to the inaugural International Achievement Summit held in Budapest, Hungary, served as a invited speaker at the United Nations in conjunction with the Nexus Global Youth Summit and participated in the Yurok delegation accepting the United Nations Development Programme Equator Award in New York, New York.

Melinda Kliegman

Director of Public Impact, Innovative Genomics Institute

Everything else : The path from lab innovation to a genome edited crop grown by farmers

Dr. Melinda Kliegman is the Public Impact Director and the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI). Prior to joining the IGI, she worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she developed the Foundation’s policy and advocacy strategy for use of genome editing technology in Agriculture. She specifically focused on the role of genome editing in helping small-scale producers adapt to climate change. Before the Foundation she worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, first as an American Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology (AAAS) Fellow at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service where she regulated genetically engineered plants and then at Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) as a Science Advisor specializing in trade and market access for innovative agricultural products. She also worked at Exponent, a science and engineering consulting company, where she conducted ecological risk assessments for a range of chemical and environmental stressors.
Melinda has a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from Stanford University. Her PhD thesis, funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, examined the effects of pollinator behavior on nectar inhabiting microbial communities in and around agricultural fields in Central America.

Stephen Kresovich

Director, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement, Department of Global Development
Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University

Overview of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement

Stephen Kresovich is the Robert and Lois Coker Trustees Chair of Genetics in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Clemson University. Dr. Kresovich also serves as director of the Advanced Plant Technology Program. The program is charged to integrate statewide advances in genetics and genomics to solve problems in agriculture, the environment, and human health. In addition, Dr. Kresovich is appointed at Cornell University as director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement. Its mission is to advance plant breeding tools, technologies, and methods to deliver staple crop varieties that can increase yield and stability, enhance nutrition, and show greater resistance to pests and diseases.
Dr. Kresovich’s research focuses on conservation genetics and improvement of crop plants including sorghum, maize, and sugar cane. He previously served for eleven years as Laboratory Director at two U.S. National Genetic Resources Program genebanks at Geneva, New York and Griffin, Georgia. Dr. Kresovich currently maintains connections with the U.S. National Genetic Resources Program, serving as a member of the National Genetic Resources Advisory Council, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in 2020. He also is a member of the advisory committee of the Southern Regional Plant Introduction Station at Griffin and the national Sorghum Crop Germplasm Committee. Internationally Dr. Kresovich serves on the Working Group on Plant Genetic Resources Management of the African Seed and Biotechnology Platform.

Dr. Kendall R. Lamkey

Professor and Chair, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

Plant Breeding and Agronomy – The past and future

Kendall R. Lamkey is Chair, Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University. He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. degree from Iowa State University in plant breeding and genetics. Dr. Lamkey provides leadership and direction to the department in the areas of education, research, and extension. He advocates for and sets priorities for the academic and research portfolio of the department through shared governance with the faculty. In cooperation with Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, he sets priorities for extension and outreach in crops, soils, and climatology. Dr. Lamkey’s research program focuses mainly on corn breeding with an emphasis on the quantitative genetics of selection response, inbreeding depression and heterosis. Dr. Lamkey has served on the advisory board for Makerere University Regional Center of Excellence in Crop Improvement (MaRCCI), Kampala, Uganda since 2018. Dr. Lamkey has been involved in the gates funded project Plant Breeding Education for Africa (PBEA). One of Dr. Lamkey’s current interests is cropping systems models such as APSIM and how to account for genetic changes in cultivars overtime in these models. Dr. Lamkey has authored or co-authored 81 refereed journal articles and numerous papers in conference proceedings, book chapters, published abstracts, and technical research reports. Dr. Lamkey has been active in graduate education at Iowa State University and has served as major advisor for 18 Ph.D. students and 10 M.S. students and has served on the program of study committee for more than 80 M.S. and Ph.D. students.

Andrew W. LaVigne

President and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association 

Sustainability

Andrew W. LaVigne is currently the President and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association. He joined ASTA in February, 2006. Andy has had a 30-year career in government relations, industry representation, public affairs advocacy, and management. His core areas of expertise include agriculture, food policy and international trade.
Prior to joining ASTA, Andy was Executive Vice President/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, representing citrus growers on issues affecting their business. Previous to joining Florida Citrus Mutual, Andy spent four years as Florida Fertilizer and Agrichemical Association’s (FFAA) President and Executive Director. FFAA is a non-profit, agricultural trade organization representing companies that specialize in crop protection and plant nutrition products.
Before his position at FFAA, Andy spent eight years in Washington, D.C. working in the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He served as Legislative Director for Congressman Charles Canady, Agriculture Committee staffer for Congressman Tom Lewis, and on the staff of USDA Secretary Ed Madigan.
Andy is a native of Florida with a BA degree in Political Science, with a minor in economics, from the University of Florida.

Mark Mason

PCA/CCA Input Manager at Huntington Farms

Farm Input Manager

Mark Mason is currently the Farm Input Manager at Huntington Farms, a third-generation family business in the Salinas Valley. He is responsible for farming head and leaf lettuce, cauliflower, celery, and broccoli on 4,000 acres of land in the Soledad-Salinas area. He has been at his current position for six years. He takes care of all pest control, fertility, irrigation, environmental compliance and any new mechanization.
Previously he spent 4 years at Grimway Farms in charge of pest control of their organic division. Mark holds a Bachelors of Science Degree from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

David Meyers

Corteva

Laureate in Predictive Agriculture

David has a Ph.D in plant breeding and genetics from University of Nebraska and has worked in R&D for Corteva since 1982 with a passion to contribute to the optimization of holistic, customized, sustainable cropping systems for large and small holder farmers.
His 27 years breeding experience includes applied sorghum and maize breeding, regional maize breeding leader for the Central/Western US corn belt and field-testing leader for drought stress. In partnership with the breeding and trait introgression team he led the applied molecular marker and analytical technologies lab from 2010-2017.
Currently he is a Laureate in Predictive Ag working across the company as well as externally to contribute to the re-imagining and bringing to life novel cropping systems using regenerative Ag principles that balance productivity/profitability and sustainability, resulting in a triple win for Farmers, the Land, and Society.
In addition to his technical roles, he has also had the opportunity to contribute to food security issues and helping the small holder farmer reach their full potential. He has led companywide food security employee networks and contributed externally by volunteering time with Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, USAID, CGIAR and various universities in Sub Sahara Africa.

Martha Mutschler

Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics Section, Cornell University

Breeding tomato for combined control of insects and diseases and reduction of pesticide usage

Martha A. Mutschler-Chu earned her M.S. (1977) and Ph.D. (1979) in Plant Breeding/Plant Genetics from University of Wisconsin-Madison, working on breeding for bean seed protein quality. She started work as assistant professor of Plant Breeding at Cornell University in 1979 and has continued to date as a full professor. During this period, she worked on fresh market tomato with a focus on breeding for control of biological stresses that limit tomato production or harm fruit quality, including insect pests and insect transmitted viral diseases as well as a range of fungal, oomycete, and bacterial diseases. The overarching goal across the tomato breeding program is to substantially reduce the use of pesticides and fungicides for insect and disease control. She has also worked on long-day onions, developing doubled haploid onions in collaboration with Dr. E. Earle and on resistance to Botrytis leaf blight.

Dr. Thomas C. Osborn

Bayer Crop Science

Major changes in commercial plant breeding

Tom Osborn is Head of Analytics and Pipeline Design for Vegetable R&D at Bayer Crop Science in St. Louis, where he leads a global team of scientists and engineers that use automation, analytics, and advanced genomic and plant phenotyping technologies to bring new insights and accelerate vegetable product development. He was previously Director of Molecular Breeding Technology/Precision Genomics at Monsanto/Bayer (2010-2018) leading a global team that developed and applied genotyping and genomic technologies for all crops, and Director of Breeding Technology at Seminis Vegetable Seeds/Monsanto (2004-2010) in Woodland, CA where he led molecular breeding initiatives to accelerate the development of new, high value traits. Prior to joining Seminis, he had a nearly 20-year academic career at the University of Wisconsin, where he held the Bascom Chair in Agronomy, chaired the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics Graduate Program, and taught and conducted research in molecular plant breeding and polyploidy. He received a B.S. in Horticulture and a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin and was a postdoctoral researcher at the ARCO PCRI. He is the recipient of Monsanto’s Edgar M. Queeny Award and Science & Technology Career Award, and the National Association of Plant Breeders Private Sector Impact Award.

Katy Rainey

Associate Professor of Agronomy, Purdue University

Application of UAS Biomass Longitudinal Phenotypes to Selection in Soybean Breeding Trials

Dr. Katy Rainey Associate Professor of soybean genetics and breeding in the Agronomy Department at Purdue University, and the CTO of Progeny Drone, Inc. The Rainey lab in collaboration with the Cherkauer lab has been collecting UAS RGB imagery of soybean yield trials and breeding populations since 2013, and since 2017 we have surveyed multiple locations with RGB and MS, completing over 600 flights. From the imagery we can quantify canopy coverage, MS vegetation indices, row length, canopy height, growth rate, canopy color with MS and RGB, and we are working on radiation use efficiency, 3D modeling and canopy temperature with a thermal camera. Her motto for plant phenotyping is: “Do Genetics Now!”

Kelly Robbins

Assistant Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics Section, Cornell University

Technology Driven Optimization of Breeding Programs

Kelly graduated from the University of Georgia in 2007 with a PhD in animal breeding and genetics. Upon graduation Kelly moved into plant breeding and joined Dow AgroSciences where he eventually took on the role of Global Quantitative Genetics Lead. After almost 8 years in industry Kelly took a faculty position at Cornell leading an international agriculture project and then started his own lab in 2017 as an Assistant Professor. The Robbins lab conducts research to develop and implement advanced modeling and informatics capabilities to increase understanding of complex traits and improve the efficiency of plant breeding programs. Currently the lab is focused on breeding scheme optimization, genomic selection, phenomics, and increasing understanding of genotype by environmental interactions. The Robbins lab works with multiple crops and research is conducted in collaboration with breeding programs in the North America, Africa, and Asia.

Deborah Rubin

Co-Director at Cultural Practice LLC

Cross-cutting issues affecting crop improvement

Deborah Rubin co-founded Cultural Practice, LLC, determined to use anthropology, with its focus on context and cultural knowledge, to improve outcomes in international development. Dee works closely with groups leading the gender and agriculture development agenda, including USAID, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and US Land-Grant Universities, including the USAID-funded Cornell University Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement. She is a core team member of the Gender, Agriculture, and Assets Project (GAAP2), led by IFPRI, and has shaped the qualitative research supporting the project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (pro-WEAI) and WEAI for Value Chains (WEAI4VC).
She enjoys engaging the next generation of agricultural researchers to address gender issues and adopt mixed methods. She has evaluated USAID-funded agricultural research grants and led a team of agricultural scientists to identify new priorities for the agency’s investments in agriculture and natural resource management.
Deborah is an Advisory Board Member of the Roots, Tubers, and Banana Foods (RTBfoods) project. Deborah holds a doctorate in anthropology from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Brown University.

Jessica Rutkoski

Assistant Professor, Small grains breeding, University of Illinois

Adopting a genomic selection-enabled breeding strategy: My experience in wheat

Dr. Jessica Rutkoski a plant breeder with a passion for putting the principles and techniques of quantitative genetics and statistics to use in applied breeding to accelerate genetic progress in ways that benefit people and the environment. Jessica leads an innovative soft red winter wheat breeding program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. One of her major goals is to improve the profitability of winter wheat production in the North Central Midwest to help promote cropping system diversity in the region.

Alejandra Sanchez

Agricultural Development and Corporate Sustainability Professional with Driscoll’s

Corporate Social Responsibility, Marketing Manager

Alejandra is responsible for championing Driscoll’s sustainability efforts externally to their growing communities, consumers, and customers. She works across the business to elevate Driscoll’s operational leadership in water, plastics and labor. Alejandra has spent the past nine years working in international agricultural development and sustainability. She has maintained a particular focus on leveraging the private sector’s scale to form strategic partnerships and sourcing strategies as mechanisms to build a more sustainable and equitable food system. Alejandra received her Masters of Science at UC Davis in International Agricultural Development and Economics and was a recipient of the Research and Innovation for Agriculture fellowship. As part of her fellowship she conducted food policy research in Hanoi, Vietnam at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Alejandra currently sits on the board of the University of California President’s Advisory Commission on Agriculture & Natural Resources.

Moira Sheehan

Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Biology Section, Cornell University

Elevating and future-proofing specialty crop breeding programs in the public sector

Dr. Moira Sheehan is the Director of the Breeding Insight program at Cornell, which is a USDA-ARS initiative to bring genomic and phenomics tools and software solutions to ARS breeders. Before coming to Cornell in 2019, she worked for almost 9 years at Nature Source Improved Plants as Research Scientists and Project Manager. In that time, she worked with about 12 different crops to help major and small seed companies optimized their breeding pipelines. Prior to joining industry, she received her Plant Biology PhD from Cornell in 2006, and did postdocs with both Wojtek Pawlowski’s and Ed Buckler’s groups at Cornell.

Redeat Tibebu

Graduate Student, University of Minnesota

Green Revolution to Gene Revolution in Orphan Crops

Redeat Tibebu is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the Voytas Lab at the University of Minnesota focusing on gene editing in orphan crops. Her current research is aimed at establishing a gene editing platform in Eragrostis tef in order to introduce green revolution traits to tef via CRISPR/Cas9. In conjunction with her current research, she was involved in the development of the International Tef Research Consortium (ITRC) that is enabling the improvement of tef by providing access to genomic resources and gene editing tools to researchers in Ethiopia. Redeat is passionate about improving access to advanced plant breeding techniques to increase crop resiliency and sustainability in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Darren Touchell

Research Scholar, North Carolina State University

In vitro chromosome doubling for crop development

Darren was raised in Perth, Western Australia. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia and a Ph.D. in plant physiology/botany from the University of Western Australia in 1996. He conducted post-doctoral research on cryopreservation and biotechnological tools for ex situ plant conservation at Kings Park and Botanic Garden in Perth, Western Australia. In 1998 he moved to Colorado, continuing his research on endangered species conservation at the USDA, National Center for Germplasm Preservation. In 2000, Darren moved to Michigan Technological University, where he met his wife Audra and worked on the genetic improvement of trees for the forestry industry via molecular genetics. Since 2005 he has been a member of the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University. He conducts his research at the Mountain Horticultural Crops and Research Center in Mills River, located in scenic Western North Carolina. His research focuses on plant tissue culture and plant breeding and development of ornamental and bioenergy crops. He has authored and co-authored over 70 research and popular articles and has advised and served on committees of 17 graduate students.

Joyce Van Eck

Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics Section, Cornell University

The Physalis Improvement Project: Ripening the Potential of an Underutilized Fruit

Joyce Van Eck received her B.S. from The Pennsylvania State University, M.S. from University of Delaware, and Ph.D. from Cornell University. She is an Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at the Boyce Thompson Institute. She is a leader in the development of biotechnological approaches for the study of gene function as it relates to crop improvement and fast-tracking domestication to transform underutilized species into viable sources to diversify and strengthen our food supply. She uses several model plant species for her work, in addition to applying genetic engineering strategies and genome editing to food crops including grape, millets, Physalis, potato, and tomato. The development of biotechnological techniques in her lab has made it possible to deliver genome editing reagents into plant cells and her lab was responsible for generating the very first CRISPR/Cas9 edited tomato lines. She has been involved in teaching and development of outreach activities that have led to a leadership role in public engagement in science.

Nick Wiering

Graduate Research Assistant, University of Minnesota

Cover crop breeding and predicting in situ biomass with remote sensing tools

Nick is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota. He is currently working on the improvement of winter and spring peas for northern U.S. plant protein production. His graduate research focused on the development of hairy vetch for Minnesota cropping systems. Nick’s diverse research interests include phenomics, plant-environment interactions, freezing tolerance, and developing sustainable cropping systems.

Chunquan Zhang

Assistant Professor, Alcorn University

Introducing a Genome Editing Consortium project at 1890 Universities

Dr. Chunquan (Chris) Zhang got his M.S. degree 1996 from Northeast Agricultural University, China. Following his M.S. graduate work on soybean disease, he worked as an extension plant pathologist for 4 years before coming to University of Kentucky for his Ph.D. In 2005, Dr. Zhang joined Iowa State University as a research scientist on model plants and row crops functional genomics. Dr. Zhang is now an associate professor at Alcorn State University. His current research focuses on plant functional genomics and biotechnological applications for crop improvement.

Emily Ziemke

North American Corn Technology Lead for Corteva Agriscience

Genomic Selection at Corteva

Emily Ziemke (Combs) is a Research and Development Lead in the Data Science and Analytics group at Corteva Agriscience. In this role she is responsible for development, coordination, and execution of strategic planning, resourcing, budgeting, project portfolio management, and communication plans as a leader of the Data Science and Informatics team aligned with the Plant Breeding and Systems of Innovation for Breeding and Seed Products R&D sub-functions. She also serves as a representative from Corteva to the Excellence in Breeding program and is active in the GreenSeam, a Southern MN agriculture advocacy organization. She received her Ph.D. in applied plant sciences with a concentration in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities and her bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in genetics and development from Cornell University. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, gardening, and group exercise classes.