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Plant Breeding Education. How do we educate another generation of Plant Breeders?. Public Plant Breeding . Have Trained/Educated almost all current plant breeders. Number and size of programs is in near- universal decline—DRIVEN BY FUNDING SHIFTS

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plant breeding education

Plant Breeding Education

How do we educate another generation of Plant Breeders?

public plant breeding
Public Plant Breeding
  • Have Trained/Educated almost all current plant breeders.
  • Number and size of programs is in near- universal decline—DRIVEN BY FUNDING SHIFTS
  • Is this the necessary model? Can we educate plant breeders effectively without operating public breeding programs?
  • Can we support breeding programs in sufficient numbers in MAJOR crops?
funding decreases
Funding Decreases
  • State funding—Plant Breeding, university funding in general being crowded out by Medicaid, Medicare, K-12 Education
  • Federal funding—being crowded out by Defense, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security
  • Financial Collapse/Recession forcing cuts in state budgets, flat-line Federal budgets
funding increases
Funding Increases
  • NSF—willing to fund only basic science, especially if research publishable in Science, Nature
  • NIH—molecular work general enough to be basic, or will apply to plants, animals, humans
  • Commercial contracts, investments in a few specific programs
  • “Orphan” crops where there is a constituency
who we educate
WHO we educate
  • FEWER farm/rural students, more urban people, often don’t hold agriculture in high esteem.
  • Universities need help recruiting students at all degree levels.
  • Commercial companies need help recruiting students, interns, permanent employees.

NEED to recruit students from biology, engineering, basic sciences!!!!

is plant breeding training a replacement for pb education
Is Plant Breeding Training a Replacement for PB Education?
  • Some evidence of proliferation of short courses—Univ. of California, Wageningen
  • Tend to attract B.S. level technicians, teach hands on skills, but seldom higher level thinking, art with less science.
  • LOTS of informal training by professionals, turn technicians into students!
plant breeding education1
Plant Breeding EDUCATION
  • Needs to take place in context of active breeding program!
  • M.S. and Ph.D. are RESEARCH degrees
  • We may need to re-think how and where the research and formal education take place.
  • Perhaps NOT necessary to do both in the University setting!
disciplines most are the same as 40 years ago
Disciplines—Most are the same as 40 years ago
  • Mendelian/transmission genetics
  • Cytogenetics, cell biology
  • Plant pathology/entomology/weed science
  • Statistics and Experimental Design
  • Quantitative Genetics, Population Genetics
  • Botany, plant & crop physiology
  • CROP PRODUCTION for urban students
new necessary re connect with basic science
New & Necessary Re-Connect with Basic Science
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Applied Genomics Technologies
  • Transgene biology/cell culture
  • Crop Evolution / Molecular Systematics
  • Intellectual Property Rights, Regulatory issues
  • Database/Software Proficiency
  • Written/Oral Communication/Teamwork
  • Multi-Lingual !!??!!
molecular plant breeders
Molecular Plant Breeders?
  • Intra-University competition for resources and students!
  • LOTS of talk about “precision” plant breeding modification via molecular biology, modification/insertion of genes
  • Field Experience tends to be lacking among scientists making most aggressive claims.
  • We share lots of tools with molecular biology, but are applied with different goals.
plant breeding is an integration of many disciplines
Plant Breeding is an Integration of Many Disciplines
  • Engineering may be most apt model in education.
  • Regardless how much cutting edge Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Materials Science is done, we still need to teach how to integrate these various disciplines into a useful and coherent product—roads, bridges, dams,electronic devices, substances.
models traditional
  • Many programs still viable, especially “minor” crops that aren’t viable for commercial companies—many forages, wheat, squash, dry beans, etc.
  • It isn’t necessary to “train” in the crop you will be employed to breed. However, it may require additional information, maybe offered at other universities, or on the job
commercial company as partner
Commercial Company as Partner
  • Universities need to help recruit bright students to intern as breeding assistants (longer than a summer!)
  • Commercial companies may allow bright assistants partial/full release to pursue graduate degrees—Research done at/with company, education through university—STAN JENSEN Model
commercial support
Commercial SUPPORT
  • May involve financial support of project
  • May involve sharing research trials
  • May involve sharing of data, phenotypic and marker under secure coded system
  • GRA’s
  • Perhaps in corn we will need to work full cooperation, all research done at/with/by companys
online education
  • FEW universities will be able to retain enough breeders, other professionals to offer a full range of courses.
  • Perhaps it is better to have a couple of choices, have on-line courses taught by the best people in areas.
  • Module system of 1 or 2 hours courses in LOTS of different areas, rather than traditional courses.
continuing education
Continuing Education
  • Applied Genomics Techniques
    • Transcriptomics
    • Proteomics
    • Metabolomics
  • New Statistical Techniques
    • Partial Least Squares for fitting “too many variables” models
  • Whole Genome Selection Techniques
cooperative model
Cooperative Model?
  • We may need USDA plant breeding professionals to help with teaching. May be the “easiest” support to get from the Federal Government!
  • We may need to “consolidate” schools. Offer some courses, trade students, faculty on others. ISU—UN-L vet school program.
  • With consolidated seed industry, there is less political clout in most states to get state/university support.
results of gem survey and education of public plant breeders use of gem materials impact
Results of GEM Survey and Education of Public Plant Breeders, Use of GEM Materials & Impact
  • Researchers were queried about how GEM Project germplasm or funding has contributed to their research objectives, or to the training of the future scientists that they mentor.

Researchers responded that GEM germplasm had contributed to their research objectives in many ways, and in particular has been used in many graduate research projects which have been well-published.


In addition, use of exotic-derived GEM germplasm with traits not found in maize of temperate origin enabled Iowa State University’s Grain Quality Traits Lab (Charles Hurburgh and colleagues) to extend their NIRS calibration for maize starch, oil and protein.


Of particular interest were how the GEM Specific Cooperative Agreement researchers leveraged their resources to provide for germplasm development, basic and applied research, and the number of graduate and undergraduate students that have been involved.


13 Ph.D. programs completed (seven working directly in plant breeding or closely allied science; two of these are now plant breeding and genetics faculty)

  • 4 Ph.D. programs in progress
  • 1 post-doctoral program completed
  • 8 M.S. programs completed (five working directly in plant breeding or closely allied science; three pursuing advanced degrees in plant breeding)
  • 3 M.S. programs in progress