Speakers for the 2013 Symposium

Tabare Abadie, Senior Research Manager at DuPont Pioneer
Introductory Remarks
With almost 35 years of career in Plant Breeding, his areas of interest include Technological Change in Large Organizations, Career Development, Education and Mentoring, and he has worked on a range of species including Maize, Wheat, Barley, Rice, Cassava and Forages. Currently in DuPont Pioneer, Tabare leads a group responsible for the deployment of Molecular Breeding across species globally. Before coming to Iowa, Tabare was a Wheat and Barley Breeder at La Estanzuela and a Full Professor in Plant Breeding at the Universidad de la Republica (Uruguay), and served as consultant for EMBRAPA CENARGEM (Brazil). Tabare earned an Engineering degree from the Universidad de la Republica in Montevideo (Uruguay), a Diploma of High Studies from the University of Birmingham (UK), a PhD in Plant Breeding and Quantitative Genetics from the University of Minnesota, and did post doc work at GRCP in UC Davis.


Kent J. Bradford, Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis
Talk Title: Genetics and physiology of seed quality
Originally from Texas, he earned his B.S. degree in Biochemistry and M.S. degree in Horticulture from Michigan State University and his Ph.D. degree in Plant Physiology from the University of California, Davis. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian National University, he joined the faculty at UC Davis in 1982 and served as the Chair of the Department of Vegetable Crops from 1993 to 1998. In 1999 he founded the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center and continues to serve as its director. He received a Fulbright Scholar award in 1999 to teach in Argentina and the career Seed Science Award from the Crop Science Society of America in 2002. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2003, and received the faculty Award of Distinction from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis in 2007.
Dr. Bradford’s research has spanned diverse areas of seed science from seed germination and conservation to mathematical modeling and molecular biology. He has published over 160 peer-reviewed research and extension articles and book chapters and co-edited three books on seed biology. He co-authored a textbook on seed development, germination and dormancy that was published in 2013. His current interests are in identifying the genetic and molecular mechanisms regulating seed germination, in mechanisms of seed deterioration and methods to extend seed longevity, and in applying mathematical models to describe and understand seed germination and dormancy behavior. As Director of the Seed Biotechnology Center, he seeks to create and commercialize new technologies to improve crop performance, quality and sustainability. He teaches University and Extension courses on crop and seed biology and production and on biotechnology, ethics and philosophy of science.

Lisa Newman, Senior Research Manager at DuPont Pioneer
Talk Title: Precision Phenotyping in Environmentally Controlled Facilities
Lisa J. Newman, Ph.D, Senior Research Manager is the leader of the DuPont Pioneer Controlled Environments department where she oversees all greenhouse operations for North America, spanning four locations with 70 employees. Her team is responsible for the care and propagation of all tissue-derived transgenic plant material in the Agricultural Biotechnology pipeline, including robust characterization of crop plants and model species at the molecular and organismal level. Through use of innovative demand-based planning, the greenhouse complex footprint at the DuPont Pioneer headquarters has more than doubled in the last five years, including new state-of-the-art, modernized smart greenhouses, as well as greenhouses with automated plant movement and imaging systems to deliver high throughput precision phenotyping. High resolution digital imaging, including hyperspectral imaging, is coupled with metabolomics to predict plant stress caused by transgenes. Dr. Newman received her Ph.D. at the University of Oxford in Plant Sciences and completed a post doc at the Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany, CA with Dr. Sarah Hake before being recruited by DuPont Pioneer. In her 11 years with DuPont Pioneer, she has worked as a post-doctoral researcher in Agronomic Traits, spent 2 years in a lead Scientist role where she helped pioneer the high throughput phenotyping platform known as “FAST Corn,” and finally moved to her current Controlled Environments position where she has achieved operational excellence and has championed robust phenotypic characterization for all elite inbred and hybrid maize genotypes as well as many other agronomic crop species.

Paul Gepts, Professor of Plant Sciences and Geneticist/Breeder at University of California, Davis
Talk Title: Bridging the gap between genomics and breeding: the African Bean Consortium (ABC)
One of the main challenges of current agricultural research is to combine several fields of research into a coherent system that is capable of delivering the goods to the end-users, farmers and/or consumers. On the one hand, there is significant progress made in genomics and genetics, which allow us to better understand the genetic base of productivity traits and to use this information to better target selection during breeding operations. On the other, farmers – especially smallholder farmers – are faced with rapidly changing socio-economic and environmental conditions to which they have to adjust in order to – hopefully – increase their well-being and that of their families. It is one of the roles of plant breeding to articulate these ostensibly centrifugal forces and be the bridge for the application of basic genetic/genomic sciences to agricultural and, therefore, societal welfare. The goal of the African Bean Consortium, funded by the Kirkhouse Trust of the UK, is to develop high-yielding, multiple-disease-resistant common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) varieties using marker-assisted selection based on the latest genomics tools available for available for this crop. The ABC project involves two main collaborators so far: Susan Nchimbi-Msolla (Sokoine University of Agriculture) and Annet Namayanja (National Agricultural Research Organization, Uganda). Through their intellect, hard work and devotion, and the assistance of their graduate students and technicians, the ABC project is well on its way to develop advanced bean lines with multiple disease resistances in a background that is popular with farmers and consumers. Similar collaborations are now sought in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda. In the past, studies of my group have led to a much better understanding of the domestication and organization of genetic diversity, including African beans (e.g., concepts of Andean and Mesoamerican gene pools, eco-geographic races within gene pools, co-evolution of bean host and its pathogens). We have also developed genetic tools (e.g., the most widely used recombinant inbred population in bean genetic studies) and genomic tools (BAC libraries, used in the sequencing of the bean genome; and a bean breeder’s genome toolbox: http://phaseolusgenes.bioinformatics.ucdavis.edu ). More recent research in my group has convinced me of the central role of farmers in maintaining genetic diversity on the farm (in situ), opening the door to a more systematic utilization of breeding techniques by farmers (participatory or distributed breeding) to maximize local adaptation and adoption. I am a native of Belgium where I obtained the degree of Ingénieur Agronome with specialization in Plant Protection at Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech (Université de Liège). I hold a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I am an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (2001), the American Society of Agronomy (2003), and the Crop Science Society of America (2005). The Bean Improvement Cooperative has recognized my group’s work with its Dsitinguished Achievement (1991) and Meritorious Service (2003) awards.

Peter Wenzl, Senior Scientist and Manager of CRIL at CIMMYT
Talk Title: Seeds of Discovery (SeeD): Developing a toolkit to enable the targeted broadening of the genetic base of maize and wheat breeding efforts
Peter is a molecular geneticist with experience in high-throughput molecular-marker platforms, abiotic-stress physiology and gene cloning, who has been working in impact-oriented agricultural research for two decades. He earned his PhD at the University of Vienna, Austria, through a research project at the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia (2000). With professional experience at Australian, CGIAR and US research institutions, from both profit and non-profit organizations, Peter moved to Mexico in 2010 to join CIMMYT. He now leads the Seeds of Discovery project (SeeD) of the Mexico-funded MasAgro program, which strives to systematically explore and unlock the genetic potential of maize and wheat genetic resources.

Molly Jahn, Professor in the Laboratory of Genetics and Department of Agronomy, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Talk Title: Agricultural sustainability and the future of plant breeding
Molly Jahn is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, holding appointments in the Department of Agronomy, the Laboratory of Genetics, and the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. She has had a distinguished research career in plant genetics, genomics and plant breeding of vegetable crops focusing on molecular genetics of disease resistance and quality traits. Her research groups at UW Madison and Cornell University have produced crop varieties now grown commercially and for subsistence on six continents under approximately 60 active commercial licenses. She has also worked in developing countries to link crop breeding with improved human nutrition and welfare. Her innovative approaches to inter-sector partnerships, engagement with emerging institutions, and integrated projects focused on impact and technology transfer have been highlighted in studies and books.
She has consulted widely in the private sector, and has served as an advisor for philanthropic interests, venture capital and finance, First Nations, U.S and foreign governmental agencies in agriculture, food security, life and environmental sciences. From 2006-2011, she served as dean of the University of Wisconsin's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. In 2009-10, she was called to Washington, DC to provide interim leadership as Deputy and Acting Under Secretary of Research, Education and Economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2011, she was selected to represent the U.S. on the Commission for Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change. Jahn has published widely including a recent book on Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, serves on numerous boards, and scientific advisory panels including the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources at the U.S. National Research Council/National Academies of Science. She is a Co-editor in Chief of the new open access journal BMC Agriculture and Food Security, and she chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorates at DOE's Oak Ridge National Lab.

Gary Atlin, Senior Program Officer, Agricultural Research and Development, Global Development
Talk Title: New tools and strategies for increasing rates of genetic gain in staple crops in Africa and South Asia
Gary was born and raised in Toronto, and became interested in agriculture after working as a field and dairy hand on an Israeli kibbutz in the 1970s. He studied crop science at the University of Guelph, and worked as a technician in the maize breeding program there for several years. His first experience in international agricultural research was as a CIDA-supported research associate in the potato program at CIP in Peru. His PhD work in oats at Iowa State focused on how to design breeding programs for stressful environments. After graduating, he worked as a commercial flax breeder in Canada. He then taught plant breeding and ran a small wheat breeding program at Nova Scotia Agricultural College for ten years, developing a theoretical framework for managing genotype x environment interaction to maximize selection response. In 2000, he joined IRRI as upland rice and then rainfed lowland rice breeder, establishing IRRI’s drought tolerance breeding pipeline and networks and discovering the first rice QTLs with large effects on yield under drought stress. He joined CIMMYT in 2006 as a maize breeder, and became Associate Director and technical breeding lead in 2009, coordinating efforts to optimize breeding pipelines to increase genetic gains. Throughout his career, he has worked on the problem of maximizing rates of genetic gain in stress-prone environments. In 2012, he joined the Gates Foundation, where he is helping to manage their crop improvement portfolio.