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the foundation
of civilization

Plant breeding:
the foundation
of agriculture

Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee

Subcommittee - Education and Training of Plant Breeders

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This is the report from the subcommittee on a Education and Training of Plant Breeders. It met as part of the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee in Des Moines, Iowa on June 16-18, 2008.

This report was prepared by: Todd Wehner and H. Thomas Stalker

  • Officers
    • Thomas Stalker, Past chair (
    • David Knauft, Chair ( - had to step down early
    • Rita Mumm, Vice chair ( - became chair
    • Mitch Tuinstra, Secretary ( - became vice chair
    • Position of secretary currently open
  • White paper
    • White paper is completed and comments should be sent to H. T. Stalker by July 15
    • A 1-pager is in progress
    • A plant breeding educational survey is being circulated to universities to obtain data for 1-pager
    • Action items:
      • Need data concerning company needs for plant breeders
      • Need list of USDA plant breeders
  • Subcommittee objectives:
    • To assess the needs for plant breeding education and develop a plan that will assure a future workforce in public and private segments of the industry
    • To develop strategies for attracting students into plant breeding
    • To lead efforts for image building and outreach programs about plant breeding
    • To assess the needs and develop a plan to obtain plant breeding educational materials such as videos, slides, textbooks, and information sheets
    • Secure long-term funding at a national level for programs to assure continued education of plant breeding students
  • Proper curriculum: courses and universities
    • Outline of ideal curriculum (Fred Bliss, 2005); basic list: genetics, statistics, pathology, breeding, advanced breeding, breeding lab, resistance, molecular, quantitative, evolution
    • Various textbooks are being used ( Aquaah, Fehr, Simmonds, Allard, Briggs and Knowles), each with ‘good’ chapters, but non serve the needs for an entire semester course
    • Universities with few plant breeding faculty cannot cover all areas of discipline in the classroom
    • Action items:
      • Determine the need for plant breeding textbooks for undergraduate and graduate education
      • Determine the need for distance education courses in plant breeding; identify courses needed most often; explore options to develop distance education courses
  • University funding and programmatic support
    • State funding has dropped since the 1980s
    • Grant and other external money (gifts, memos) is a major source of funding for most plant breeding programs vs. support through experiment stations
    • Plant breeding faculty hiring and support
    • New NIFA funding may include plant breeding
    • NIH, NSF, NRI: mostly basic biology research funding, but potential exists to acquire funding for curriculum building
    • Department of Education is non-traditional source of funding for plant breeding education
    •  Endowment funding: fellowships ($1,000,000 gives $40,000/yr)
    •  Action item:
      • Explore feasibility of establishing a national endowment for plant breeding  education (possible board of directors from Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer, etc)
  • 2009 workshop (Madison WI):
    • Develop a plan: visit Washington DC
    • Action item:
      • Develop a program to present to commodity group leaders at next years meeting emphasizing needs for plant breeders, educated graduates, and funding for programmatic research support and education. to next year
  • Outreach:
    • Plant breeding outreach is poorly done in the U.S., with few videos and other information about the discipline
    • Action item:
      • Develop a Plant breeding website (independent of SCC080 and NCSU)
        • Consider hiring of web editor as half-time position
        • Gather animations, videos, PowerPoints from industry, universities
        • Hire graphic artists, sociologists, marketing experts
        • Shawn Kaeppler Univ. of Washington has a grant for plant breeding videos (YouTube); Univ. of Florida has initiated agricultural outreach programs
  • Mentoring/Internships:
    • Summer internships with universities, seed companies serves as a mechanism to attract students into plant breeding
    • Reach K-12 students ( e.g., YouTube, MySpace- WheatCAP:grant funding for outreach, PowerPoint, animations)
    • Undergraduate plant breeding courses or labs (sophomore, junior, senior level) are needed at universities
    • Plant breeding needs to be presented as an alternative to business, law, medicine


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Page citation: Wehner, T.C. Global Plant Breeding, 30 March 2005;
design by C.T. Glenn; send questions to T.C. Wehner; last revised on 30 September, 2009