Salas-Fernandez, Maria

Maria Salas Fernandez is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University (ISU). She received a B.S. in Agricultural Production Engineering from the Argentine Catholic University, an M.S. in Plant Physiology from Texas A&M University, and a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Cornell University. Before her appointment in the academia, she worked in the private sector in Argentina, at the R&D Department of American Cyanamid Company and as a sorghum breeder junior at Nidera SA. She initiated and leads a sorghum field breeding program at ISU to develop germplasm for forage and biofuel production adapted to the Midwest. Her research program is also focused on the use of genomics and high-throughput phenotyping technology to identify genetic mechanisms controlling traits such as plant architecture, photosynthesis, photoprotection and cold tolerance at germination. Dr. Salas Fernandez is a member of the R. F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding at Iowa State University and has been selected as a Plant Sciences Institute Scholar for Predictive Phenomics at ISU.


  • 2013 American Society of Agronomy (ASA) Early Career Professional Award
  • 2014 National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) Early Career Award
  • NSF CAREER grant for her novel research in photosynthesis and photoprotection
  • 2018 Baker Agronomic Excellence Award (ISU)

Schnable, Patrick

Schnable manages a research program that emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches to understanding maize biology. His own expertise is in the areas of genetics, molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics and phenomics but he collaborates with researchers in diverse fields, including agricultural, computer, industrial, and mechanical engineering and statistics.

Yu, Jianming

Jianming Yu is Professor, Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding, and Director of Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding in the Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University. The focus of Yu’s program is to address significant questions in quantitative genetics by combining cutting-edge genomic technologies and plant breeding. Maize and sorghum are two major crops with annual nurseries with thousands of research plots, but the group has been working on many other crops through collaboration and open data. All members of this research program conduct field, lab, or greenhouse experiments in genetics and breeding and contribute to summer nursery work, and many of them also carry out computer simulations or bioinformatics research to generalize their specific findings to a broad context. Yu teaches a graduate course, AGRON 621 – Advanced Plant Breeding, each Spring semester. Guiding questions addressed by this program include:

  • How can we efficiently identify genes underlying quantitative traits so that the resulting empirical findings can help answer fundamental questions related to complex traits?
  • How can we leverage design thinking, genetic design, and experimental design to conduct innovative research?
  • How should we design the current plant breeding methods to make better use of genetic resources and high throughput genotyping and phenotyping technologies?

Yu’s research integrates knowledge in quantitative genetics, genomics, plant breeding, molecular genetics, and statistics, and has the ultimate goal of developing and implementing new strategies and methods in complex trait dissection and crop improvement. Current research includes Phenotypic Plasticity and Reaction Norm of complex traits across multiple crops, Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) with diverse germplasm or multiple designed mapping populations (such as Nested Association Mapping, NAM, or meta-QTL analysis), Genomic Selection (GS) to efficiently integrate high throughput genotyping into various breeding processes, Gene Cloning for traits with agronomic and domestication importance, Genotype-by-Environment Interaction (GEI) and Epistasis dissection to causal polymorphic sites, Genome and Chromosome Size Evolution across taxonomic groups, and Genome-Wide Base Composition changes and underlying principles.

Yu was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2018.

News Releases:

Singh, Arti

Dr. Arti Singh is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University with more than 15 years of plant breeding experience. After obtaining her PhD degree from G.B. Pant University in India, she worked as a Post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan and then at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada prior to joining Iowa State University.

She has authored two textbooks ‘Disease and Insect Resistance in Plants’ and “Plant Breeding and Cultivar Development.” She has published peer reviewed research articles in reputed and high impact journals including the Proceeding of National Academy of Sciences and Trends in Plant Science. She has been awarded competitive grants by USDA-NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Food and Agriculture Cyberinformatics and Tools (FACT), National Science Foundation, Iowa Soybean Association, IA Soybean Research Center, and United Soybean Board.

She leads a green (Vigna radiata) and black gram (Vigna mungo) breeding program focused on developing new varieties for plant-based protein markets. Her research projects are geared towards harnessing genetic diversity for genetic gain, utilization of advanced data analytics particularly machine and deep learning for early disease and stress signatures, and genetic/genomic studies on abiotic and biotic stress resistance.

Lamkey, Kendall

Kendall R. Lamkey began his tenure as the Associate Dean for Facilities and Operations (ADFO) for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University on May 16, 2023. The ADFO works in collaboration with the dean, associate deans, department chairs, college-level centers, and other unit leaders to ensure that operations directly advance the mission of the college and that resources are deployed wisely and efficiently. The ADFO will engage with university-level and college administration, facilities planning and management, and external partners to advance the mission of the college. CALS facilities and farms serve teaching, research, and extension missions across the college and state.

Previously, Dr. Lamkey served as interim-chair (2006) and chair (2007-2023) for the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University. In that role, he  provided leadership and direction to the department in the areas of education, research, and extension.

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’s research focused 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

Dr. Lamkey is a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America and has served as an associate editor, technical editor, and editor for Crop Science.