plant breeding

Dr. Kendall R Lamkey
Professor and Chair

A recently published study led by Iowa State University scientists applied a fresh perspective to vast amounts of data on rice plants to find better ways to predict plant performance and new insights about how plants adapt to different environments.

The study, published in the academic journal Genome Research, unearthed patterns in datasets collected on rice plants across Asia, said Jianming Yu, professor of agronomy and Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding. Those patterns allowed the researchers to develop a matrix to help them predict the traits of rice plants depending on their genetics and the environment in which they’re grown. The research could improve the ability of farmers to predict how crop varieties will perform in various environments, giving growers a better sense of stability and minimizing risk, Yu said.

In this digital world, technology is becoming more prevalent in all aspects of life, and students at Iowa State University have utilized technology to gain the knowledge and tools that will help the world construct crops that can thrive in our ever-changing environment.

One of those students is Ashlyn Rairdin, who enrolled at Iowa State in fall of 2019, after studying biochemistry and graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“I had always had an interest in engineering, but I have a larger interest in biology, so I chose that when I went to college,” Rairdin said.

Daniel Kohlhase is the recipient of the C. R. Weber Award for Excellence in Plant Breeding. Daniel grew up in Bloomington, IL. He discovered his passion for agriculture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, earning a BSc in Crop Science. After internships in plant breeding and seed production, Daniel decided to attend graduate school at Iowa State University in 2013. He earned a MSc in Crop Production & Physiology working with Dr. Mike Owen in 2016.

Using machine learning to develop and utilize plant breeding tools that can deliver improved genetics to farmers faster is a dream of Asheesh (Danny) Singh, associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State University and recipient of the 2020 Raymond and Mary Baker Agronomic Excellence Award.

Singh, the Monsanto Chair in Soybean Breeding at Iowa State, collaborates across disciplines with fellow innovators, combining artificial intelligence and genetics to speed selection of crop varieties finely tuned to the needs of farmers now and in the future.

PhD candidate Qi Mu has recieved the Gerald O. Mott Meritorious Graduate Student Award in Crop Science. The award recognizes top-notch graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in crop science disciplines. Departments select students based on academic achievements, research and teaching contributions, leadership accomplishments, service activities and personal qualifications. The award honors the first CSSA President, Gerald O. Mott, who trained 75 graduate students during his 45 year career at Purdue University and the University of Florida. Many of his students have become eminent forage scientists.

Thomas Lübberstedt is pushing the boundaries of genetics and its use in developing tools and methods to make plant breeding more efficient.

His work is leading to improved virus resistance and more sustainable agricultural systems around the world. The Frey Chair in Agronomy and Director of the Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding, Lübberstedt recently received the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Outstanding Achievement in Research Award.

International Credentials
Lübberstedt grew up on a horticultural farm in Germany and earned his degrees from the universities of Munich and Hohenheim. He spent several years working in Germany, and then Denmark, before coming to Iowa State in 2007 to take an endowed chair position.

Matthew Breitzman is originally from Stillwater, MN. Spending time on his Grandpa and Uncles’ farm when growing up gave him a strong interest in agriculture. This background in agriculture led him to obtain his B.S.

Junior in agronomy Marjorie Hanneman spent her summer working for Bayer Crop Science in Ankeny, Iowa at the high throughput genotyping facility as the Molecular Breeding Intern.

On a daily basis, Marjorie utilized lab robots to conduct real time PCR on a variety of crops and genetic traits. The project she worked on focused on testing and validating new master mix for quality and efficiency across crops, markers, and traits. She also used automated machinery to complete her daily activities as well as data collection and analysis.

"My favorite part of my internship was being able to complete lab work at such a large scale. I was able to work with about 15 different crops and learn how to manage huge data sets and design experiments. I also enjoyed working with state of the art machinery and robots and being at the forefront of biotechnology," Marjorie said.

Plant architecture

Several hormones are involved in the biochemical and physiological responses that determine plant architecture characteristics highly correlated with biomass yield such as plant height, leaf angle, stem diameter, tillering, number of florets, etc. Brassinosteroids, gibberellins and auxins have the strongest impact without severe undesirable pleiotropic effects.

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