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Workshop to Focus on Future of Plant Breeding

February 05, 2007

Media Advisory

Media Contacts:
Julia Kornegay, head, Department of Horticultural Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina State University, 919.515.3131 or
Ann Marie Thro, National Program Leader for Plant Breeding and Genetics, Plant and Animal Systems Unit, Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES), U.S. Department of Agriculture, 202.401.6702 or

Plant breeders from across the country will gather in North Carolina Wednesday (Feb. 7) for a three-day workshop at which they hope to develop a strategy to call attention to the importance of plant breeding and its role in addressing issues of national concern such as food security, health and nutrition, energy and the environment, and global economic competition.

The meeting was organized "because of concern that our national plant breeding capacity is being diminished," said Dr. Julia Kornegay, head of the Department of Horticultural Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. Faculty members in N.C. State's departments of Horticultural Science and Crop Science working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service organized the meeting.

Kornegay said there has been a significant decline in plant breeding programs in public universities since the early 1980s, with faculty positions and funding being redirected to more basic genetic studies.

Titled "Plant Breeding: A Vital Capacity for U.S. National Goals," the workshop will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 201 Harrison Oaks Boulevard, Cary, NC.

Kornegay said approximately 170 people representing plant breeding in both the public and private sectors have registered to attend the workshop. During the meeting, a National Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee will be established to promote plant breeding at the federal and state levels.

While plant breeding has declined in the public universities, significant advances are being made in genomics and molecular biology. Yet, Kornegay and others argue, despite the promise of genetic engineering, that classic plant breeding continues to be essential in the development and field testing of new plant varieties.

Large private seed companies have been successful in combining molecular genetics and classical plant breeding to develop new products, primarily in major field crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. However, much less investment is being made in other important crops. To reverse this decline, greater public and private investment in plant breeding is essential. Breeders hope at the North Carolina workshop to develop a mechanism they can use to make the case for plant breeding.

Media representatives are invited to attend the workshop.

The workshop in brief:

Wednesday, Feb. 7 - Registration is from 2 – 6 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 8 - Morning sessions, which begin at 8 a.m., will focus on discussions of how to better communicate the value of plant breeding. Gale Buchanan, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, will address the meeting at lunch Thursday. Buchanan will talk about the proposed 2007 Farm Bill that the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to submit to Congress. The afternoon will be devoted to small-group work sessions.

Friday, Feb. 9 - The workshop concludes Friday, Feb. 9. Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee officers are to be elected Friday morning, while a wrap-up presentation summarizing the workshop is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

More workshop information is available on line at

The following people, who are scheduled to attend the meeting, can speak knowledgeably about the meeting and crop breeding.

Elcio Guimaraes, Senior Officer, Cereals and Crop Breeding, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations +39-6-57053926 or

James Coors, Rothermel-Bascom Professor of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin, and 2004-05 president of the Crop Science Society of America, 608.262.7959 or

Stephen Baenziger, Eugene W. Price Distinguished Professor, University of Nebraska, and a past president of the Crop Science Society of America, 402.472.1538 or

Gary Whiteaker, director of QA and IPR, Sakata Seed America Inc., 408.778.7758 or

Once the meeting begins, the best way to reach anyone involved will be through either Kornegay or Tom Stalker, professor of crop science at N.C. State University. Kornegay's cell phone number is 919.645.7117, while Stalker's cell phone number is 919.241.1541. The Embassy Suites phone number is 919.677.1840.

- Dave Caldwell, 919.513.3127 or -

Posted by Dave at February 5, 2007 10:36 AM