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How do we fund plant breeding?

MADISON, WI, OCTOBER 27, 2009 -- Worldwide demand for a safe and secure food supply is growing with plant breeding at the forefront of sustainability discussions; however many research programs have seen their funding decrease due to the erosion of traditional public or formula grants. Researchers are now turning to other sources for funding for their domestic and international plant breeding programs.

Stakeholders from public and private sectors of the plant breeding community will share their perspectives on the current funding landscape during the symposium, "Building a Strong Financial Base for Sustaining a Healthy Plant Breeding Community," on Thursday, Nov. 5, from 7:55 to 10:50 am in Room 321, David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The event is part of the 2009 Annual Meetings of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), and Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) in Pittsburgh, PA.

Symposium presenters will discuss successes in public-private partnerships; commercialization strategies now driving public programs; the impact of foundations in targeted support for cultivar development; and national and global programs that may help build capacity and provide public support:

David Bergvinson, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will discuss the organization's Crop Improvement Grants, which allow farmer-preferred and adapted crop varieties to reach small-hold farms in regions of Asia and Africa. From basic research through to delivery, the foundation has developed broad and innovative partnerships to achieve sustainable food production worldwide.

Steve Rhines, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc, will discuss the non-profit's outreach to farmers and ranchers through education, consultation, and research. The foundation's contributions to the improvement of forage crops for agriculture and livestock production systems has enhanced agricultural productivity regionally, nationally, and internationally since its inception in 1945.

Robyn Stevens, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), will discuss the organization's past and present efforts to influence legislation and increase funding for plant genome research. The NCGA continues to advocate for significant increases in agricultural research funding, but needs the help of both public and private sector scientists to make their voices heard in legislature.

Donn P. Cummings, Monsanto Company,will discuss the need for cross-functional training in plant science, in order for the industry to achieve genetic gains and meet worldwide food needs. Monsanto has forged many partnerships to help rebuild and fund Plant Breeder education programs in the US and sustain the nation's large and diverse plant breeding workforce.

Stacy A. Bonos and William Meyer, Rutgers State University, willdiscuss the many innovations of the Rutgers Turfgrass Program over the last half century. The organization has continued to grow and expand. It now operates as a self-sustaining center for turfgrass research and exploration, funded through its cultivars' licensing royalties.

Ed Ready, United Soybean Board (USB), will discuss efforts by the organization to increase soybean crop yields through genomic tools and plant breeding. The USB has a funding structure in place to evaluate which research projects will best contribute to crop improvement goals that include mitigating the impact of crop stressors, increasing yield, and improving composition to meet end-users' needs.

Daryl Strouts, Kansas Wheat Alliance (KWA), will discuss the structure of KWA, an organization comprised of public and private sector industry stakeholders aimed at furthering wheat variety research. The group is funded through the commercialization of new wheat varieties developed at Kansas State University. KWA manages the sublicensing of these varieties to wheat seed producers and protects the intellectual property rights associated with the varieties. Revenue from the program is funneled into future wheat research.


Contact: Sara Uttech
American Society of Agronomy

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