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How Do We Fund Plant Breeding?

Plant breeding industry stakeholders discuss diverse financial sustainability for a growing industry

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.

More information about the symposium, “Building a Strong Financial Base for Sustaining a Healthy Plant Breeding Community,” including abstracts to the presentations, visit:
More than 2,700 scientists and professionals will gather at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Nov. 1-5 to discuss the latest research and trends in agriculture, energy, climate change, environmental science, science education, and more. Follow our daily Twitter feed of research and events at: , #ACSMtg. For meeting information, including abstracts of the papers being presented, visit: or contact Sara Uttech, ASA-CSSA-SSSA, 608-268-4948,

Complimentary registration is offered to credentialed journalists, Public Information Officers, and NASW members. Advance registration is encouraged, by sending a request to Sara Uttech, Science Communications Manager,, 608-268-4948. To register on-site, present a business card or other credentials to the Newsroom, Room 310, David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Can’t make it to the meeting? ASA-CSSA-SSSA will post news releases to the Annual Meetings online newsroom at: Power Point presentations will also be available for many papers; please contact Sara Uttech: for more information.

The Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), founded in 1955, is an international scientific society comprised of 6,000+ members with its headquarters in Madison, WI. Members advance the discipline of crop science by acquiring and disseminating information about crop breeding and genetics; crop physiology; crop ecology, management, and quality; seed physiology, production, and technology; turfgrass science; forage and grazinglands; genomics, molecular genetics, and biotechnology; and biomedical and enhanced plants.

CSSA fosters the transfer of knowledge through an array of programs and services, including publications, meetings, career services, and science policy initiatives. For more information, visit

Sara Uttech | EurekAlert!
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