Improving Efficiency in Breeding Programs
September 12, 2016

The 2016 National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) Annual Meeting was co-hosted by Cotton Incorporated and North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina in August. A record number 275 scientists participated this year. NAPB scientists span both private and public sectors and work in 40+ crops. The purpose of the annual meeting is to foster communication to enable discoveries made in one crop to be shared with scientists working in other crops. For example, discoveries made using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique in large acreage crops such as corn or soybeans will be refined and adapted to improve cotton. Dr. Don Jones, who spearheaded the effort for Cotton Incorporated, said “this is the largest conference of plant breeders in the United States and contributes to faster development of improved varieties and cultivars for the benefit of growers.”

The meeting opened with welcomes from Berrye Worsham, CEO of Cotton Incorporated, and Richard Linton, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NCSU. Over the two days, 16 speakers shared research on topics ranging from the latest developments in genomic selection to high throughput phenotyping, all with a focus on the theme of Improving Efficiency in Breeding Programs. By developing innovative breeding tools, the newest varieties in smaller acreage crops such as potato and tomato are seeing dramatically improved disease tolerance. So too will cotton experience the same improvements once the newest techniques are applied in cotton.

A preconference field tour was held on August 15 in which 140 attendees heard from breeders who highlighted their efforts in six crops important to North Carolina. These crops were cotton, melons, peanut, soybean, sweet potato, and tobacco. Another focus of the annual meeting was graduate student involvement – 30 graduate students presented 1.5 minute lightening summaries of their research and 78 posters were featured during the meeting.

The 2016 NAPB Annual meeting enjoyed hosting three scientists who have strong connections to Australia and US cotton. Dr. Warren Canaty and Dr. Susan Jaconis, CSIRO cotton breeder and post-doctoral scientist, participated in all meeting activities. Each connected with breeders in a host of crops they usually have no interaction with, and more importantly, re-connected with several U.S. based cotton breeders who work on problems of mutual interest such as fiber quality and stress tolerance. The third scientist was Dr. Jenny Clement. She worked as a CSIRO post-doctoral scientist in Narrabri and in the past few weeks started a new position as cotton breeder at Auburn University. While they traveled some 10,000 miles to attend, their participation enhances learning from one another, and in so doing, strengthens cotton breeding to benefit both Australian and U.S. growers.

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