David S. Douches

David S. Douches is the Director of the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Interdepartmental Graduate Program at Michigan State University and is the Faculty coordinator for the Michigan State University Montcalm Potato Research Center. David is the principle scientist of the Michigan State University potato breeding and genetics project and co-PI in the North Central Regional Potato Breeding and Genetics project. David is the PI/Director of the multi-institutional USDA/AFRI grant, SolCAP: translational genomics for potato and tomato (2011 USDA Secretary’s Honors Award).

David has over 30 years of experience in potato breeding and genetics, and has directed an active potato breeding program for the development of improved cultivars in Michigan for 25 years. The focus of his program is to develop new cultivars for Michigan’s potato industry by integrating new genetic engineering techniques with conventional breeding efforts.  Key traits targeted for improvement Colorado potato beetle resistance, disease resistance to scab, late blight, PVY, and chip processing from long-term storage.  Numerous lines bred in the program are currently being tested in commercial field trials in Michigan in collaboration with the Michigan Potato Industry Commission. His research lab also provides a potato fingerprint service since 1990. 

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Amy Iezzoni

Amy Iezzoni is a Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Horticulture. Amy is a tart cherry breeder working in several areas of cherry improvement and genetics. She is working to incorporate disease resistance from a wild cherry species into commercially acceptable tart cherry cultivars. Understanding the genetic control of trait variation, is important to Amy’s research program. She currently uses genetic markers to improve fruit quality and predict whether a selection will be self-sterile or self-fertile. 

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Allen Van Deynze

Dr. Allen Van Deynze is the Director of Research at the Seed Biotechnology Center at University of California, Davis. Allen received a BSc. and MSc. degree in plant science from the University of Manitoba, Canada and his Ph. D. in plant breeding from the University of Guelph, Canada.  He did a postdoctorate in molecular genetics at Cornell University in the Dept. of Plant Breeding and Biometry.  Allen worked as a plant breeder for Calgene/Monsanto and Senior Scientist for Celera AgGen where he developed and implemented strategies to incorporate genomics and biotechnology into breeding programs. As part of the SBC’s mission to serve as a liaison between public institutions and seed industry, Allen is responsible for developing, coordinating and conducting research and generating and disseminating scientific and informational content for the Seed Biotechnology Center’s educational and outreach programs. His research focuses on developing and integrating genomics into plant breeding of California crops. He has programs on cotton, lettuce, carrot, spinach, tomato, potato and particularly improving disease resistance and quality in pepper. With Dr. Kent Bradford he co-developed and is organizer for the Plant Breeding Academy and past chair of the US Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee. 

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David Francis

David Francis is a Professor at The Ohio State University in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science.  David is a tomato breeder, developing breeding lines, parents and hybrids for the processing tomato industry. His research group integrates field-based plant breeding with the discovery of sequence variation, and techniques derived from population genetics to identify novel traits and understand how human selection has shaped contemporary plant varieties. 

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Nick Wheeler

Nick Wheeler is a tree breeder with Molecular Tree Breeding Services, LLC, and is an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University.  He has experience as a tree breeder for the British Columbia Ministry of Forests and as an industry scientist for Weyerhaeuser. 

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Fikret Isik

Fikret Isik is an Associate Professor and Associate Director of North Carolina State University Cooperative Tree Improvement Program. Dr. Isik has been awarded with USDA Secretary’s Honor Award, NATO post-doctoral fellowships, and the Turkish Higher Education Council honorary Associate Professor of genetics. He is currently involved in the following areas of research: 1) genomic prediction methods in forest tree breeding and development of tree breeding strategies for genomic era; 2) development of a quantitative model of the pathways and regulation of lignin biosynthesis in poplar and 3) pathogen by pine genotype interactions in the fusiform rust – Pinus taeda pathosystem.

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Ross Whetten

Ross Whetten is an associate professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. He is currently interested in tree improvement and disease management through technology development and application to practical forestry problems. Ross has experience in pine genomics and genetic mapping.

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Barbara Liedl

Barbara Liedl is an Associate Research Professor at West Virginia State University . Barbara is involved in the development of insect and disease resistant tomato for protected culture (greenhouse and high tunnel environments)  Her work also includes investigating reproductive barriers in plants.  In particular, how genes, genomes, and cytoplasms affect and/or interact to prevent or promote fertilization and seed development.

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James Kelly

James Kelly is a Michigan State University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences.  Jim Kelly has been breeding new varieties of beans for more than 30 years.  Currently he is involved in breeding common bean varieties for East Africa, particularly Rwanda, which has the highest per capita bean consumption in the world.  Jim is working to develop bean varieties that are drought tolerant and disease resistant. He has bred and introduced climbing beans to Rwanda, improving yields from a quarter ton per acre to four tons per acre in this country of steep, hilly terrain. He also helps produce educational materials to inform farmers about the new varieties and methods for growing the climbing beans.

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