Tuesday, August 8


KAREN ROSS was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture on January 12, 2011, by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Secretary Ross has deep leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally, and here in California. Prior to joining CDFA, Secretary Ross was chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a position she accepted in 2009. Prior to that appointment, she served as President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers from 1996- 2009, and as Vice-President of the Agricultural Council of California from 1989-1996. Before moving to California, Secretary Ross served as Director of Government Relations for the Nebraska Rural Electric Association and as Field Representative for U.S. Senator Edward Zorinsky.

Secretary Ross is passionate about fostering the reconnection of consumers to the land and the people who produce their food, and to improving the access of all California citizens to healthy, nutritious California-grown agricultural products, celebrated for their diversity and abundance in serving local, national and global markets.

During Secretary Ross’ tenure, the Department has focused on core functions to protect and promote California agriculture in a time of significant budget reductions, and it has emphasized change-management to position the agency to more effectively and efficiently serve its stakeholders in meeting the challenges of the 21st Century.

Secretary Ross has strengthened partnerships across government, academia and the non-profit sector in the drive to maintain and improve environmental stewardship and to develop adaptation strategies for the specific impacts of climate change. She has initiated programs to provide greater opportunities for farmers and ranchers to engage in sustainable environmental stewardship practices through water conservation, energy efficiency, nutrient management and ecosystem services.

Secretary Ross grew up as a 4-H kid on a farm in western Nebraska. She and her husband, Barry, own 800 acres of the family farm where her younger brother, a fourth-generation farmer, grows dryland wheat, feed grains and cattle. The Secretary has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a graduate of the Nebraska Ag Leadership Program. She has served on numerous boards and committees in California agriculture and with various academic institutions.


Utilization of Induced Mutations in Polyploid Wheat to Reveal Hidden Genetic Variability

The major goals of Dr. Dubcovsky’s program are to gain a better understanding of the effects of allelic variants of whet genes that are relevant to agriculture and to develop the tools required for an efficient manipulation of these genes in wheat improvement. His program integrates a broad range of research projects that include whole genome studies, mapping, positional cloning, marker-assisted selection, and a traditional breeding program. This integration has provided Dr. Dubcovsky’s program the ability to discover and deploy new genes or gene variants into commercial wheat varieties. Dr. Dubcovsky has published >225 peer reviewed papers that have been referred >12,500 times. He released 16 wheat cultivars (5 in and 60 improved germplasm and trained 25 PhD students and 9 MS students. Recent accomplishments of Dr. Dubcovsky’s program are the cloning of the genes that control wheat flowering, frost tolerance, stripe and stem rust resistance, and increased levels of proteins in the grain. He recently generated 10 million sequenced mutations in pasta and bread wheat that can be used to generate loss-of-function mutations in >90% of the wheat genes. Dr. Dubcovsky has lead large consortiums of wheat Public breeding programs for the last 17 years that received multiple awards from USDA. Dr. Dubcovsky was elected as a member of the National Academy of Science in 2013 and in 2014 received the Wolf world prize in Agriculture


Wheat Breeding: Lessons I Have Learned

Brett Carver is a regents professor at Oklahoma State University and holder of the wheat genetics chair in agriculture, a faculty position endowed by a local wheat miller, a grain cooperative, and a state wheat research foundation. Dr. Carver has directed a winter wheat breeding and genetics research program for 32 years. He is past chair of the National Wheat Improvement Committee and currently serves on the Wheat Foods Council Advisory Board. Carver has authored or co-authored 150 refereed papers and invited contributions. Since 2001, Carver has released 23 wheat varieties, including Endurance, Duster, and Gallagher, which have led all varieties in acres planted in Oklahoma since 2010. He is the editor of Wheat: Science and Trade, a comprehensive reference book for graduate students, wheat researchers, processors, and practitioners. Carver was named recipient of Governor Fallin’s Outstanding Public Service in Agriculture Award for 2016 and is Fellow of ASA and CSSA. He earned a B.S. degree from the University of Georgia in 1980, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from North Carolina State University, where he conducted research in soybean physiology and genetics under the direction of Drs. Rich Wilson and Joe Burton.


Application of UAVs to Increase Genetic Gain

Dr. Jesse Poland is an Assistant Professor at Kansas State University, Director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics and Associate Director of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center. Research in Dr. Poland’s group is focused on wheat genetics, genomics and germplasm improvement. They are currently developing new approaches in quantitative genetics, genomics and high-throughput phenotyping for use in breeding, diversity studies, and association genetics. In collaboration with public breeding programs, Dr. Poland is implementing the use of genomic selection methods to accelerate wheat breeding. In the area of germplasm development, Dr. Poland’s group is focused on developing new breeding lines with resistance to the major pests of wheat including stem rust, stripe rust, leaf rust and Hessian Fly and understanding the genetic basis of these traits. To compliment advances in genomics, Dr. Poland’s lab is developing high-throughput phenotyping approaches for field-based evaluation of breeding lines with the primary focus being genetic characterization of heat and drought tolerance and development of improved germplasm.

Dr. Poland currently supervises six graduate students, six post-doctoral scholars and sits on the graduate committees of students at Kansas State University and at Colorado State University, where he holds affiliate faculty status.

Wednesday, August 9



Julie Dawson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She leads a project with other plant breeders to test vegetable varieties with local farmers and chefs, focused on breeding for flavor and quality in local food systems. Prior to UW Madison, she worked on organic and participatory wheat breeding in Washington, France and New York, and on testing genomic selection of wheat for marginal environments. Her research interests include improving breeding methods to select for quality, and methods to increase our ability to use genetic resources for new environments, production systems and traits.


Dr. Phil Simon is a USDA, ARS Research Geneticist and Professor of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His research in vegetable genetics and breeding has focused on fresh market carrot improvement, targeting improved flavor and nutritional quality, nematode, disease and abiotic stress resistance, and genetic mapping of these and other traits. He leads the USDA breeding effort in the development of widely used carrot germplasm with improved flavor and nutritional value, novel purple color, and root-knot nematode resistance. To complement his breeding effort, along with students and collaborators, he has developed breeding tools, including co-leadership in the sequencing of the carrot genome, and he has collected carrot, Allium, and other vegetable germplasm in ten collecting expeditions. Phil has undertaken related plant breeding research including the first production of true seed in garlic, and the development of cucumber and melon germplasm with orange color and elevated carotene content.

Phil’s early career efforts focused on developing screening methods to breed for sweeter, less harsh carrot flavor, and high carotene carrots as an improved source of vitamin A. His release of purple carrot germplasm in the 1990’s provided a foundation for the re-introduction of novel carrot colors into modern US markets. He leads the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project to combine improved flavor and nutritional value in a range of carrot colors, with disease and pest resistance and also with larger tops for better weed competitiveness. He has supervised the training of over 30 graduate students, is a Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science, recipient of the ASHS Vegetable Breeding Award, the National Association of Plant Breeders Lifetime Achievement Award, and of an Honorary Doctorate from the Agricultural University of Krakow, Poland. He is a past chair of the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee.


And I Get Paid to Be a Plant Breeder:  40 Years of Pure Fun

P. (Peter) Stephen Baenziger earned degrees from Harvard and Purdue Universities. Before joining the faculty at the University of Ne­braska, he worked eight years for the USDA-ARS, and three years with Monsanto Corporation. His research focuses on improving the agronomic performance and winterhardiness of small grains and on developing new breeding methods. He has co­released 47 cultivars and 36 germplasm lines or populations.   His teaching and service activities emphasize graduate education and outreach in plant breeding and genetics, as well as, leadership roles in numerous scientific societies, international centers, and initiatives.


Germplasm Morgue or Gold Mine? Enhancing the Value of Plant Genetic Resource Collections for Plant Breeding

Dr. Pat Byrne is a professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University, where he teaches and conducts research in plant breeding, genetics, and biotechnology. His research focuses on the genetics of drought tolerance and bread making quality in wheat and disease resistance in dry beans. He has done extensive outreach on the benefits and risks of genetically engineered crops. Before coming to CSU in 1997, Dr. Byrne worked for USDA-ARS in Columbia, Missouri, and for agricultural development agencies in Mexico, West Africa, and Nepal.