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Title: Educating the Next Generation of Plant Breeders: The Need and the Challenge

item BAENZIGER, P - University Of Nebraska
item Simon, Philipp
item WEHNER, T - North Carolina State University

Submitted to: Society for Advancement of Breeding Researches in Asia and Oceania
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/2/2009
Publication Date: 8/10/2009
Citation: Baenziger, P.S., Simon, P.W., Wehner, T.C. 2009. Educating the Next Generation of Plant Breeders: The Need and the Challenge. Society for Advancement of Breeding Researches in Asia and Oceania. 14:1-10.

Interpretive Summary: Plant breeding is the science of crop improvement using the genetic variation of crop plants, their relatives, and in some cases genes from other organisms, combined with the process of selecting plants in agricultural production systems over generations of plant reproduction with the goal of providing growers, processors, and consumers with crops of more value to them. The number of plant breeders being trained at universities has been declining in recent decades around the world in spite of an increased need for global plant breeding at universities, and in both government and non-government research programs. Globally, the capacity for universities to train plant breeders is diminished and U.S. programs have also had declining numbers of students and plant breeding programs, but efforts are underway to reverse this trend, including both increasing the numbers of students trained as well as broadening the training to provide students with new technological and management tools and skills useful for them to be successful plant breeders.

Technical Abstract: Plant breeding is critical to the future of productive agriculture, food security, and economic prosperity. Increasingly, many plant breeders are working in industry or governmental agencies that do not include education of the next generation of plant breeders as part of their mission. At the same time, many educational institutions lack resources and programs of sufficient size and scope to adequately educate/expose students to applied plant breeding. Furthermore the technology of plant breeding is changing, so established plant breeders need ongoing opportunities to develop new skills to take advantage of the new tools such as genomics. Two key questions facing our science are: 1. Do we have the capacity to educate the numbers of plant breeders that will be needed in the future? Do we have the approaches to continue to educate modern plant breeders in these changing times? Globally, in many developed and developing countries, it appears that the answer to both questions is “no”. However, both questions are being asked by so many companies, non-governmental organizations, governmental agencies, and universities that we can reasonably predict that a consensus on the need and challenges for plant breeding education is forming with the expectation that the capacity and approaches will be developed. Just as the science of plant breeding is rapidly changing, so should be educational approaches to educating plant breeders. The diversity of approaches will include internships at major companies and international centers, the establishment of virtual and single location educational centers, systematic life-long learning, and a much more fluid workforce that moves globally and from private to public sector positions seamlessly. The education will necessarily be broad since it must prepare students for positions that simply do not occur today.