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Title: What is the state of public cultivar development?

item Carter Jr, Thomas
item TRACY, WILLIAM - University Of Wisconsin
item SINCLAIR, THOMAS - North Carolina State University
item ISLEIB, THOMAS - North Carolina State University
item JOOST, RICHARD - United Soybean Board

Submitted to: Summit on Seeds and Breeds for 21st Century Agriculture Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/31/2014
Publication Date: 10/5/2014
Citation: Carter Jr, T.E., Tracy, W.F., Sinclair, T.R., Isleib, T.G., Joost, R. 2014. What is the state of public cultivar development? Summit on Seeds and Breeds for 21st Century Agriculture Proceedings; published online at--

Interpretive Summary: Numerous papers have reported what is common knowledge among public and private breeders. The number of public plant breeders has decreased markedly over the past several decades. In this presentation, we report the results of a recent survey of public breeding programs, present case studies for public breeding in three crops, and describe factors which may be affect the sustainability of current public breeding programs. Lastly, trends in “whole plant” or crop physiology are compared to public breeding for “lessons learned” that may aid in the sustainability of public plant breeding.

Technical Abstract: We surveyed all land grant universities in 2013 and found that the number of cultivar development programs decreased by 31% over the past 20 years. This is an alarming trend that causes plant breeders to assess the need for continued public plant breeding. The strongest argument for continuation of public breeding programs, regardless of the crop, is the long ‘arc of research’ required to solve many of the toughest breeding problems, where the path from the first discovery of appropriate parental stocks to final deployment of high yielding varieties can take decades. Examples are soybean nematode resistance and drought resistance. Without the long view inherent to public plant breeding, and the public plant breeding infrastructure to address novel and emerging threats, the nation's and world's food supply is at risk. We recommend that public breeders critically examine the factors enhancing the sustainability of their profession and vigorously pursue crop-specific as well as national options to enhance public plant breeding. Increased financial and stakeholder support, in whatever form they may take, are essential to the future of public plant breeding.