Andy BaumgartenBaumgarten

Received his PhD from Minnesota in 2004 and began working with Pioneer in 2005 at the Mankato, MN location. Andy currently leads the Applied Technologies and Genomics group within Pioneer’s Breeding Technologies department.

Currently, Andy’s group is involved with exploiting the phenotypic and genotypic variation underlying brittlesnap and root lodging, integrating genomic technologies into Plant Breeding, and testing new breeding methodologies.

RibautJean-Marcel Ribaut

 Director of the Generation Challenge Program (GCP), a 10-year initiative of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), is responsible for leading and coordinating a large network of partners in modern crop breeding for food security. Jean-Marcel has cumulative experience in agriculture biotechnology and plant breeding, project and finance management and policy formulation, as well as leadership skills for dispersed global R&D teams. Since December 2014 Jean-Marcel is the Director of the Integrated Breeding Platform: https:/

Jean-Marcel holds a PhD in Plant Physiology from Lausanne University, Switzerland. His scientific background is in plant physiology and genetics, with main research interest being understanding the genetic basis and underlying physiological and metabolic pathways that influence plant performance under abiotic stress– particularly drought – as well as innovations in molecular breeding.

Jean-Marcel has a particular interest in promoting modern breeding methods to hasten crop improvement in the developing world, helping to weave effective and interactive communities of crop researchers at both the global and regional levels, bridging the gap between basic and applied agricultural science. He believes in true partnership and solid capacity building to overcome some of the bottlenecks in R4D, with the developing-country partners as key actors and leaders in the research arena.

Isabelle GoldringerGoldringer

Isabelle Goldringer is a research director at INRA (National Institute of Agronomic Research) in France where she is group leader of the Diversity, Evolution, and Adaptation of Populations team. Using a “middle-term” (25 generations) evolution experiment in wheat, she has developed research in evolutionary genetics applied to subdivided self-pollinating populations with particular focus on the middle-term effects of selection on genetic diversity, and on the adaptive mechanisms involved in response to local selection.

She is also involved in more applied research using our understanding of the mechanisms governing the evolution of the experimental wheat populations to design more efficient modalities for the on farm dynamic management/in situ conservation of the genetic diversity of cultivated species and to set up participatory breeding programs involving farmers’ networks.

She received her Masters in Genetic Resources and Plant Breeding and her PhD at the Institut National Agronomique – Paris-Grignon

SmithOscar Howie Smith

Oscar ‘Howie’ Smith was born and raised in Maine. Howie received a BS degree from the University of Maine at Orono and graduate degrees from North Carolina State University in Horticultural Science (vegetable breeding). From 1977-1983, he was employed by the USDA on the maize breeding project stationed at Iowa State University. During this time he did theoretical and field research on quantitative genetics as applied to maize improvement.

In 1984 Howie joined Pioneer Hi-Bred International (now owned by DuPont) as a research statistician. He retired from DuPont-Pioneer in 2007 as a Research Fellow in the Product Development Department. When he retired he was responsible for a group that did research on the application of genomic information to product development programs.  This included using genomic information to develop aids to selection, product performance prediction tools, and methodology and tools for germplasm characterization. From 2008-2013 he worked as a consultant to DuPont-Pioneer during which he authored and internal e-book on the history and development of Pioneer elite worldwide germplasm.

SperlingLouise Sperling

Has been Principal Researcher at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) for several decades and recently joined Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as Senior Technical Advisor focusing on more vulnerable populations. She has managed and technically backstopped seed-related programs in 25+ countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, covering a wide range of crops (cereals, legumes, VPCs) and supporting designs that can reach real scale (for example The Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance delivered new bean varieties to 18.3 million farmers in 10 years).  Sperling’s work encompasses ‘normal’ smallholder farmer systems as well as high stress;  e.g. she led assessment missions during the 1983-85 east African drought, after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, post-earthquake in Haiti and, most recently, linked with the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Consulting for many agencies (USAID/OFDA, the UN system, the World Bank, Rockefeller, northern and southern NGOs), Sperling has authored over seventy articles,  inter alia: Integrating Seed Systems (with Sara Boettiger and Ian Barker for Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, 2014) ; Making seed systems more resilient (Global Environmental Change 2013, McGuire and Sperling) and Understanding and strengthening informal seed markets (Experimental Agriculture 2010: Sperling and McGuire) and Moving towards more effective seed aid (Journal of Development Studies 2008, Sperling, Cooper and Remington).  A new website, shares practical and policy advice for those intervening in smallholder farmer acute and chronic stress contexts.

Zamir.sentDani Zamir

Plant breeders are challenged with sustaining global crop improvements. Is there a limit to crop yield? The Zamir lab is addressing this question using our favorite crop – processing tomatoes. By integrating in a single web-based platform a broad germplasm base, deep ontology defined phenotypes, and multiple genome sequences we identify genes and mechanisms that dictate crop productivity. Our integrated breeding efforts unite classical and genomics assisted methods to demonstrate that yield barriers are only there to be broken.


This year we are pleased to have two student talks. After receiving several abstracts, we selected the student speakers for this year.

Wilkus_ProfilePhotoErin Wilkus

Erin Wilkus is a doctoral candidate and lab member of the Crop Evolution, Domestication, and Biodiversity Lab run by Paul Gepts at the University of California, Davis. She conducts research and analysis to understand how agricultural development initiatives impact farmer goals and in situ crop genetic diversity. Her current dissertation research focuses on Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) production and evaluates the impact of cooperative membership and participatory plant breeding programs on adoption rates, bean crop genetic diversity and their utility among smallholder bean farmers in Uganda.

She also collaborates with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) where she is a visiting scholar that evaluates nutritional outcomes of bean value-chains in Uganda as part of their Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) Program.

Erin worked for five years with smallholder farmers to improve resource use efficiency in rural South Africa before she received her Masters degree in International Agricultural Development from the University of California Davis. Erin has been working with farmers in Hoima, Uganda since August of 2013.

tysonTyson Howell

Tyson Howell received his bachelors degree in biotechnology from UC Davis in 2009, after which he worked as a lab technician for a year in Luca Comai’s lab helping to develop TILLING by sequencing methods for introducing novel genetic variation in plants. In 2011 he joined Jorge Dubcovsky’s lab, where he has been working to characterize drought resistance conferred by an alien chromosome introgression from rye into wheat, from the field level down to the molecular level.