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Academy Aims to Train Global Cadre of Plant Breeders

September 9, 2008

An international group of working professionals from 10 different countries is getting a jump on the fall quarter at UC Davis, arriving early to begin the second class of the Plant Breeding Academy, designed by the campus's Seed Biotechnology Center.

The center developed the academy in direct response to industry concerns over a decline in the number of plant breeders being trained in academic programs. The academy was designed to enable companies to provide their employees with formal instruction in genetics, statistics and plant breeding theory, while they remain in their current jobs.

"Overall, this course is invaluable to me in that I am able to maintain my full-time, great job, and gain this knowledge without having to become a full time student," wrote academy graduate Peter Martini.

The 23 participants, from as far away as Africa, Australia, Chile and Europe, will spend more than 300 hours in classes, workshops and the field. The two-year professional development program, which includes six weeklong sessions at UC Davis, offers advanced training to prepare these students to become independent plant breeders.

After the first week, which ends Saturday, Sept. 13, participants will return to their home companies or research institutions to continue studying and put their new skills into practice. They are slated to come back to UC Davis for one-week classes in February and again in June, with a similar program scheduled for the second year of the academy.

Now welcoming its second class, the academy hosted its inaugural class of 15 students from three countries between September 2006 and June 2008. Upon completing the program, students received a certificate and 19 units of academic credit. They should be equipped to work as independent plant breeders or direct regional plant-breeding programs.

Academy courses are taught by internationally recognized plant breeders Doug Shaw and Larry Teuber, both of UC Davis, and Todd Wehner from North Carolina State University, with guest lecturers speaking on their specific areas of expertise.

Coursework covers all aspects of plant breeding, including genetics; statistics; single-trait selection; recombination and population development; resistance breeding; genotype by environment interactions; biotechnology; data management; finishing varieties; and seed production, conditioning and storage. Each student designs a breeding program as a final project for the academy.

More information about the academy program can be found online at: http://pba.ucdavis.edu.

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