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Sponsors

Speakers

Geoff Graham
Vice President, Hybrid Crop Product Development, DuPont Pioneer

Geoff Graham

Geoff Graham is vice president, Hybrid Crop Product Development, for DuPont Pioneer.

Geoff leads global breeding for all hybrid crops (canola, corn, rice, sorghum, sunflower, and wheat). In 2000, Geoff joined Pioneer as a research scientist.

Since that time he has held a number of roles with increasing responsibility including director of Molecular Breeding, senior director of North America Maize Product Development, senior director for Americas Maize Product Development, and most recently as vice president for Americas Maize Product Development.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy and master’s degree in genetics and plant breeding from the University of Minnesota. He then earned his doctorate in genetics and plant breeding from North Carolina State University

Brian Steffenson
University of Minnesota

Brian Steffenson

My main research interests include disease resistance in cereal crops, genetic diversity in the wild crop progenitors, host-parasite genetics, and virulence/molecular diversity in plant pathogenic fungi.

As the Lieberman-Okinow Endowed Chair, my primary mission is to identify, characterize, and utilize genes from wild species for the enhancement and improvement of wheat, barley, oat, and rye.

Small grain cereals were first domesticated from their wild progenitors over 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and have undergone strong selection pressure from the time of early domestication through modern plant breeding, resulting in the loss of genetic diversity.

To make future gains in yield, quality, and disease resistance, plant scientists must exploit the genetic diversity that exists in the wild species.

We are developing large collections of wild cereal species from across their natural range and are evaluating them for economically important traits.

Molecular mapping studies are then conducted on these wild accessions to determine the number, chromosomal location, and effect of loci contributing to these traits, especially disease resistance.

We are also involved in collaborative projects to clone disease resistance genes using a map-based approach. The stem rust resistance genes Rpg1, rpg4, RpgQ were recently isolated from barley by this means. We are now studying the mechanism and expression of these resistance genes in barley.


Knowledge concerning the variability of cereal pathogens is important in our efforts to control plant diseases through deployment of resistant cultivars. Toward this end, we are studying the virulence and molecular diversity of several fungal pathogens of wheat and barley. We also have projects focused on elucidating the genetics and molecular basis of virulence in the spot blotch pathogen (Cochliobolus sativus) and the leaf rust pathogen (Puccinia hordei).

Website link

Yves Van de Peer
Ghent University

Yves Van de Peer

As an evolutionary biologist and a bioinformatician, I'm interested in using bioinformatics approaches to study the evolution of organisms, genes and genomes.

Regarding genome structure and evolution (which forms a major part of our research), I'm particularly interested in the study of gene and genome duplications as well as in the evolution of novel gene functions after duplication.

Gene duplication events have been considered important mechanisms that facilitated the increasing complexity of organisms and also speciation because they might have permitted functional diversification of genes, created complex gene families and generally increased genomic and phenotypic complexity.

However, great controversy still exists about how and how fast duplicated genes evolve new functions. Another point of discussion is whether most gene duplications are the result of local (e.g., tandem) gene duplications or of large-scale gene or even entire genome duplication events.

Although the number of sequence data that can provide us with answers to the questions raised above increases at a fast rate, the interpretation of the data and mapping and interpreting (large scale) gene duplication events remains often difficult. For example, typically, developmental control genes belong to multigene families and, more often than not, the evolutionary relationships within these gene families in comparative developmental studies are unknown and potentially complex.

Also the elucidation of the exact relationships between gene family members therefore forms part of our research. For a more comprehensive overview of my research interests, I'd like to point to our research section.

Website link

Geoff Graham

Geoff Graham is vice president, Hybrid Crop Product Development, for DuPont Pioneer.

Geoff leads global breeding for all hybrid crops (canola, corn, rice, sorghum, sunflower, and wheat). In 2000, Geoff joined Pioneer as a research scientist.

Since that time he has held a number of roles with increasing responsibility including director of Molecular Breeding, senior director of North America Maize Product Development, senior director for Americas Maize Product Development, and most recently as vice president for Americas Maize Product Development.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy and master’s degree in genetics and plant breeding from the University of Minnesota. He then earned his doctorate in genetics and plant breeding from North Carolina State University

Brian Steffenson

My main research interests include disease resistance in cereal crops, genetic diversity in the wild crop progenitors, host-parasite genetics, and virulence/molecular diversity in plant pathogenic fungi.

As the Lieberman-Okinow Endowed Chair, my primary mission is to identify, characterize, and utilize genes from wild species for the enhancement and improvement of wheat, barley, oat, and rye.

Small grain cereals were first domesticated from their wild progenitors over 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and have undergone strong selection pressure from the time of early domestication through modern plant breeding, resulting in the loss of genetic diversity.

To make future gains in yield, quality, and disease resistance, plant scientists must exploit the genetic diversity that exists in the wild species.

We are developing large collections of wild cereal species from across their natural range and are evaluating them for economically important traits.

Molecular mapping studies are then conducted on these wild accessions to determine the number, chromosomal location, and effect of loci contributing to these traits, especially disease resistance.

We are also involved in collaborative projects to clone disease resistance genes using a map-based approach. The stem rust resistance genes Rpg1, rpg4, RpgQ were recently isolated from barley by this means. We are now studying the mechanism and expression of these resistance genes in barley.


Knowledge concerning the variability of cereal pathogens is important in our efforts to control plant diseases through deployment of resistant cultivars. Toward this end, we are studying the virulence and molecular diversity of several fungal pathogens of wheat and barley. We also have projects focused on elucidating the genetics and molecular basis of virulence in the spot blotch pathogen (Cochliobolus sativus) and the leaf rust pathogen (Puccinia hordei).

Website link

Yves Van de Peer

As an evolutionary biologist and a bioinformatician, I'm interested in using bioinformatics approaches to study the evolution of organisms, genes and genomes.

Regarding genome structure and evolution (which forms a major part of our research), I'm particularly interested in the study of gene and genome duplications as well as in the evolution of novel gene functions after duplication.

Gene duplication events have been considered important mechanisms that facilitated the increasing complexity of organisms and also speciation because they might have permitted functional diversification of genes, created complex gene families and generally increased genomic and phenotypic complexity.

However, great controversy still exists about how and how fast duplicated genes evolve new functions. Another point of discussion is whether most gene duplications are the result of local (e.g., tandem) gene duplications or of large-scale gene or even entire genome duplication events.

Although the number of sequence data that can provide us with answers to the questions raised above increases at a fast rate, the interpretation of the data and mapping and interpreting (large scale) gene duplication events remains often difficult. For example, typically, developmental control genes belong to multigene families and, more often than not, the evolutionary relationships within these gene families in comparative developmental studies are unknown and potentially complex.

Also the elucidation of the exact relationships between gene family members therefore forms part of our research. For a more comprehensive overview of my research interests, I'd like to point to our research section.

Website link

Renée Prins
University of the Free State (CenGen Affiliation)

Renée Prins

Her fields of competency are molecular genetics, cytogenetics and plant breeding with knowledge in the fields of tissue culture and plant pathology.

Her research focus gradually shifted from traditional wheat breeding to molecular genetics with an emphasis on the identification and mapping of DNA markers for useful wheat genes and facilitating the implementation of DNA technology in plant breeding programs (e.g. the identification an AFLP marker for Lr19 and its conversion to a STS marker).

RP focus on mapping adult plant (durable) resistance genes and the use of marker-assisted selection to transfer these useful genes/ QTL to wheat breeding lines. RP is also involved in the first table grape mapping project in South Africa in which the map positions of a downy and powdery mildew resistance genes and the DNA markers associated with it, have been validated. In her capacity as CenGen she focuses on the implementation of DNA technology in agriculture and is at present working on a variety of crop plants.
CenGen:

Founded a company (2003/012305/07) that offers various services to plant breeders, producers and agricultural related industries. The focus is to implement and utilise high-throughput DNA technologies in various applications involving crop plants and fungi (e.g. wheat, barley, maize, grapevine, apples and truffles).

Applications include Cultivar identity determinations and purity testing using DNA fingerprinting techniques,
Confirmation of presence or absence of specific genes to assist in selection of breeding lines (marker-assisted selection) or support decision to release line for cultivation and Confirmation of correct species’ identity in the case of Tuber (truffles) before inoculating trees for truffle production.

CenGen is also involved in Research and Development through involvement in various academic research projects either as project leader, co-project leader or head of molecular team in project.

Website Link

Dave Berger
University of Pretoria

Dave Berger

My research aims to gain a better understanding of the molecular dialogue between plants and pathogens with the long term goal of developing sustainable strategies to control crop diseases of relevance in Africa.

The MPPI research group investigates two pathosystems, grey leaf spot disease in maize and bacterial wilt in the model plant Arabidopsis.

We implement a range of approaches from whole plant phenotyping to genomics to investigate these systems.

The MPPI Group is located in the Plant Sciences Complex at the University of Pretoria. The group is part of the Department of Plant Science and FABI and is headed by myself. Research focuses on the molecular basis of plant-pathogen interactions and the mechanisms of plant defence using a range of approaches from whole plant phenotyping to functional genomics, as well as developing bioinformatics tools. The MPPI group has particular experience in transcriptomics using microarrays and is now increasingly using RNAseq.

One of the two major research projects in the MPPI laboratory involves maize, the staple food of sub-Saharan Africa. We are interested in understanding mechanisms underlying quantitative disease resistance in maize to grey leaf spot (GLS) disease. GLS is an important constraint to maize production in many maize growing regions of the world, particularly in Africa.

We collaborate with maize breeders and field pathologists to understand the disease in its Agricultural context, which gives postgraduate students the opportunity to temporarily "escape" from the lab. Apart from glasshouse bioassays, the MPPI group is employing genomics, such as high density molecular markers, and transcriptomics to study maize defence mechanisms against GLS, with the long term aim to develop tools for maize improvement, such as marker assisted selection.

The MPPI group, together with the Cereal Foliar Pathogen Research Group (CFPRG) in FABI, is also elucidating pathogenicity strategies employed by Cercospora zeina, the causal agent of GLS. We are taking a comparative genomics approach, through whole genome sequencing of C. zeina isolates. The research is followed up using functional genomics tools developed in the CFPRG. In addition, we are carrying out genetic diversity studies of C.zeina.

Website link

Rikus Kloppers
PANNAR

Renée Prins

Her fields of competency are molecular genetics, cytogenetics and plant breeding with knowledge in the fields of tissue culture and plant pathology.

Her research focus gradually shifted from traditional wheat breeding to molecular genetics with an emphasis on the identification and mapping of DNA markers for useful wheat genes and facilitating the implementation of DNA technology in plant breeding programs (e.g. the identification an AFLP marker for Lr19 and its conversion to a STS marker).

RP focus on mapping adult plant (durable) resistance genes and the use of marker-assisted selection to transfer these useful genes/ QTL to wheat breeding lines. RP is also involved in the first table grape mapping project in South Africa in which the map positions of a downy and powdery mildew resistance genes and the DNA markers associated with it, have been validated. In her capacity as CenGen she focuses on the implementation of DNA technology in agriculture and is at present working on a variety of crop plants.
CenGen:

Founded a company (2003/012305/07) that offers various services to plant breeders, producers and agricultural related industries. The focus is to implement and utilise high-throughput DNA technologies in various applications involving crop plants and fungi (e.g. wheat, barley, maize, grapevine, apples and truffles).

Applications include Cultivar identity determinations and purity testing using DNA fingerprinting techniques,
Confirmation of presence or absence of specific genes to assist in selection of breeding lines (marker-assisted selection) or support decision to release line for cultivation and Confirmation of correct species’ identity in the case of Tuber (truffles) before inoculating trees for truffle production.

CenGen is also involved in Research and Development through involvement in various academic research projects either as project leader, co-project leader or head of molecular team in project.

Website Link

Rikus Kloppers

Rikus Kloppers leads PANNAR SEED’s, biotechnology, pathology and crop services responsible for providing strategic direction for marketing, advising on major diseases of various agronomic crops and supporting the breeders in their respective breeding programmes.

He also serves on the new PANNAR SEED leadership team. In addition, Rikus advises PANNAR on plant pest-/disease-related matters, identifying new risks, dealing with phytosanitary matters and as an extension plant pathologist advises farmers to find practical solutions to manage disease risk.

Rikus has over 26 year’s agricultural research experience and in various academic roles including lecturing and supervising postgraduate students. He has authored and co-authored many publications, and has made scientific contributions at multiple national and international congresses and workshops.

Rikus is a member of various scientific societies (including the South African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP), Plant Breeding Society of SA (SAPBA) and the American Phytopathological Society (APS). He was awarded the SA Agricultural Writers Agriculturist of the Year for KZN for 2012 and one of seven finalists for National Agriculturist of the year.

Rikus is a graduate from the University of the Free State where he received his BSc Agric, BSc Agric Hons, MSc Agric and PhD degrees in Plant Pathology. After careers in research at the ARC Potchefstroom, he lectured at the University of the Free State. He joined PANNAR’s research team in 1998 and has been based in Greytown, for the past 15 years.

Dave Berger

My research aims to gain a better understanding of the molecular dialogue between plants and pathogens with the long term goal of developing sustainable strategies to control crop diseases of relevance in Africa.

The MPPI research group investigates two pathosystems, grey leaf spot disease in maize and bacterial wilt in the model plant Arabidopsis.

We implement a range of approaches from whole plant phenotyping to genomics to investigate these systems.

The MPPI Group is located in the Plant Sciences Complex at the University of Pretoria. The group is part of the Department of Plant Science and FABI and is headed by myself. Research focuses on the molecular basis of plant-pathogen interactions and the mechanisms of plant defence using a range of approaches from whole plant phenotyping to functional genomics, as well as developing bioinformatics tools. The MPPI group has particular experience in transcriptomics using microarrays and is now increasingly using RNAseq.

One of the two major research projects in the MPPI laboratory involves maize, the staple food of sub-Saharan Africa. We are interested in understanding mechanisms underlying quantitative disease resistance in maize to grey leaf spot (GLS) disease. GLS is an important constraint to maize production in many maize growing regions of the world, particularly in Africa.

We collaborate with maize breeders and field pathologists to understand the disease in its Agricultural context, which gives postgraduate students the opportunity to temporarily "escape" from the lab. Apart from glasshouse bioassays, the MPPI group is employing genomics, such as high density molecular markers, and transcriptomics to study maize defence mechanisms against GLS, with the long term aim to develop tools for maize improvement, such as marker assisted selection.

The MPPI group, together with the Cereal Foliar Pathogen Research Group (CFPRG) in FABI, is also elucidating pathogenicity strategies employed by Cercospora zeina, the causal agent of GLS. We are taking a comparative genomics approach, through whole genome sequencing of C. zeina isolates. The research is followed up using functional genomics tools developed in the CFPRG. In addition, we are carrying out genetic diversity studies of C.zeina.

Website link

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