Dupont fellowship funds will help address a critical shortage of plant breeders

Beginning in 2008, the UW-Madison’s Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program will receive $60,000 annually from DuPont’s Pioneer Hybrid seed business to support two new graduate fellowships.

The funding will help the university address a critical shortage of Ph.D. level plant breeders, says Bill Tracy, chairman of the UW-Madison agronomy department.

“It shows that the industry realizes that plant breeding is a top need in terms of research training,” he says.

“It is also an indication of the industry’s recognition that our program is one of the leading programs in the country. The five schools that are receiving these fellowships are the top plant breeding programs in the country,” he adds.

The UW-Madison’s Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program leads the nation in the number of Ph.D. students trained over the past 20 years. There are currently about 50 graduate students enrolled in the interdisciplinary program, which includes faculty from the departments of agronomy, biochemistry, botany, forest and wildlife ecology, genetics, horticulture, plant pathology and statistics.

Dupont was motivated to fund the fellowships because the company sees a critical need to train new researchers in the area of plant breeding, says William Niebur, the firm’s vice president for crop genetics research and development.

“University plant breeding programs are declining, and industry experts anticipate a shortfall of plant breeders with Ph.D.-level training in the coming decade. We need to identify and support students who have the interest, abilities and passion necessary to become the next generation of plant breeders,” Niebur says.