The Impact of Plant Breeding

November 8, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee, comprised of 38 land-grant universities, is raising awareness of issues in plant breeding that can affect global food security, agricultural productivity and environmental health.

Plant breeding is essential for developing plant varieties for food, biofuels, fiber and animal feed that meet the challenges of rapid population growth, extreme climate events, and changing availability of land and water. However, investments in public plant breeding have decreased over the past decade, which has resulted in a decline in public plant breeders and public breeding programs.

“Private breeding programs focus largely on crops that are valuable to specific companies or industries, but public plant breeding has a much longer term, wider impact. It affects everything from farming and gardening to biofuels and textiles to your health and environment,” said Eric Young, project advisor.

In 2008, committee members founded the first ever professional organization for plant breeders, The National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB). Since then, the NAPB has improved communication among both public and private sector plant breeders working with many different kinds of plants.

In addition, the committee raises awareness by educating students, the general public and the government on the effects of plant breeding issues.

“Educating the next generation is essential to maintaining our capacity for plant breeding,” says Ann Marie Thro, NIFA advisor. “Students are the future of plant breeding, and we’ve found that through hands-on experience in public breeding programs, they can gain the practical skills necessary to succeed in the plant breeding industry.”

With access to better plant breeding infrastructure, training and technological advances, public breeding programs will continue to support food security, healthy populations, environmental health and sustainability for all.

The land-grant universities cooperating with the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee include:

  • University of Georgia
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Nebraska
  • Clemson University
  • University of Tennessee
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Rhode Island
  • Colorado State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • North Dakota State University
  • Oklahoma State University
  • University of Arkansas
  • Cornell University
  • New Mexico State University
  • Michigan State University
  • Iowa State University
  • University of California, Davis
  • Ohio State University
  • Utah State University
  • Washington State University
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Florida
  • West Virginia State University
  • Southern Illinois University
  • Texas AgriLife Extension Service
  • Auburn University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Oregon State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Idaho
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA Tech)
  • Mississippi State University
  • University of Puerto Rico

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Agriculture is America is a national communications initiative to promote research and news from land-grant universities in the United States. The agriculture industry – sustained in large part by the American land-grant university system through Colleges of Agriculture, Agricultural Experiment Stations, and Cooperative Extension – is integral to jobs, national security, and health. To learn more, visit

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