April 2020 20 Most Innovative Breeders in the European Seed Sector in 2019

20 Most Innovative Breeders in the European Seed Sector in 2019

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Dear readers of European Seed,

With each meal you eat and with each snack you take, you are enjoying the work of plant breeders. They are the ones that come up with new plant varieties day after day, year after year. They develop new plant varieties that have a higher yield, more resistance against pests and diseases, better drought tolerance, more proteins, higher levels of beneficial compounds such as vitamins, or just make it easier for the farmer to harvest the crops. And these are just a few of the breeding goals that plant breeders work on. If we only look at Europe, in 2019, a little over 3500 new plant varieties were applied at the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO). That is almost 10 new plant varieties per day!! that are added to the plate for farmers to grow and for consumers to enjoy.

In order to shine some light on our European’s plant breeders, we asked all national seed associations in Europe, and many other peers in the European seed sector to send us their lists of who in their eyes were the most innovative breeders of last year.

I am sure there are many names that come top-of-mind and rightly so, as many breeders should be recognized for their contributions and hopefully their organizations give them their due. However, some individuals jump out as having a bigger impact, and those are the breeders who caught our eye. And this list of the ’20 most innovative breeders in the European Seed Sector in 2019’, we’re trying to put the spotlight on exactly those creative minds.

As in previous years, you will again find a few lines of text per innovative plant breeder, explaining in a nutshell what their key contribution(s) have been in the past year(s), and why that person should be on the list. And of course, there will always be breeders who you think should have been on the list, and perhaps question why others did actually make it on there. We very much welcome and look forward to any feedback you wish to share. You have standing invitation to share your feedback as to who you think should have been on the list, and why.

And the next time you enjoy a healthy meal, not only thank the farmers, but also thank the plant breeders.

We hope you enjoy the list and look forward to your feedback.

Marcel Bruins

It is with great pleasure that I present to you the list of the 20 most innovative breeders in the European seed sector in 2019 (in alphabetical order):

 

JEROEN BAKKER, SECTOR BREEDER TRADITIONAL AT HZPC IN THE NETHERLANDS 

Jeroen has been working in potato since 2007, and for the past 13 years he has been

developing new potato varieties. He is the breeder behind the low-calorie potato Sunlite, which has 30% lesscalories than average potatoes. With dedication and inspiration, he has been creating different varieties with increased disease resistance and abiotic stress tolerance, leading to a new generation of varieties that contribute to the entire value chain. Jeroen’s breeding work has increased water-efficiency and durable resistances, contributing to a more sustainable production. He has also achieved big steps forward towards traits like lower carbs and higher levels of antioxidants (the so-called Perupas) which interest certain groups of consumers. Together with his colleague, researcher Hans van Doorn, he developed methods to measure many characteristics very efficiently. As a result of his work, HZPC has introduced low-calorie potato varieties like ‘Colomba’ and ‘Carrera’. From the same potato varieties, also a line of low-carb fries has been developed.

 

GORAN BEKAVAC, HEAD OF THE MAIZE DEPARTMENT AT THE INSTITUTE OF FIELD AND VEGETABLE CROPS IN SERBIA

Goran has been a maize breeder for the past 29 years. He has developed and co-developed more
than 140 maize hybrids, which are registered in Serbia and worldwide. He is also the breeder of the first herbicide tolerant maize hybrid (CTM) registered in Serbia. Besides this, he has also adjusted and implemented the technology of doubled haploids in the maize breeding program. The main goal of his maize breeding program is breeding conventional hybrids with a standard grain quality. In addition, he is also breeding for hybrids with a red and a black grain colour (2019). This type of grain can be considered as a new functional food and could have numerous benefits as food and as feed.

 

GÉ BENTVELSEN, DIRECTOR AT ABZ SEED IN THE NETHERLANDS 

More than 25 years ago ABZ Seeds was created out of a running research project within the seedcompany Sluis and Groot. At that time, Gé had set goals of propagating strawberries from seed because of the benefits that seed would offer compared to cuttings, in terms of efficiency, hygiene, quality and sustainability. The general opinion was that propagation from seed would not be possible in a profitable way due to the complex genetic character of the species Fragaria x ananassa Duch. In the meantime, Gé has proven the opposite, and as a result of his work, seed breeding is revolutionizing the worldwide strawberry market and also the core of ABZ Seeds’ distinctive character. Through Ge’s work, over the years, ABZ has developed a vast assortment of F1 hybrid varieties for both fruit production and floriculture. Gé is an active member in several branch organisations such as: FleuroSelect and Plantum. He is also member of the Soft Fruit Advisory Board, Naktuinbouw, since 2001.

 

MEINDERT BOON, HEAD OF BRASSICA BREEDING -EMEA AT BAYER

Meindert has 33 years of experience in vegetable R&D of which 24 years as Brassica breeder. He is acknowledged as the industry leader for designing and breeding innovative broccoli and cauliflower hybrids delighting his customers e.g. High Rise® Broccoli and Curdivex® Cauliflower. The High Rise® innovation was recognized by the Produce Marketing Association, U.S. winner of the Science and Technology Circle of Excellence Award in 2019. Meindert is currently developing the next generation of consumer-friendly broccoli and cauliflower hybrids. Apart from that he drives change and implements new technologies and tools to accelerate genetic gain in breeding programs as well as to increase the probability of selecting and advancing the very best hybrids in the fastest possible way.

 

 

VLADIMIR ČERNOCH, PLANT BREEDER FORAGE GRASS IN DLF, CZECH REPUBLIC

For more than 35 years Vladimir has been active in plant breeding, and currently he is working on the complicated breeding of combining Festuca and Lolium species and is the breeder behind developing varieties of festulolium. This works because the hybrid performs better than its individual components. As a result, his company now holds an exclusive portfolio of different types and the research continues, all with the aim to improve forage yield and quality under a wide range of climates. Thus, festulolium varieties are becoming increasingly relevant in areas with more extreme climate fluctuations like drought or flooding. Vladimir’s work has made it possible for DLF to introduce two new hay and grazing type festulolium varieties to the European market in 2019, followed by two festuloliums – tall fescue types –to the European market in 2020, and his focus is now on the investigation of DNA markers for drought tolerance.

 

AHMET ENGIN – OPERATIONS MANAGER AT ANADOLU EFES MALTERY IN TURKEY

Ahmet has 32 years of experience in barley, hops, malt, cultivation and plant breeding. He published 32 papers and articles in various national and international magazines, congresses and symposiums. In addition to this, he has been participated in the breeding and registration of 17 malting barley and seven hops varieties at Anadolu Efes, where he has worked at various levels since 1988, and recently retired. The developed spring barley varieties have advantages in terms of both malting quality and significant reduction in water and energy consumption comparatively to the other barley varieties bred in Turkey. Ahmet has been a board member of the Turkish Seed Industry Association (TÜRKTED) for five terms. At the end of 2018, he took part in the registration of two malting barley varieties, and in 2019, he participated in the Smart Agriculture Project, a joint project of Anadolu Efes and WWF (World Wildlife Fund).

 

ROGER FREEMAN, CARROT BREEDER AT BASF

Roger has been breeding carrots for over 35 years and is a renowned breeder in the seed industry. He is known for his close collaboration with customers and enthusiasm for new ideas. He helped drive the development of the global cut and peel carrot snacking market and pioneered hybrid coloured carrot breeding. In addition to driving new segments, he has achieved notable yield increases, advances in consumer quality traits and increased foliar disease resistance in many hybrids that became industry standards. A recent example is the carrot variety ‘Highcut’ (2017 USA, 2019 EU & MEA). It is a hybrid with notable quality and small diameter uniformity, resulting in increased, and efficient, factory yield for the petite pieces.

 

 

CHRISTOPHE GALBRUN, PLANT BREEDER TURF GRASS IN DLF, FRANCE

Already for 35 years Christophe has been active in plant breeding, and at the moment he focuses on the R&D programme of 4turf®. He is the plant breeder behind one of the big innovations in turf breeding: tetraploid varieties (also called ‘4turf’), with improved tolerance for diseases and drought stress. Standard tetraploid forage varieties are much courser, exhibiting a more open and abundant growth than diploids. However, the 4turf varieties are comparable to some of the best diploids. They’re fine with very good density and short growth. That’s why 4turf has become a valuable ingredient in turf mixtures for sports fields and sod producers all over Europe. Thanks to Christophe’s work, last year DLF could introduce several new 4turf varieties to the turf market.

 

 

VASILIS GEGAS, EUROPEAN PORTFOLIO MANAGER FOR OILSEED RAPE, AT LIMAGRAIN EUROPE

Vasilis previously working as the senior oilseed rape breeder at Limagrain UK. As a result of hismany achievements, he was recently promoted to European portfolio manager for oilseed rape. His varieties now account for 8 out of 13 winter oilseed rape varieties on the UK Recommended List. He is the first oil seed rape breeder in the UK to successfully bring together high yield with turnip yellows virus (TuYV) resistance. This virus can affect up to 100% of oilseed rape crops, reducing yield by as much as 30%. 2019 has seen the launch of the first oilseed rape variety, LG AMBASSADOR, which combines very high yield potential coupled with several genetic traits, as it combines resistance to TuYV and pod shattering, together with another recent innovation concerning the optimization of nitrogen nutrition.

 

SIMON (SIEM) GROEN, SENIOR BREEDER CAULIFLOWER AT SYNGENTA VEGETABLE SEEDS

Siem is a renowned cauliflower breeder for the temperate segments, with a spectacular track record
of successful variety introductions over the past decades. The varieties Lecanu, Korlanu, Clarina and Guideline are just a few of the many excellent hybrids that have had a significant impact on cauliflower markets in Europe and worldwide. A breakthrough from 2019 is Andromeda, a variety that stays white even when exposed to the sun, thereby saving labour normally required for leaf covering. Cauliflower is relatively slow for breeding, but Siem has increased the speed of introductions, responding to major changes in market needs. He is always open for the challenge and very quickly delivers the solution in the field. Siem retires in October 2020, after more than 40 years of dedication to Brassicas. This nomination brings well-deserved recognition for his long career of contributions to the global seed industry.

 

AMIT HOTZEV, HEAD OF EAST EMEA TOMATO BREEDING AT BAYER

Amit is leading one of the tomato breeding programs for Bayer, which is developing products for markets in different countries across Asia, Europe, Middle East and the Americas. Tomato hybrids that Amit has developed are currently sold in 55 countries around the world with some of his recent hybrids leading and having a significant market share in China, Mexico, Italy and Turkey. He also contributed significantly in developing talent in one of the most important regions of the vegetable business where it is hard to find good breeders. He was one of the early adopters among the vegetable breeders to use molecular markers in his breeding programs, where he routinely stacks more than 10 different resistance genes, using molecular markers without having any significant drag on yield. Amit is currently working on material in view of the development of the Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus.

 

PIM LINDHOUT, HEAD OF R&D AT SOLYNTA, IN THE NETHERLANDS

After his academic studies in Leiden, Pim became Assoc. Prof in plant breeding at Wageningen University. He has published over 100 scientific publications and generated three patents. In 2010 he started working for his own company Solynta, which is dedicated to the development and implementation of F1 hybrid breeding in potato. After generating the first self-fertile potato inbreds in 2009, it was followed by many generations of hybrid breeding. He, together with his colleague Menno ter Maat, and the rest of their team, were able to develop hybrid potato varieties using diploid seed, culminating in the public release of the uniform potato line Solyntus in the 2019. It is no surprise that Pim often is considered as the father of the hybrid potato.

 

MARÍA LUMBRERAS, SPRING AND DURUM WHEAT BREEDER ASSISTANT AT GROUPE LIMAGRAIN IN SPAIN

After studying agronomical engineering at the University of Sevilla and SLU University in Sweden, Maria worked for one year in the Genetics, Genomics and Breeding department in East Malling Research (UK), supporting different crops and projects as “the development of the genetic map of two parental lines of strawberry”. In 2013, María joined the Limagrain Group working for the Cereal R&D department as assistant breeder and she has been recently promoted to Bread & Durum Wheat Breeder. In her new role, María is implementing the latest breeding methods to guarantee the flow of new, improved and adapted varieties in line with the need of the market. The breeding program, based in Córdoba, develops varieties for all the Mediterranean area and has become market leader for Spring and Durum Wheat.

 

JEGOR MILADINOVIĆ, HEAD OF THE SOYBEAN DEPARTMENT AT THE INSTITUTE OF FIELD AND VEGETABLE CROPS, SERBIA

Jegor has been working as a soybean breeder for the past 27 years and has developed and co-developed 130 soybean varieties registered in Serbia and worldwide. In 2019 he developed and co-developed five soybean varieties which were registered in Serbia, and one soybean variety released in the EU. Beside a high yield, and other excellent agronomic traits, these varieties are rich in proteins and are well suited for human consumption. Regarding the increasing demand for hemp in recent years, in 2019 Jegor also applied for two new lines of hemp for registration in Serbia. Those lines have a significantly improved chemical composition, compared to standard hemp varieties, with an especially favourable composition and content of cannabinoids.

 

LUIS ORTEGA, BREEDING PROJECT LEADER AT SYNGENTA

Luis has a long and very productive career of more than 30 years in Syngenta, being one of the most innovative breeders, developing new concepts like Kumato and SweetGreen, breeding also highly successful products, like Torry, Dafnis, Daylos, Sahel, Dumas, Arawak, among many others. During 2019 Luis has finalized the development of Yoom, the new tomato innovation coming from the natural tomato breeding program focused on taste, health and nutrition. This innovative product has an exciting and distinctive purple skin, in a cocktail size format. Its’ perfect sweet-sour balance gives the unique last umami/savory taste sensation for consumers. Yoom won the Gold Award at the Fruit Logistica Innovation Awards 2020.

 

 

SALVADOR PERAMO, SOLANACEAE PRODUCT MANAGER AT SEMILLAS FITÓ, SPAIN

Salvador has been working at Semillas Fitó for 32 years. Over the years, he has bred numerous new varieties in tomato, eggplant and pepper crops, many of which have been and are market leaders. In 2012 he began a new phase as Global Product Manager of Solanaceae and is currently Global Coordinator of Peppers and Eggplants. As a breeder, Salvador’s main achievement was the development of the F1 variety of eggplant Cristal, which has been a market leader for more than 20 years. This variety was a great innovation for being the first eggplant that kept the bright dark colour throughout the cycle. In addition, Cristal has great adaptability to different regions and growing conditions and tolerates the cold very well, which makes it very suitable for greenhouse cultivation without heating.

 

HENDRIK TSCHOEP, R&D DIRECTOR AT SESVANDERHAVE IN BELGIUM

Hendrik studied breeding and plant biology and holds a PhD in molecular plant physiology. He
started his career within SESVanderHave as a breeder in 2008. In 2014, he became the Head of Inbred Line Development, in which he coordinated the research activities around the development of new breeding lines. And in 2019, he took up the role as R&D Director. In his current role, he is responsible for the integration and coordination of the global research and breeding activities within SESVanderHave. Hendrik coordinates the R&D program with the goal to deliver high yielding, competitive varieties that withstand a wide range of pests and diseases. Especially the demand for a higher resistance against all types of insects and secondary pathogens they transmit, is one of his top priorities. He and his team do so through the exploitation of big data and its integration into new breeding methodologies such as predictive breeding.

 

ABELARDO JORGE DE LA VEGA, PLANT BREEDING LEADER – EUROPE AT CORTEVA AGRISCIENCE IN SWITZERLAND

Abelardo has been in active in plant breeding for the past 28 years, mostly in sunflower, and has developed over 40 commercial hybrids adapted to several countries. Besides being a plant breeder, he has 14 years of experience in international research leadership: as Global Sunflower Research Lead and Argentina Research Manager at Advanta and Sr. Research Manager, Sunflower Research Director and Europe Plant Breeding Leader at Corteva. He also wrote more than 20 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters and over 40 conference communications on plant breeding, genetics and physiology. He is regularly invited as a lecturer, conference speaker, manuscript reviewer and thesis supervisor and evaluator. Most recently, Abelardo has led the re-organization of the Corteva world-class sunflower breeding team, optimizing adaptation zones and building a cutting-edge technology hub for accelerated generation cycling.

 

JOHANNA WINKLER, PLANT BREEDER AT SAATZUCHT GLEISDORF GMBH

Johanna is a successful breeder in both smaller local crops as well as major crops like soybean. She has worked as breeder of Styrian oil pumpkin, legumes and minor crops at Saatzucht Gleisdorf GmbH for the past 35 years. The Styrian oil pumpkin is a regional specialty in Austria, and Johanna managed to overcome a relatively narrow gene pool and initiated hybrid breeding in the 1990s. After a heavy epidemic of the virus ZYMV was defeated, the cultivation area has increased considerably. As the only Austrian breeder of the traditional crop faba bean, Johanna also had great success, both with spring and winter types. With regard to soybean, Johanna was ahead of her time, as she already started to test and breed this emerging crop more than 20 years ago.

 

CELINE ZIMMERLI, LEAD BREEDER – HYBRID WHEAT AT BASF 

After her PhD in Plant Molecular Biology, Celine Zimmerli has worked for several years as a discovery breeder and is currently leading the BASF French breeding operations for wheat. Céline and her colleagues Dr. Antje Rohde, a plant geneticist and Dr. Anne Marie Kuijpers a cell biologist based in Ghent, Belgium share expertise and their passion to improve the hybridization of wheat with the aim of launching a performing pipeline mid-2020s.

Celine is part of a young generation of breeders designing the future by connecting all the modern tools driving genetic gain towards sustainable, productive, stable and safe products for farmers and consumers. Within a couple of years Celine and her team have implemented a stable wheat hybridity system associated with genetic diversity, predictive breeding and GWAS strategy.