European Plant Breeding Academy Announces its Most Outstanding Student for Class 6

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BASF’s Marta Graziani will receive the award at the 2022 Euroseeds Congress.

A BASF pepper breeder is the recipient of the UC Davis European Plant Breeding Academy Outstanding Student Award (Class 6).

Italy’s Marta Graziani, who breeds Lamuyo peppers for BASF Vegetable Seeds in St. Agata, will receive the honour at the 2022 Euroseeds Congress in Berlin, Germany, today.

“This award is really about recognizing the best effort and perseverance of students during their studies. This is particularly significant right now considering the challenges posed by the pandemic to students of Class 6,” says Jovan Djordjevic, director of education for the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy.

The UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy is a professional certificate program offered in the United States, Europe and Africa. Participants attend half a dozen six-day sessions over two years. The instructors are internationally recognized experts in plant breeding and seed technology.

Class 6 was supposed to be the regular two years in length, but Djordjevic notes that due to the pandemic, it was extended to three years. Students faced a number of challenges as a result, including having to switch to a remote learning system; but they persevered, and Graziani stood out as particularly dedicated — especially considering she had a newborn while attending the academy.

“Class 6 was an exceptional one — we had many outstanding students. Any one of them could have got this award. That said, Marta came out on top. She would actively participate in all the group sessions, often leading the groups, and she would ask great questions. She really showed the drive to become a plant breeder,” Djordjevic says.

And become a plant breeder she has. Lamuyo peppers are a European sweet pepper that is basically a smaller, more flavourful version of a bell pepper. They are often used fresh in salads. Graziani is quickly making a name for herself as a talented vegetable breeder.

“I have a lot of passion for my work. I love to work with plants and improve them. This was the driver that pushed me to attend the academy and to be focused during the classes,” Graziani says.

“A big advantage of attending the academy is the experience you get learning from the teachers and gaining experience along with your fellow students. It’s the kind of knowledge you really can’t get anywhere else. This is a program for people who want to become independent plant breeders or to contribute to larger breeding programs.”

Class 7 of the UC Davis European Plant Breeding Academy began this month and returns to its usual in-person format, taking student to the Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain and California over the next two years.

Applications for UC Davis American Plant Breeding Academy Class 9 in California will open soon. Two new instructors have been brought on board.

Jay Patel of Corteva Agriscience has accepted a position as a full-time core instructor of the UC Davis academy in the United States. He has more than 30 years’ experience as a plant breeder and plant breeding manager.

Kendra Armstrong has also come aboard as an instructor; she is currently a consultant with AbacusBio, a firm specializing in quantitative genetics and genomics. She works with clients around the world to build genomics-based breeding programs.

For more information on the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy and its various programs around the world, visit pba.ucdavis.edu.