Plant Sciences Institute

Department of Agronomy

Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding

Soybeans ready for harvest
Soybeans, ready for harvest

Achievements and Activities

Alflafa plant in bloom
Alfalfa plant, in bloom

The members of the Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding can list many achievements. Included in their accomplishments are the development of germplasm that improves yield, increases nutritional value, enhances pest and disease resistance, and improves a plant’s tolerance to drought or extreme temperatures. These improvements to crops grown around the world are achieved through hypothesis based research techniques, the careful selection of desired traits, and the application of genetic theory.

History book published.
Dr. Walter Fehr has written The First 25 Years of the Office of Biotechnology, Iowa State University, 1984-2009. The book details those years when Fehr was Director of the Office of Biotechnology and Chair of the Biotechnology Council. The book describes the inception of the biotechnology program at ISU and work done in faculty recruitment, research grants and instrumentation, graduate and undergraduate education, technology transfer, and bioethics education. The book may be viewed online as a PDF at

Soybean varieties released.
Eight new soybean varieties developed by a team lead by Walter Fehr were released in November 2009. These varieties include food grade soybeans with large seed, high protein, yellow hilum, and resistance to pests. Fehr’s project also worked on developing varieties with modified fat composition, including low saturated fat and low linolenic acid. Included on the soybean breeding project are Grace Welke, Susan Johnson, and Kevin Scholbrock. Information about these and other varieties can be found at the ISU Committee for Agricultural Development (CAD).

2010 Plant Breeding Lecture Series planned.
Plans are underway for the 2010 Plant Breeding Lecture Series. This year’s lectures will focus on the iPlant Collaborative, a National Science Foundation funded project established to foster the growth of a multi-disciplinary community that addresses ‘Grand Challenges’ in plant biology. The Plant Breeding Lecture Series will focus on the iPlant Genotype-to-Phenotype (iPG2P) Grand Challenge. The two-day event will be held at the Scheman Building at the Iowa State Center on May 13 and 14, 2010. A poster session, showcasing ISU graduate student plant breeding projects, will be featured as a part of the program. Learn more here.

Pyrolysis partnership established.
Dr. Thomas Lübberstedt and Dr. Marjorie Rover have begun a project to determine the most desirable feedstock traits for bio-oil production using fast pyrolysis. Bio-oil can be produced from biomass sources, including corn stover and perennial grasses, through the thermochemical process known as fast pyrolysis, in which the ground biomass is quickly heated in the absence of oxygen, thus pyrolyzing the biomass components. Once the material is rapidly cooled, bio-oil and bio-char is produced. Lübberstedt will be working to identify the particular qualities in plants that work best with the pyrolysis process, and developing breeding programs to create hybrids more suitable for feedstock production. Rover, a scientist with the Center for Sustainable Environmnetal Technologies, will pyrolyze biomass for the project using a micro-pyrolyzer attached to a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer, which will allow instant chemical analysis. Early results suggest that high lignin and low mineral content in biomass are important for producing the best quality bio-oil.

Doubled Haploid Facility opens.
The Doubled Haploid Facility was initiated by Dr. Thomas Lübberstedt and will begin operation in 2010. The facility will provide expertise and service in the production of doubled haploid lines in maize. More information here.


For information on germplasm licensed and released by Iowa State University scientists, visit the Committee for Agricultural Development.