Armitage Scholarship Winner Weighs in on Plant Breeding Innovation

Armitage Scholarship Winner Weighs in on Plant Breeding Innovation

As day three wraps up and I sit in my third hotel room of the trip, I can’t help but reflect back to writing my application letter for this scholarship. In my letter I say, “I have always said that I love this field because no matter how long you are in it, there is always new and exciting things to learn and challenges to overcome.”

That has absolutely held true through all my work in this field, whether it was in school, internships, or jobs. Today I was constantly reminded of that as we looked at new varieties that have been improved slightly to keep their habit tighter, respond to plant growth regulators (PGRs) better, not require PGRs, stay short longer, hold their color longer, or a variety of different adjustments.

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To the average consumer, these plants probably don’t look different than the ones that were on the market before. However, when you talk to the people that are behind these improvements, you learn about the amount of work that has been put into these plants to help them perform better. The consumer might not appreciate small tweaks such as removing the need for PGRs or larger ones like doubling the size of a flower, but they all represent countless hours put in by industry professionals.

It takes vision to be able to see problems that are occurring and figure out ways to overcome them through breeding, and a specific skillset is needed to organize a breeding team. It requires creativity and knowing the consumer to effectively market and promote new products. It calls for passion and teamwork to bring even a small improvements to the market.

These gradual improvements are often what demonstrate passion to me. Yes, giant breakthroughs in breeding are exciting, and I love them, but the drive to bring a quality product to the consumer is what pushes these bit-by-bit improvements. These are often changes that do not take up a lot of time in California Spring Trials (CAST) tours and presentations or catalogs. They don’t get praise heaped upon them, but they are a testament to an industry that often recognizes where it can do better and works to correct it.

Through CAST, my education, and my internships, I have been fortunate to meet many plant breeders and industry professionals. These are people that have made great strides in the industry and people that are just getting their sea-legs, like me. Very few of these people are content to sit back and throw in the towel. They are people that work through the weekend and work late nights. They are not happy to see something just exist; they want it to thrive. This is why there is always more to learn and do in this field, because it is made up of people that never stop moving, never stop reaching for those last few things, and never stop pushing the boundaries of what is possible.