NDSU Course Offers Plant Breeding Data Analysis Tools

The NDSU Department of Plant Sciences and DuPont Pioneer recently collaborated to create and present a short course on the latest plant breeding data analysis tools used by the agricultural industry. The course, titled “Use and Analysis of Unbalanced Data,” was held Feb. 14-16.

NDSU researchers Richard Horsley, Ana Maria Heilman and Tom Walk worked with DuPont Pioneer liaison and adjunct professor Blaine Johnson to create the course. DuPont Pioneer employees Keith Boldman, Darrin Hauf and Johnson were key speakers for the three-day workshop attended by 36 faculty, graduate students and staff.

Boldman earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, master’s degree from the University of California Davis and doctorate from Iowa State University. He is a research scientist for the Global Breeding and Marker Technologies group at DuPont Pioneer. He previously worked at DEKALB Seed and he was an assistant professor of animal genetics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. During the workshop, Boldman explained the mathematical concepts behind the use of mixed model approaches and its advantages for the analysis of unbalanced data in plant breeding.

Hauf earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in crop and weed sciences and plant breeding from NDSU. He has worked at DuPont Pioneer since 2003, where he is a research scientist for the Data Science Information group in the company. During the workshop, he presented a seminar for graduate students titled “A Bushel of Experiences at DuPont Pioneer.”

Johnson earned his bachelor’s and doctorate from the University of Nebraska and his master’s degree from Oregon State University. Before joining DuPont Pioneer, he taught statistics and quantitative genetics and conducted plant-breeding research in the Department of Agronomy at the University of Nebraska. During the workshop, he presented a lecture on decision-making processes in applied plant breeding programs.

Heilman lectured on best practices for quality assurance and quality control, relational databases and business intelligence/visualizations. Walk covered topics related to databases and database management systems. Heilman and Walk comprise the Large Database Breeding Pipeline Management teamin the Department of Plant Sciences at NDSU.

Heilman said, “The workshop was a success because it brought some of the expertise from the industry to academia and showed how things can be done differently to answer specific breeding questions.” She also said this is the beginning of a series of workshops to open new venues of communication and support between industry and higher education.

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