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Agricultural News

New Researcher Takes Reins of Historic Noble Program

Mon, 08 Feb 2016 14:22:42 CST

New Researcher Takes Reins of Historic Noble Program
Xuefeng Ma, Ph.D., joined the Noble Foundation this year as a new principal investigator and became only the sixth researcher in the last 60 years to lead the organization’s small grains breeding program.

Ma will focus on improving small grains (wheat, rye, triticale, etc.) varieties for early fall-winter forage production. Regional agricultural producers also use wheat for both grain and livestock grazing. “There is a forage production gap between warm-season and cool-season perennials from September to March when annual small grains can serve the best,” Ma said. “So providing small grains varieties with improved forage performance can have a significant impact.”

Ma has worked with wheat breeding and genetics for five years, and small grains genomics for nine years. For the last eight years, he was the manager and senior scientist of genomics and molecular breeding at Ceres, Inc. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy, specializing in crop genetics and breeding, from Northwest A&F University in China, and his doctoral degree in agronomy, focusing on cereal genetics and genomics, from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Ma was a postdoctoral fellow in the Noble Foundation’s genetic transformation of forage crops laboratory for three years.

“Xuefeng’s background and research was a nice fit, especially when you look at how we use both genomic and traditional breeding methods,” said Zengyu Wang, Ph.D., director of the Forage Improvement Division. “We are confident in his ability to write the next chapter in our storied small grains breeding program, which released its first variety to the public in 1956.”

Virtually all small grains breeding focuses on grain yield and quality. The main goal of the Noble Foundation’s small grains breeding program is to develop cultivars with high forage yield suitable for sustainable fall and winter grazing, and good grain production as well in the case of dual-purpose wheat.

“Not many organizations have such a rich legacy with small grains,” Ma said. “This is a tremendous opportunity, and I’m thrilled to be conducting such important work.”



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