Last year, on the one-hundredth anniversary of the Pee Dee Research & Education Center near Florence, South Carolina, it was announced that the center would undergo extensive remodeling to house plant breeders and geneticist to get Clemson back into the game of plant breeding for South Carolina growers. George Askew, Associate VP for public service and agriculture at Clemson University outlines the progress of this massive project:
“We are adding another dimension, it’s an advanced technology development program which allows us to bring in plant breeders and laboratory geneticists to identify crops and traits that grow well in SC and also ones that don’t grow well here. The idea is to get better value for the famers.
Our plant breeder generation had gotten senior and retired away. There was a big push nationally to concentrate on the laboratory genetics. We lost sight of having a strong plant breeding program to go along with that. We have strong backing from the legislature and have hired three new people to do the plant breeding.
We have Dr. Ben Fallon who is a soybean breeder, Dr. Shyam Tallury from North Carolina and Dr. Stephen Kresovich , who will run the program and who came from the University of South Carolina, his specialty is sorghum. We will have some more interviews and hope to hire 2-3 more this year. We are not sure of the crops they will cover, but we want to see what the most important issues in SC are. Even though we hired people with expertise in certain crops, they also work in other crops as well.
Clemson is really back in the game. We have renovated our laboratory and making a modern facility and have attracted top notch scientists.”