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Clemson hires leading plant scientist for Pee Dee center

A plant breeder whose research focuses on genetic solutions to improve crop production will join the faculty this spring at the Clemson University Pee Dee Research and Education Center.

Ben Fallen will join the Advanced Plant Technology plant breeding program at the center May 1.

Most recently, Fallen worked in the soybean breeding and genetics program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Previously, he was a soybean breeding researcher at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in crop soil environmental sciences from Virginia Tech, a master's in plant sciences from the University of Tennessee and a Ph.D. in plant sciences with a concentration in soybean breeding, also from Tennessee.

As a research scientist with the Advanced Plant Technology program, Fallen will help provide genetic solutions to improve crop production that will lead to new and improved germplasm lines and cultivars.

Further, he will work to develop high-yield varieties to meet industry demands that benefit farmers and consumers; develop varieties with resistance to disease, pests and environmental stresses; and improve research methods used in breeding programs.

The Advanced Plant Technology program at the Pee Dee center focuses on improving the value of South Carolina’s agronomic crops to support the state’s $34 billion agribusiness industry. Varieties and production methods developed through this program can be applied statewide to enhance crop production and value.

The program will complement ongoing plant science research at the Pee Dee center, on the main campus, and at Clemson’s Edisto and Coastal research centers in Blackville and Charleston, respectively.

George Askew, Clemson University associate vice president for Public Service and Agriculture, said Fallen is a scientist with a proven track record who quickly will help establish a world-class plant breeding program in South Carolina.

“Agribusiness is South Carolina’s largest industry,” Askew said. “Key to the vitality of this sector is ongoing research to identify critical issues, develop solutions, and share new plant varieties, production methods and processing technologies with agricultural producers and forestland managers.

“Dr. Fallen has exactly the specific research background Clemson University attracts,” he said.

In 2012, Clemson University proposed — and the S.C. General Assembly endorsed — establishing an Advanced Plant Technology program at the Pee Dee center in Florence.

This research will provide a bridge to 21st century agriculture using traditional plant breeding and molecular genetics to develop new crops and crop-based products.

The program’s goal is to foster continued development of the agricultural economy in the Pee Dee region, and throughout South Carolina. Specific objectives are to increase per-acre values of crops; develop new crops that can expand the market for South Carolina farm products; and attract private agribusiness investment in research, development and application of new technologies and crop varieties.

Courtesy Clemson Extension is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.