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Renowned geneticist to direct advanced plant research at Clemson

An internationally acclaimed geneticist known for his molecular research to improve crop production in sorghum, sugar cane and maize will lead Clemson’s Advanced Plant Technology Program based at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center.

Stephen Kresovich will join the Clemson faculty in July to lead research efforts at the Pee Dee Center, on Clemson's main campus and across the state to develop genetic solutions for increasing crop production and value in South Carolina, including breeding and variety trials that can lead to new and improved crops and varieties.

Previously, Kresovich was SmartState Endowed Chair of Genomics at the University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina, where he characterized and utilized the genetic diversity of animals and microbes and plants important for crop, horticulture, forestry and pharmaceuticals. He applies genomics and bioinformatics tools to address issues in agriculture, conservation and human health.

“We are thrilled to have a scientist of Dr. Kresovich’s international stature leading this critical research effort,” said John Kelly, Clemson University vice president for economic development. “The Advanced Plant Technology research and extension programs will focus on soybeans, cotton, peanuts and other crops to identify areas for improved yields and value-added products.”

In 2012, South Carolina growers planted 380,000 acres in soybeans; 340,000 acres of cotton and 110,000 acres in peanuts, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Jack Shuler, president of the Palmetto Agribusiness Council, said, “Clemson’s Advanced Plant Technology Program is exactly what South Carolina agribusiness needs to be competitive in the future. Dr. Kresovich has the skills and vision to make this happen.”

Tom Scott, Clemson dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, said, “Dr. Kresovich’s background in plant breeding will be a tremendous addition to our faculty expertise in this discipline.”

Kresovich will be a professor in the genetics and biochemistry department and will occupy the endowed position of Coker Chair in Molecular Genetics in the School of Agricultural, Forest, and Environmental Sciences.

The Advanced Plant Technology program focuses on improving the value of South Carolina’s agronomic crops, such as soybeans, cotton and peanuts. Varieties and production and processing methods developed through research and extension efforts can be applied statewide to enhance crop production and value for farmers and forestland managers.

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

In 2012, Clemson University proposed — and the S.C. General Assembly supported — establishing an Advanced Plant Technology program at the Pee Dee center in Florence. The General Assembly funded $4 million to begin renovation of the laboratories at the Pee Dee REC. Clemson Public Service Activities is requesting $3 million to complete the laboratory renovation and $2 million to recruit a team of scientists to build a comprehensive crop improvement program with Kresovich and Ben Fallen, a recently hired plant breeder who specializes in soybeans.

This research will provide a bridge to 21st century agriculture using traditional plant breeding and modern plant science, such as molecular genetics and biochemistry, 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.

Prior to coming to South Carolina, Kresovich was director of Cornell University’s Institute for Biotechnology and Life Science Technologies and also was vice provost for life sciences and interim vice provost for research. Prior to those appointments, he served as laboratory director at USDA National Genetic Resources Program gene banks in New York and Georgia.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Washington and Jefferson College, a master's in agronomy from Texas A&M and a Ph.D. in crop science from Ohio State University.

Kresovich is a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Crop Science Society of America; and has taught, advised and mentored students at the undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral levels. He served as a scientific adviser for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and an external adviser for the Tata-Cornell Initiative in Agriculture and Nutrition to accelerate India’s agricultural productivity. He also was an affiliated scientist with Biosciences for Eastern and Central Africa in Kenya and scientific liaison officer for genetic resources conservation for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Kresovich has been directly involved in research contracts totaling more than $34 million.

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