2019 Plant Science Symposium

2019 Program

8:00 Registration opens 
8:40 Opening remarks from organizers and Corteva Representatives
9:00 Hillary Sullivan - Application of emerging technologies in agriculture
9:25  Dr. Alan Ker - Climate change, crop insurance, and yield distributions
9:50  Coffee Break
10:05 Dr. Michael Pautler - Biotechnology and horticultural trait development
10:30 Dr. James Schnable - Climbing the Phenotyper's Pyramid
10:55 Graduate Student Speaker - Nancy Soni - Identification and characterization of candidate genes in wheat near-isogenic lines differing at QTL-Fhb1 for resistance against Fusarium Head Blight
11:15 Operation Grow... Growing more than just produce!
11:40 Lunch and Poster Session
1:10  Graduate Student Speaker - Nathan Nordstedt - Big challenges and tiny organisms: Bacteria increase stress tolerance of greenhouse ornamentals
1:30  Dr. Marcel Schlaf - Transforming Renewable Biomass: Challenges to and opportunities for making chemicals and fuels from lignocellulsics and sugars
1:55  Thank you to speakers, Poster prizes awarded and coffee break
2:30  Blair Hodgson & Michael Whyte - Workshop on Data Visualization
4:00 End of University of Guelph Plant Sciences Symposium

Speaker Biographies

Hillary Sullivan is the Research Director for Core Technologies at Corteva Agriscience. In this role, Hillary leads research efforts to develop and globally deploy technology platforms and processes for Row Crop Seed Product Development and Molecular Diagnostics Technologies. Her team focuses on enabling technologies, including high throughput molecular assisted breeding platforms, doubled haploid technologies, and next-generation molecular diagnostics. Hillary began her career as a Research Associate in the molecular marker discovery program. She has held numerous roles since then, including Senior Research Manager for Crop Genetics Research and Development and Research Director for Global Marker Technologies. In 2019, Hillary was named Distinguished Fellow at Corteva Agriscience, in recognition of her sustained accomplishments and contributions to innovation. 

Dr. Alan Ker is the Director of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Food and Agricultural Policy, and a Professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Guelph. He is also the Managing Editor for the Journal of Agricultural Economics, and the Ontario Agricultural College Research Chair in Agricultural Risk and Policy. Dr. Ker has traveled worldwide to host conferences and discuss issues regarding current policy in agricultural economics, statistics, and law. His current research focuses on the link between climate change, innovation, and yield volatiles. His research will help develop methodologies for risk management and crop insurance. 

Dr. Michael Pautler is a Research Scientist in Applied Genomics at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. His research interests include broad-range disease resistance in greenhouse vegetables and mutation-based trait development. Dr. Pautler also leads the operations of Platform Genetics, a trait development and genomics services company. Dr. Pautler is an experienced molecular biologist, an expert in plant developmental genetics and trait development, and he has specialized in genetic mapping, positional cloning, molecular cloning, mutagenesis, next-gen DNA sequencing, gene expression analysis, and marker-assisted selection!

Dr. James Schnable is an associate professor in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska. His research focuses on computational biology, cross-species functional genomics, and high-throughput phenotyping. The Schnable lab includes a diverse set of applied plant breeders, biochemists, engineers, computer scientists, and statisticians. Their recent work includes identifying mechanisms conferring low-temperature tolerance in maize, sorghum, and frost tolerant relatives, and using in-plant and in-soil microsensors for high-throughput phenotyping of root nitrogen uptake and nitrogen use efficiency.

Nancy Soni is a Ph. D Candidate from McGill University. She is a winner of the 2019 U of Guelph Plant Sciences Symposium Travel Grant, and will be presenting her research using QTL sequencing and metabolo-genomics to identify wheat resistance R genes against Fusarium head blight disease. 

Abstract: Fusarium head blight (FHB) is one of the devastating diseases of wheat worldwide. Over a hundred FHB resistance QTL identified, of which the QTL-Fhb1 represents the most studied source of resistance in wheat breeding programs. Consequently, several resistant genes were identified and functionally validated, but the knowledge regarding the resistance mechanisms is still limited. A combined metabolo-genomics approach was employed to identify FHB resistance genes, especially those that are involved in the biosynthesis of metabolites. The QTL regions of Near Isogenic Lines (NILs) with resistant and susceptible QTL-Fhb1, derived from Sumai 3*5/Thatcher crosses sequenced based on Illumina HiSeq next-generation sequencing identified a total of 37 putative genes. Among these, TaLAC and TaNAC were selected as a potential candidate gene based on the presence of functional SNPs, metabolic profiles of near-isogenic lines, and the gene expression study. These two were further silenced using virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) for functional analysis. The silenced samples were analyzed for fungal biomass, disease severity, gene expression, metabolic profiling, and biochemical analysis. Moreover, ab-initio docking was also performed for both the genes speculating their possible interaction and involvement in gene regulatory network. Based on our research, we have found the involvement of NAC transcription factor in regulating the expression of downstream secondary cell wall biosynthetic genes such as laccase (TaLAC) and laccase consequently involved in lignin polymerization, thus reinforcing phenylpropanoid pathway. In conclusion, resistance genes polymorphic in susceptible cultivars can be genetically engineered for durable FHB resistance.

Haily MacDonald is a feminist activist and currently Director of Operations at Huronia Transition Homes, a non-profit in Simcoe County working to end all violence against all women. Haily was one of the co-creators of Operation Grow, a holistically designed social enterprise dedicated to reducing poverty, food scarcity, isolation and the impacts of trauma in the lives of women. She holds a joint BA in Women & Gender Studies, and International Development, and is currently completing her Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies; her research focuses on Operation Grow as an effective community development model to support women who have experienced violence. Operation Grow is a social enterprise based out of Midland, ON. They operate as a hub which includes a vertical farm, a community kitchen, a yoga and meditation hall, and shower and laundry facilities. They are addressing plant sciences while looking through the lens of innovation and accessability to address the needs of women who have experienced violence. 

Nathan Nordstedt is a Ph. D Candidate from Ohio State Univeristy. He is a winner of the 2019 U of Guelph Plant Sciences Symposium Travel Grant, and will be presenting his research on mitigating drought stress via the application of growth promoting rhizobacteria. 

Abstract: Abiotic stress negatively impacts horticulture crop quality and value by causing stunted growth and reduced flowering. As resources become limited, growers need sustainable tools to reduce inputs without sacrificing crop quality. Plant growth promoting rhizobacteria can stimulate plant growth during abiotic stress by enhancing nutrient uptake and regulating plant hormone levels. An in vitro bioassay identified 11 Pseudomonas strains that withstand high levels of osmotic stress, a trait correlated with the ability to confer drought tolerance in plants. Greenhouse trials were developed to evaluate these strains to stimulate plant growth under drought and low-nutrient conditions. Three of the 11 strains increased flower number and plant biomass when applied to Petunia × hybrida under both abiotic stress conditions. These strains were validated in a greenhouse trial to stimulate plant growth under abiotic stress of three economically-important species: P. hybrida, Impatiens walleriana, and Viola × wittrockiana. Drought and low nutrient trials were conducted on plants treated with each of the three bacteria strains. Application of each of the three strains resulted in an increase in shoot biomass for all three species under both drought and low nutrient conditions. The bacterial treatments also resulted in visibly higher quality plants with higher tissue macronutrient content when grown under low nutrient stress.  All three bacteria strains also increased flower number in P. hybrida after recovery from drought stress.  This work provides a unique system to increase the health, quality, and overall value of horticulture crops grown under multiple abiotic stresses in a greenhouse production system.

Dr. Marcel Schlaf is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Guelph. The research he has focused on includes biomass conversion through selective deoxygenation. What's does that mean, and how does it relate to plant sciences? The objective of their research is to use renewable biomass, (i.e., carbohydrates & sugars) and their derivatives (e.g., furanics such as furfural) as carbon sources to make the same chemicals we now make from crude oil. For example, making the components of NYLON from corn sugar or components of polyurethane foams or high-energy density jet-fuel from corn cobs - rather than crude oil. By using the by-products of the agricultural and forestry industries, they can use renewable carbon sources to create "drop-in" technology for existing large-scale chemical processes based on fossil carbon sources - and we are talking potentially megatons/years here!! 

Blair Hodgson and Michael Whyte are Health Promotion Specialists at Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. They have prepared a data visualization workshop which can help researchers from all scientific fields communicate their data to the public. The workshop will include critical reviews of exemplars and hands-on activities which will help to understand your data, formulate a plan, and develop your visual solution.