Plant Breeding Research



Our group is a multidisciplinary research group interested in genetics, genomics and breeding of blueberry. We integrate principles of traditional plant breeding, modern plant breeding, comparative genomics, quantitative genetics and apply genomics and bioinformatics science to identify molecular bases underlying complex traits in cultivated and wild blueberries. We are using the latest sequencing technologies to sequence genome and transcriptome sequences of various Vaccinium species.

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Todd Wehner visiting watermelons in China


The Cucurbit Breeding Project at North Carolina State University, Raleigh is under the direction of Todd Wehner. Project personnel is involved with research that includes the breeding and genetics of cucumber, watermelon, specialty melon, and other cucurbits such as luffa sponge gourd. We also work on stevia breeding.

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Flue-Cured Tobacco

Approximately 70% of flue-cured tobacco acreage in the southeastern United States is planted to cultivars derived from the NC State tobacco breeding and genetics program. The generation of new knowledge, germplasm, and technology also affects the tobacco industry worldwide. Several patented technologies have been developed for the desired modification of cured leaf chemistry.

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Forestry analyzing tree tip

Forest Trees

The North Carolina State University Cooperative Tree Improvement program is one of the largest and most successful tree breeding programs in the world. The program continues to develop loblolly pine varieties for its members, which are disease resistant and productive. The program is developing genomic selection methods to fundamentally change tree breeding practice in the coming years.

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Maize shilpa anthesis


NC State conducts cooperative research with the USDA-ARS on breeding, germplasms, and genetics to diversify the genetic base of field corn in the US. We work on: studying diversity and relationships of maize landraces in the Americas, developing unique lines from tropical maize crossed with elite commercial lines; determining the genetic and biochemical mechanisms of environmental adaptation and disease resistance; studying gametophytic cross-incompatibility factors; and improving selected heirloom varieties for niche markets.

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Nathan Lynch

Nursery/Landscape Plants

Nursery and Landscape plants developed by plant breeders in Horticultural Science have contributed almost $400 million in retail value to the largest crop commodity in the state. These improved crops contribute to economic development (superior products, enhanced profitability, competitive advantages), environmental stewardship and sustainability (reducing pesticide needs, greening and cooling urban environments, preventing invasiveness, reducing runoff), and local food supply (edible landscaping and foodscaping.

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North Carolina peanut breeding varieties


The NC State University peanut breeding and genetics program continues to develop cultivars that are extensively grown in the Virginia-Carolina (VC) region. Estimates of certified seed production (2015-2019) indicate NC State releases have grown on 13%, 82% and 91% of the total peanut acreage in the US, the VC region, and North Carolina, respectively. These cultivars, based on plant variety protection and exclusive licensing rights, generate between $0.5-1M in royalties annually.


Small Fruits

Dr. Fernandez leads the strawberry and caneberry breeding programs. She is responsible for the development of new strawberry, raspberry and blackberry cultivars adapted to North Carolina.Dr. Fernandez collaborates with Dr. Penny Perkins-Veazie to evaluate postharvest attributes and levels of bioactive compounds in strawberry and caneberry fruit. In collaboration with Dr. Hamid Ashrafi, they have identified genes that are differentially expressed in blackberry fruit with white drupelet disorder.

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hand pollinating a soybean flower


The USDA soybean breeding is located at NCSU. The mission of the program is to broaden the genetic base of U.S. soybean breeding by genetically tapping into the treasure trove of genetic resources of the USDA soybean germplasm collection. Soybean breeding research is harnessing genetic diversity in the USDA collection to develop new germplasm, which has superior agronomic performance, a greater ability to withstand drought and other environmental stresses, and imparts improved nutritional value in the form of seed protein, oil, and carbohydrate composition. The program will also develop new breeding methodology for accessing and using desirable genetic traits from USDA collection.

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sweet potato harvest for a select cultivar


Project The GT4SP project was developed with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Our project is focused on developing a set of “next-generation” breeder tools for African sweetpotato breeders in Africa. We are developing modern genomic, genetic, and bioinformatics tools to facilitate crop improvement and improve genetic gains in sweetpotato, important to food security and a cash crop with highly recognized potential to alleviate hunger, vitamin A deficiency, and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and predominantly grown in small plot holdings by poor women farmers.

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Tomato breeding experts Dilip Panthee and Randy Gardner


Tomato is more than $32 million industry in NC. It is estimated that about 60% of tomato varieties grown in NC are from the NC State University tomato breeding program. The Tomato breeding program of NCSU aims to improve disease resistance, fruit quality, and heat stress tolerance. We are working in large-fruited, plum, and grape. Varieties developed from NC are grown not only in the US but also throughout the world.

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Turfgrass research plots


The turfgrass breeding and genetics program at NC State is one of the very few turfgrass cultivar development programs located in the transitional climatic zone of the US. As such, the program is uniquely positioned to work with both cool- and warm-season species and having to deal with a wide array of biotic and abiotic stresses. Additionally, the program is focusing on generating genomic information to elucidate genetic control of the response to some of these stresses in order to improve breeding efficiency.

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Small Grains wheat field test

Wheat and Small Grains

We focus on the improvement of the agronomic and end-use quality of the nutritious and healthy small grain staples of wheat, oat, triticale and rye. We are plant breeders and cultivar developers first and utilize the tools of molecular and Mendelian genetics and statistics to assist in cultivar advancement. We are members of the seven-university Sun Grains breeding cooperative, the largest coordinated public breeding effort in the US. This has advantages in the application of emerging technologies to plant improvement and graduate education.

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