Pioneer to Endow Maize Breeding Chair at Iowa State

AMES, Iowa — Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. has made a gift to endow a faculty chair in maize breeding in the College of Agriculture at Iowa State University. The creation of the Pioneer Hi-Bred International Endowed Chair in Maize Breeding will support the recruitment of a world-class faculty member to lead the university's maize breeding program. The chair also is likely to play a significant role in or hold the position of the director of the Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding in the Plant Sciences Institute. "The maize breeding chair will be a significant faculty position at Iowa State and is of particular importance to the state of Iowa," said Gregory Geoffroy, Iowa State University president. "By endowing a faculty chair dedicated to the science of maize breeding, Pioneer has given Iowa State the opportunity to attract and retain a truly outstanding scholar in this area." The Pioneer Maize Breeding Chair will be expected to have experience in multidisciplinary and field-oriented research and the ability to develop germplasm for regional agricultural systems. He or she will lead a research program that emphasizes quantitative and population genetics, selection theory and breeding methodology. The gift from Pioneer, given via the ISU Foundation, will create a faculty endowment in which a percentage of the gift earnings is used annually for the position. Excess earnings are invested in the endowment principal, so the value of the fund can be expected to grow over time. Plant breeding programs at Iowa State have contributed significantly to the productivity and quality of crops for farmers around the world. The university's classical plant breeding programs have integrated basic research on breeding methods and germplasm enhancement with the development of improved cultivars. "Pioneer's gift to endow the Maize Breeding Chair addresses one of the most critical needs for faculty support in the College of Agriculture, and it ensures that Iowa State will retain its status among the world's foremost programs for plant breeding research and education," said Catherine Woteki, dean of agriculture. "Corn growers everywhere have long benefited from the crop improvement teaching and research at Iowa State," said Rick McConnell, Pioneer president. "This gift made on their behalf will help ensure that the tremendous plant breeding tradition at Iowa State continues to thrive." The maize breeding program at Iowa State was initiated by Merrill Jenkins in 1922 and came to prominence under George F. Sprague, considered one of the fathers of modern maize breeding. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sprague is credited with discovering hybrid corn, and his Iowa Stiff Stalk Synthetic (BSSS) is the germplasm foundation for many commercial corn hybrids. In 1959, Arnel Hallauer succeeded Sprague in directing ISU's maize breeding program. Hallauer, who recently retired, was part of a team of USDA and Iowa State scientists who developed the B73 line of hybrid corn, one of six lines that are the basis for much of the seed-parent lines of corn used in the United States and in temperate regions worldwide. Among the most prominent graduates of Iowa State's plant breeding program was Raymond F. Baker, who was fascinated by Pioneer founder Henry A. Wallace's work with corn hybrids. Baker was Pioneer's second employee and the company's lead plant breeder for 43 years. He developed many of Pioneer's first corn hybrids, and is credited with establishing the scientific groundwork in the 1930s that helped Pioneer become the world's largest seed company. "This gift is a wonderful celebration of the historic and beneficial association of Iowa State and Pioneer, as well as a great investment in the future," said Tom Mitchell, ISU Foundation president and CEO. The gift is part of the Iowa State's Investing in People initiative, a two-year effort of the university and the ISU Foundation to raise private funds for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships and faculty support. Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a subsidiary of DuPont, provides access to advanced plant genetics, crop protection solutions and quality crop systems to customers in nearly 70 countries. The Iowa State University Foundation is a private, non-profit corporation dedicated to securing and managing gifts and grants that benefit Iowa State University.