ISU Agronomy Professor Named Center Director in Plant Sciences Institute

AMES, Iowa "“ Thomas Lübberstedt has been named the new director for the Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding in the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State University. Lübberstedt joined the agronomy faculty as the Kenneth J. Frey Endowed Chair on Sept. 1. He succeeds Kendall Lamkey as center director, who served from 2002-2007. Lübberstedt's appointment as center director will be for five years. The Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding advances the science of plant breeding, develops enhanced germplasm and superior cultivars of improved productivity, nutritional value and adaptability and educates the next generation of public and private plant breeders. The center is named for the Iowan whose extensive work in corn breeding led to unprecedented innovations in agriculture. Lübberstedt, an associate professor, considers the strong plant breeding and maize genomics programs at Iowa State excellent environments for interdisciplinary research and examining the potential for future biomass crops. "My main crop will be maize, but I'm also working to develop a dedicated bioenergy crop for Iowa besides maize," Lübberstedt said. "I will use my experience with perennial grasses to develop a number of alternatives." Initially, his research will address how cell wall digestibility impacts conversion to ethanol. He hopes to use results from his previous studies on forage maize to identify varieties of bioenergy crops, including maize, that provide high conversion efficiency without penalty on biomass yield. "I want to combine the two worlds of plant breeding and genomics that are still somewhat separate by implementing diagnostic DNA markers into plant breeding," Lübberstedt said. In addition to his research, as director of the Baker Center for Plant Breeding he hopes to work with colleagues in agronomy to develop an advanced plant breeding degree available through distance education technologies. He plans to work one month a year at the University of Ã…rhus in Denmark, continuing his genomic research in forage and turfgrasses. Lübberstedt is a native of Germany where he grew up on a horticultural farm in Hamburg. He received his doctorate in biology in 1993 at the University of Munich. He previously worked as a senior scientist with the Department of Genetics and Biotechnology at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences in Slagelse, Denmark. The Kenneth J. Frey Endowed Chair in Agronomy was established to expand the plant breeding program by developing new traits in crops for the emerging bioeconomy. The chair is named in honor of Frey, an emeritus Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture who served on the agronomy faculty from 1953 to 1993. The endowed position was made possible by the Agronomy Endowment, which was established in 1999 by an anonymous benefactor to be used to strengthen the Department of Agronomy's position as a world leader in research, education and extension.