Singh appointed to G.F. Sprague Chair by Iowa State’s Department of Agronomy

Smiling man standing in soybean field wearing red polo shirt and dark hat.
Professor Asheesh K. (Danny) Singh in the field. Photo by N. Boddepalli, Iowa State University.

AMES, Iowa – Professor and plant breeder Asheesh K. (Danny) Singh has been named to the G.F. Sprague Chair in Agronomy by the Department of Agronomy in Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Singh succeeds William Beavis, professor emeritus in agronomy, who has served in the position since 2007.

“It is quite an honor to be associated with Dr. Sprague, one of the foremost plant breeders,” Singh said. ”His work is still relevant and is an inspiration to continue exploring all available tools and technologies to address the complex production challenges ahead of us.” 

The Sprague endowed chair, established in 2005, is funded by the Agronomy Endowment. Sprague is considered one of the fathers of modern maize breeding. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he is credited with discovering hybrid corn, and his Iowa Stiff Stalk Synthetic is the germplasm foundation for many commercial corn hybrids. 

“Dr. Sprague was a USDA scientist housed in the Department of Agronomy from 1939 to 1958. The Department chose to honor him because of his excellence as a scientist, as well as his excellence in mentoring graduate students and teaching,” said Mary Wiedenhoeft, Morrill Professor and interim department chair of agronomy. “Today, Dr. Singh exemplifies these same qualities in his science, mentoring and teaching.”

Singh joined Iowa State's Department of Agronomy as Monsanto Chair for Soybean Breeding in April 2013. His background includes work as a research scientist and wheat breeder at the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture and animal husbandry from G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in India, a master's degree in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Saskatchewan and a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Guelph. 

An investigator on more than 70 competitive research grants, Singh is best known for his expertise in soybean breeding and using artificial intelligence for crop breeding. He is an author or co-author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and co-author of the textbook “Plant Breeding and Cultivar Development.” He has participated in developing more than 70 cultivars and germplasm lines, of which more than 40 have been commercialized, including four ISU soybean varieties.

This year, Singh was named a Fellow by the Crop Science Society of America, and he chairs the organization’s Division for Crop Breeding and Genetics. Recent recognitions he has received include the CALS Team Award for his Soynomics research group, and mid-career research achievement awards from Iowa State and CALS. 

Singh is also a popular instructor who teaches two agronomy courses, or, as he says, “I learn with students.” 

“The Sprague chair position will provide additional resources to continue and expand partnerships and collaborations – including with farmers, commodity groups and researchers at ISU -- to enhance cropping systems and better integrate knowledge of plants, soil, air, water and other aspects for long-term resiliency in crop production,” Singh said. “I look forward to continuing interdisciplinary work with students and staff on projects relevant to our farmers, society and nation.” 


Asheesh (Danny) Singh, Agronomy, 515-294-3268,

Mary Wiedenhoeft, Agronomy, 515-294-3274,

Whitney Baxter, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications, 515-294-2314,