National Association of Plant Breeders
Diego Jarquin, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Department of Agronomy and Horticulture research assistant professor, was awarded the 2020 National Association of Plant Breeders Early Career Scientist Award during their virtual conference hosted by Nebraska, August 17-20.
This award recognizes a scientist in early stages of their plant breeding career who exhibits the ability to establish strong research foundations, to interact with multi-disciplinary teams and to participate in relevant professional societies.
His nomination letter stated: "Diego's excellent work in genomic prediction, along with his cutting-edge prediction software, his multidisciplinary knowledge, talent for teaching and experience make him one of the top scientists in the area of genomic prediction. He has already contributed greatly to the plant breeding research, and I have no doubt he will continue to lead new areas of crosscutting research."
Another colleague noted: "He has worked with plant breeders of different crops in the USA, Mexico, Japan, Australia and from many other countries. Diego has also developed extensive genomic pipelines sorting out important bioinformatics and computational issues."
Jarquin received a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Postgraduate Education in Mexico in 2012. He had postdoctoral training at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He has been at Nebraska since 2017.
In his program, Jarquin merges statistical methodology, quantitative genetics, computer algorithm development, data science and collaborative work with plant sciences. He seeks to advance prediction models for forecasting the plant performance while accounting for several sources of information and by taking genotype-by-environment interaction (G×E) into consideration.
Jarquin has already established an excellent publication record on the development of prediction models and applications. As one colleague observed: "His methodological work in genomic selection, G×E, and plant breeding design is highly impactful because it enables a wide range of plant breeders in private and publication sectors to develop improved varieties that in turn are the key to satisfy the increasing demand of food production."
Jarquin routinely seeks opportunities for collaborating with scientists who can benefit from applications and models that account for the effects of weather and biotic stressors and their interactions to better understand plant development. He is leading several projects related to the development of statistical models to perform predictions of crop performance. These models are flexible enough to handle the high dimensional nature of genomic and environmental factors as well as all interactions that might arise between each molecular marker and other type of covariates. His developments have led to the improvement of predictive ability of conventional models by 30-70% (depending on the crop-trait combination).
Jarquin is actively engaged with scientists on several projects where he provides expertise for understanding the crop performance via high dimensional interactions between genotypes and biotic and abiotic factors. For example, he is involved in the Genomes to Fields (G2F) and the SoyNAM (SoyGEN) projects which includes 30 states in the US and two provinces in Canada, and in both projects a large amount of environmental and soil information is utilized for analysis. He is also collaborating with the public (University of Tokyo, ICRISAT, CIMMYT, IRRI, EMBRAPA, CENICANA) and the private (Advanta Seeds) sectors on the development of new theories and models for understanding the genotype-phenotype relationship.
Jarquin is also active in many professional organizations and is currently section leader in Bioinformatics in Crops and Soils Community in American Society of Agronomy, thereby enhancing communication among scientists in different divisions.
A colleague concluded: "Diverse detailed information on genomes, environments, and phenotypes is increasingly available, and the use of this information will enable plant breeding and genetics to evolve considerably. The methods and models developed by Dr. Jarquin will be indispensable in this evolution and will greatly accelerate the genetic improvement of plants."
Jarquin will present an invited talk at the next NAPB annual meeting, to be hosted by Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in August 2021.
The NAPB is unique organization in the U.S., bringing together public and private sector plant breeders to share technical information, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their programs, develop the next generation of scientists, disseminate information about plant breeding, and advocate for a cohesive national plant breeding agenda. The PBCC provides a forum to discuss and educate the public about Plant Breeding. Plant breeders develop new crop varieties that promote food security, quality of life, and a sustainable future.