Geneticist Stephen Kresovich, director of Clemson University’s Advanced Plant Technology program, has been appointed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to the National Genetic Resources Advisory Council to serve as one of six scientific members nationwide.

Stephen Kresovich head shot

Stephen Kresovich, director of Clemson University’s Advanced Plant Technology program, has been appointed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to the National Genetic Resources Advisory Council, a subcommittee of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board.
Image Credit: Clemson University

The council is a subcommittee of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board (NAREEEAB), which advises the Secretary and land-grant colleges and universities on priorities and policies for food and agricultural research, education, extension and economics.

“The focus of my career has been directed to understanding, conserving and utilizing crop genetic diversity in all its wonderful forms,” Kresovich said. “Having worked in genetic resources repositories for 11 years earlier in my career, this appointment allows me to come full circle with my professional interests. I’m excited to help develop this national strategy, particularly in light of how important agricultural security is in the 21st century.

Kresovich joined Clemson in July 2013 as the Robert and Lois Coker Trustees Endowed Chair of Genetics in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. In this role, he serves as director of the Clemson Institute of Translational Genetics and the Advanced Plant Technology Program.

“Dr. Kresovich is a nationally and internationally recognized authority in plant genetic resources for agricultural uses,” said Paula Agudelo, Associate Dean for Research in Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS). “This appointment is an acknowledgment of his scientific achievements and reputation. He will represent plant scientists and Clemson University well in this high visibility position.”

The goal of the APT Program — part of Clemson’s Institute of Translational Genomics — is to improve agriculture in South Carolina one field at a time by employing translational, problem-solving science to advance crop agriculture in the state.

And while Kresovich’s work has been recognized across the country and the globe, he also works closely with numerous agribusinesses in the Palmetto State.

High Wire Distilling Company founder Scott Blackwell said Kresovich has been instrumental to the growth of his company, located in the heart of downtown Charleston, particularly as it relates to learning more about the correlation between genetics and flavor.

“We’ve enjoyed working with Steve on several projects for the past few years,” Blackwell said. “He has a true ‘rubber meets the road’ philosophy and great understanding of working towards results that matter. He’s very giving with his vast knowledge of genetics and always brings a sense of curiosity of what we are trying to achieve. We’ve also appreciated his ability to distill down the information so that we are able to better understand and execute from a layman’s point of view.”

“He has helped us formulate a sustainable path of seed security and helped us better understand our goals,” Blackwell added.

The NAREEEAB reflects the broad interests of food, fiber, and agricultural stakeholders nationwide, holds regional and national stakeholder listening sessions, provides consultation to granting programs of USDA, and develops consolidated advice based on stakeholder input that is vital to the current and future success of food, forestry, and agricultural programs.

The Board’s main objective is to contribute to effective federal agricultural research, education and economics programs through broad stakeholder feedback and sound science in its ongoing role as advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture. The Advisory Board also, by mandate, provides reports and recommendations to the appropriate agricultural committees of the U.S. Congress.

The NGRAC, which advises and makes recommendations to the Secretary and Director of the National Genetic Resources Program (NGRP), consists of 13 members appointed by the Secretary. Six of those members are required to come from scientific disciplines relevant to the NGRP, including agricultural sciences, economics and policy, environmental sciences, natural resource sciences, health sciences, and nutritional sciences.

“This appointment is well deserved for Dr. Kresovich, who has worked tirelessly in his roles here at Clemson to integrate advances in genetics and genomics to solve problems in agriculture, the environment and human health,” CAFLS Dean Keith Belli said. “His research and scientific reputation speak for themselves, and we couldn’t be more honored to have him representing Clemson University and CAFLS in this high-profile position where he will have a hand in shaping effective federal agricultural research, education and economics programs.”

Kresovich’s internationally recognized research focuses on conservation and use of genetic and genomic resources of crop plants including sorghum, maize and sugar cane. He has more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and also has developed a number of commercially released hybrids of sorghum and sugar cane. Kresovich is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Crop Science Society of America.

During a visit to Clemson Nov. 9, 2018, Secretary Perdue expressed concern U.S. agriculture wouldn’t be able to solve the problem of world hunger with pushback against science and technology.

“Every time I get with my international colleagues, we’ll sit around these big tables and all of their talking points are about eliminating world hunger by 2030,” Perdue said during the visit. “And they get to me — and I’m not very polite with these things — and I say, ‘That sounds all good that you all want to eliminate world hunger while you deny the very tools and techniques that it will take to get there. That’s the facts. Unless you all accept the facts of what our modern crop-protection chemicals have done, as well as our biotechnology efforts have done, you will not eliminate world hunger in that regard.”

On Feb. 20, Perdue announced the Agriculture Innovation Agenda, a USDA-wide initiative to align resources, programs, and research to position American agriculture to better meet future global demands. Specifically, the USDA will stimulate innovation so that American agriculture can achieve the goal of increasing production by 40 percent while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050.