Advanced Plant Technology program bridges old and new techniques

By Peter Hull

Growers listen to presenter at Field DayShortly after the dawn of human civilization, humankind began to breed plants.  

And while techniques improved through the millennia, the basic process was pretty much the same: coaxing desired characteristics from offspring by selecting those traits in the parent plant.  

Then, not too many years ago, came molecular genetics. The game changed.  

Now Clemson has taken it a step farther: Its new Advanced Plant Technology program will blend traditional plant breeding and molecular genetics into a comprehensive approach to improve crop yields and quality through breeding and field trials.  

Along the way, it also will foster development of the Pee Dee region’s agricultural economy.  

“Collaboration with Clemson plant scientists on the main campus and agronomists at research centers in Blackville and Charleston provides a complete cycle of genetic improvement and agricultural practices for profitable production,” George Askew, Clemson associate vice president for Public Service and Agriculture, said the Pee Dee Research and Education Center Farm Field Day in announcing the program.  

The program will increase the per-acre value of crops, identify new crops that can expand the market for South Carolina farm products and provide research-based information to growers on new varieties and production techniques.  

The project capitalizes on the Pee Dee region’s strong agricultural economy, Clemson’s long-standing collaboration with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Florence and the proximity to the city of Florence and the interstate system, Askew said. It also has potential for collaboration with researchers at Francis Marion and other universities.  

The annual field day featured field tours covering cotton, peanut and corn management; tobacco, peanuts and soybeans; and bioenterprise and wildlife. There also were presentations on grain sorghum as an alternative feed grain and flax and opportunities for the Pee Dee region.