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Seminar: Dr. Hamid Ashrafi – Helping Producers and Training of the Next-Generation Blueberry and Plant Breeders

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August 31 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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Breeding Blueberries Along with Other Specialty Crops through Conventional and Modern Techniques: Helping Producers and Training of the Next-Generation Plant Breeders
Dr. Hamid Ashrafi, Assistant Professor
Department of Horticultural Science, NC State

Monday, August 31, 2020, at 3:00 pm
Join Zoom Meeting:  https://ncsu.zoom.us/j/94920404461?pwd=VEY4bEJQdlhRWmRDcjJIQks5R0Qvdz09
Meeting ID: 949 2040 4461

Abstract
Hamid Ashrafi was appointed as an assistant professor in the Department of Horticultural Science in April 2015.  During the past five years, he has been the lead PI of the blueberry breeding and genomics program at NCSU. Developing blueberry cultivars for North Carolina is at the core of his mission. In addition, commercializing of noncompeting varieties, either ornamental or non-ornamental, has always been of his interest. His team in Raleigh and Research Stations at Castle Hayne (J. Spencer and formerly T. Bland) and Sandhill work tirelessly during the peak of blueberry production season to collect data from their field plots and harvest fruit for laboratory analyses. During the last five years, Ashrafi and Spencer have made >200 crosses, evaluated 20,000 seedlings, made 200 selections, tested 40 selections in advanced replicated trials. They are planning to release three cultivars for early, mid, and late-season production within the next few years while two other disclosures are pending for patent application. Due to the climate changes and unexpected weather patterns, multiple hurricanes, and the significant reduction of pollinators’ activities in NC, the farm gate value of blueberry production has declined by 26% from 2015 to 2018.

New strategies in our breeding program are needed to mitigate these effects and to make our cultivars more resilient to these changes. For instance, the use of genomic selection may help select superior genotypes that are more adaptable to climate changes by making targeted crosses and by incorporating biotic and abiotic resistances into the new germplasm. Developing genomic resources for blueberry and other small fruit will enhance our ability to make the genomic selection a reality for blueberry in the future. Thus far, the collaborative projects at the blueberry genomics lab have led to developing millions of molecular markers, sequencing more than 70 genomes, and sequencing almost all genes of blueberry.  Along the way, these efforts will provide training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to learn modern breeding techniques and bioinformatics skills.
Plant breeding is an art and science; both require constant decision making. Hamid’s teaching philosophy is that by empowering his team members, they become our future independent researchers, particularly Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars who are on the path to becoming our next team leaders. Hamid is teaching two courses in the department of horticultural science. He has employed and trained more than twenty-three undergraduate and six graduate students since he started his career at NC State. In this seminar, you learn about his past and present activities at the blueberry farm, greenhouse, and laboratory.

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