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Keynote Speakers

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Seed Developmental SystemsSeed Germination and Dormancy SystemsSeed Microbial SystemsSeed Ecological SystemsSeed Conservation SystemsSeed Scanning Systems

Seed Developmental Systems

This section includes topics in seed development but with focus on how the cellular/developmental mechanisms integrate into systems to achieve the desired end, whether seed quality or crop yield. This includes systems biology with respect to transcriptomics and metabolomics, but also emphasizing how these systems could be utilized to increase seed yield or quality. This could include maternal/filial tissue interactions, whole plant source/sink relationships in seed development, and relationships of seed developmental regulation to other stages of the life cycle.

Loïc Lepiniec

TALK TITLE: “Structure and function of the conserved LAFL gene regulatory network during Arabidopsis seed development”

Loïc Lepiniec is Research Director in the Institute JP Bourgin (IJPB, INRA-AgroParisTech-CNRS) since 2002 and Professor of Biology at Polytechnique (engineering school) since 2010, both at the new University Paris-Saclay. He earned his M.S. (1989) and PhD (1993) degrees in Plant Molecular Biology at Paris-South and degree of Engineer in Agronomy (1989) from ENSAIA. After two years of postdoctoral research at the lab of Genetics in Ghent (D. Inze 94-95), he joined INRA at Versailles, as junior scientist, to develop a new lab of “Seed Biology” with M. Caboche. He then, served as the head of the INRA division of Plant Biology, from 2006 to 2010. He is coordinating a “Network of Excellence”, funded by the French Government (2011-2019) entitled “Saclay Plant Sciences” (www6.inra.fr/saclay-plant-sciences_eng/) and gathering more than 700 people. He is a member of the board of the Life Sciences Department at the Université Paris-Saclay since 2012. He also served as chair of the Multinational Arabidopsis Steering Committee (MASC, 2015-2016) and organized the first International Congress on Arabidopsis Research in France, at Paris (ICAR2015). He received the awards “J. Dufrenoy” from the French academy of Agriculture (2015) and “O. Mirbeau” in Integrative Biology, from the French Academy of Sciences (2008). His research spans diverse areas of seed science, with a strong emphasis on transcriptional regulations and Arabidopsis, to study seed development or primary and secondary metabolisms. He has published over 90 peer-reviewed publications. His current interests are on the genetic and molecular mechanisms regulating the development of the embryo and integuments, their interactions with endosperm, and the regulation of oil and flavonoid biosynthesis.


Gwyneth Ingram

TALK TITLE: “The developing seed: A mechanical ménage à trois”

Gwyneth Ingram obtained her bachelors degree in Plant Sciences from the University of Cambridge (UK), before moving to the Coen lab at the John Innes Centre in Norwich (UK) where she studied flower development in Antirrhinum, obtaining her PhD in 1996. She became interested in plant embryogenesis during a post-doc (1996-1999) in the Plant Reproduction and Development Laboratory (RDP) at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (France), before moving to the Institute for Molecular Plant Sciences at the University of Edinburgh (UK) in to start her own group as a research fellow, becoming a lecturer in 2007. In 2010 she rejoined the RDP (Lyon, France) and is now a CNRS Research Director, leading the Seed Development group. Her work is focused on understanding how the genetically distinct compartments that make up the seed communicate to co-ordinate their development. In this context she studies peptide-mediated signalling between the developing embryo and endosperm and, in collaboration with biophysicists and modellers, she has initiated work aimed at understanding how physical interactions between the embryo, endosperm and maternal tissues condition early seed development.

Seed Germination and Dormancy Systems

Research on germination and dormancy is evolving toward understanding how the key hormones (e.g., GA, ABA, ethylene) interact with other regulatory systems to convey environmental information to influence the decision to complete germination. This includes systems interacting at the molecular, cellular or tissue levels to control the initiation of embryo expansion and more ecological or population level systems determining how environmental factors influence dormancy and germination in relation to environmental signals.

Eiji Nambara

TALK TITLE: “NIN-Like Protein8 is a master regulator of nitrate-promoted seed germination in Arabidopsis”

Eiji Nambara received a Ph.D. in Agricultural Sciences from Nagoya University. He has been employed by the Hokkaido University (instructor, 1995-1998), the University of Toronto (postdoctoral researcher, 1998-2001), and the RIKEN Plant Science Center (team leader, 2001-2008). He moved to the University of Toronto in 2008. His group has studied the regulation of plant hormone metabolism, especially abscisic acid, in seeds. Currently his research interests include the response of seeds to changing environmental conditions.


Luis Lopez-Molina

TALK TITLE: To be announced

Luis Lopez-Molina received his Masters degree in theoretical physics and PhD in molecular biology from the University of Geneva. His doctorate studies, under the supervision of Prof Ueli Schibler, focused on the physiological role of the transcription factor DBP in the circadian rhythms of mice. He performed his postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of Prof Nam-Hai Chua at the Rockefeller University (New York, USA). As part of his postdoctoral work, he identified the transcription factor ABI5 in Arabidopsis thaliana and characterised its role in the control of Arabidopsis seed germination as a target of abscisic acid signaling. He was awarded in 2004 a Swiss National Science Foundation Professorship in the Department of Botany and Plant Biology of the University of Geneva, where he was appointed Associate Professor in 2012. At the University of Geneva he has continued to study different aspects of how seed germination is controlled in Arabidopsis. In this context, he has become increasingly interested in the role of the endosperm as a tissue playing a central role to control seed germination and early Arabidopsis seedling development.

Seed Microbial Systems

There is strong interest in identifying microbes that have specific effects on plant growth or resistance to pathogens or pests. Many companies are pursuing biologically based approaches to protect plants or stimulate their growth. Seeds are expected to be a critical delivery system for establishing beneficial microbes in the field, as has long been the case for Rhizobium, for example. However,  experience to date suggests that this will not be simple to achieve, and more information is needed on how the seed microflora interacts with the soil microflora. This program section would focus on seed/microbe interactions, including both beneficial and pathogenic microbes.

Susan Meyer

TALK TITLE: “Seed bank pathogen community ecology”

Susan Meyer is a Research Ecologist with the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station at the Shrub Sciences Laboratory in Provo, Utah.  She has produced a large body of published work in seed ecology, studying habitat-correlated infraspecific variation in seed germination and establishment syndromes of native Intermountain plant species as part of efforts to develop tools to restore semi-arid wildland ecosystems. More recently she has worked extensively with the seed ecology of the invasive annual grass Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass, downy brome), with the goal of developing biocontrol methods that operate at the seed and seedling stages.  This work has revealed a complex and fascinating array of seed pathogens that interact with the host seed, with each other, and with soil microenvironmental conditions to produce sometimes dramatic effects in the field.  Complete stand failure over large areas, referred to locally as ‘cheatgrass die-off’, is a relatively common but sporadic occurrence that has attracted the attention of land managers. Dr. Meyer was invited by the USDI Bureau of Land Management to lead a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary research effort to understand this phenomenon and to explore its potential consequences for management. This work has also been funded through grants from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Fire Plan, the Joint Fire Sciences Program, and the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative.


Ron Walcott

TALK TITLE: “Bacterial fruit blotch: Understanding and managing a global threat to cucurbit seed production”

Ron R. Walcott, is a Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Georgia (UGA).  He obtained his B.S. (1993) and M.S. (1995) degrees, both in Plant Pathology, from Iowa State University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 1999. Dr. Walcott joined the UGA Plant Pathology department as an Assistant Professor in 1999. He was promoted to Professor in 2012 and served as Assistant Dean for Diversity in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences from 2008 to 2013.  Dr. Walcott’s teaching responsibilities have included Introductory Plant Pathology, Plant Disease Diagnosis and Management, Plant Pathogenic Bacteria, Molecular Plant Disease Diagnosis, and Plants Pathogens and People. His research focus is seed pathology with a specific emphasis on bacterial pathogens of vegetable seeds. Much of his research effort is committed to the study of Acidovorax citrulli, the causal agent of bacterial fruit blotch of cucurbits.  In particular, he is interested in elucidating the mechanisms of seed infection, factors that influence seed-to-seedling transmission of bacterial diseases and the development of novel seed treatments and seed health assays. Dr. Walcott is also interested in the molecular determinants of phytopathogenic bacteria that are critical for seedling colonization and for host preference. Dr. Walcott has served as Senior Editor for Plant Disease from 2007 -2008 and from 2013-2015. He is currently the chair of the American Phytopathology Seed Science Committee.

Seed Ecological Systems

Seed ecology clearly lends itself to the “systems” theme, and the impacts of climate change on seeds in natural and agricultural systems are of importance. The focus would be on ecosystem-level changes as impacted by climate and the physiological systems that determine seed responses, issues for vegetation restoration, and invasive weed control.

Jeff Walck

TALK TITLE: “What is a germination niche and how does it relate to climate change?”

Jeffrey Walck earned his B.S. with Honors from Cornell University (1989) and his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky (1998), and worked with Drs. Jerry and Carol Baskin on the comparative ecology of rare vs. common goldenrods.  He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at The Ohio State University, and conducted research in molecular phylogenetics and the evolution of seed dormancy. In 1999, he joined the Department of Biology at Middle Tennessee State University in Tennessee, USA where he is currently a Professor.  Jeffrey’s research focuses on the ecology of seed germination – from unraveling complex dormancy types and environmental cues for germination to aspects concerning climate change and invasion ecology.  He has worked on species that inhabit a broad range of ecosystems: temperate deciduous forests, tropical rainforests, sclerophyllous woodlands, deserts, mangroves and montane forests.  Jeffrey served as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar from 2007 to 2009 at The University of Western Australia and Kings Park and Botanic Garden in Perth, Australia, where he worked on difficult-to-germinate species.  During the summer of 2013, he was a Visiting Professor in the Chinese Academy of Sciences and did research on the responses of seed germination and seedling growth to climate change of dune species.  Jeffrey also has served as an Invited Visiting Scientist to South Korea and Taiwan, where he collaborated on seed germination and on ex situ seed banking projects.


Mark Ooi

TALK TITLE: “The (sometimes) forgotten role of seeds in ecology”

Mark Ooi is a Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, based at the Centre for Ecosystem Science in the School of Biological Earth & Environmental Sciences. He has conducted research in fire-prone ecosystems for over 15 years, and has run a lab focused on seed ecology and the role it plays in plant population dynamics since 2011. His research has been carried out in heath and woodlands in eastern Australia, sand dune annual plant communities in Europe, oceanic islands and on ephemeral plants in semi-arid systems, and covers both fundamental and applied ecology. Mark serves as Associate Editor for Seed Science Research and the American Journal of Botany.

Mark’s research encompasses several key themes in plant ecology. He is interested in the role of the regeneration niche in determining persistence and population recovery, as well as the mechanisms by which dormancy is overcome and germination promoted in the field, under both current and projected future climate conditions. His work is often utilised for understanding key issues including threatened species management, conservation and the impacts of climate change. Mark has ongoing collaborative projects with researchers in Brazil, China and Europe, and conducts work across Australia as part of his role with the National Environmental Science Programme’s (NESP) Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

Seed Conservation Systems

The majority of crop germplasm is conserved as seeds, made possible by the developmental, physiological and biophysical systems that enable desiccation tolerance and longevity of dry seeds. These traits and their impacts should be considered in collection or reproduction of materials for storage or conservation. Biophysical systems are also prominent in seed storage conditions, in contrast to the metabolic systems normally focused on in seed biology (Walters et al., 2010). Reactive oxygen species represent a unique system that can span from the biophysical to the metabolic realms. Understanding how these different systems interact is critical to extending storage techniques to recalcitrant seeds, meristems or tissue cultures that currently are difficult to preserve (Walters et al., 2013).

Bruce Downie

TALK TITLE: “The natural protection and repair mechanism: The orchestration of seed vigor”

Bruce Downie received his BSc from Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia in 1986, Masters in Silviculture from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå in 1989, worked in the National Tree Seed Center, Forestry Canada, Petawawa, Ontario 1989-91, obtained a Ph.D in Botany from the University of Guelph in 1994, and occupied a post-doctoral position at the University of California, Davis until 1998 when he joined the Department of Horticulture at the University of Kentucky, Lexington where he is currently Associate Professor. With collaborators from China, India, and Brazil, his lab studies protein repair mechanisms, the interaction of the Late Embryogenesis Abundant Proteins with the stress susceptible proteome, and the role the Raffinose family of oligosaccharides play in protecting seed cells from dehydration stress.


Manuela Nagel

TALK TITLE: “Germination decline during barley dry storage is associated with reduction of tocochromanols and glutathione”

Manuela Nagel studied agricultural sciences at the University of Gottingen, Germany. She discovered her passion for seed science while at IPK Gatersleben’s Genebank, where she studied seed longevity in various IPK research laboratories. Combining her knowledge of quantitative genetics with biochemical perspectives, Dr. Nagel next worked with Hugh Pritchard and Ilse Kranner at the Millennium Seedbank of KEW Gardens. After completing her PhD in 2011, she studied seed quality as a Post-Doctoral Scientist with the European EcoSeed project. Since 2016, as head of the cryo- and stress biology group at IPK Gatersleben, she has managed research projects involving long-term storage of vegetatively-propagated crops, focusing on stress response and mechanisms during cryopreservation, the effect of endophytes and seed and pollen viability.

Seed Scanning Systems

There are a number of nondestructive scanning technologies that are being adapted to visualize, measure, categorize and sort seeds. These technologies can identify diseased seeds, internal deficiencies, and compositional differences among seeds. Raman spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy, hyperspectral imaging, and chlorophyll florescence are some of the promising technologies available that can be applied to seed technology to improve quality. These technologies can also assist seed analysts to detect foreign matter and weed seeds in seed samples and in quality assessment of commercial commodities (e.g., rice grain). This session will be co-sponsored by the International Seed Testing Association.

Laura Bowden

TALK TITLE: “Scanning systems in seed quality assessment”

Laura Bowden received her PhD from the University of Reading in 2007, after studying variation in seed development and seed longevity in a collaborative project with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Laura now works as the seed physiologist for the Official Seed Testing Station, Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, where she has been since 2010. Laura’s research focuses on the physiology and quality of seeds of crop species, with a particular interest in understanding seed vigour. She is active within the International Seed Testing Association, as the convenor of the tri-annual ISTA Seed Symposium, Vice-Chair of the Moisture Committee, and is a member of the Seed Science Advisory Group.


Ghassen Trigui

TALK TITLE: “Internal seed morphology using X-rays microtomography imaging and image processing”

Ghassen Trigui obtained a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the Université Grenoble Alpes before joining the Applied Mathematics and Informatics research unit of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). He received a PhD in Computational Biology from Paris-Sud University in 2014. Ghassen now works as an engineer at the Physical Analysis Lab of the French Official Seed Testing Station (SNES-GEVES) and manages the X-rays Imaging team. His work focuses on the development of new tools for the study of plant seed quality. In this context, he developed new X-rays image processing procedures for many seed research and industry applications.
(This talk will be delivered by Birte Boelt)


Birte Boelt

TALK TITLE: “Multispectral imaging – A new seed analysis technology?” 

Birte Boelt holds a PhD in crop science (herbage seed production) and plant physiology (carbohydrate metabolism) from Copenhagen University. She now works as a senior scientist in Aarhus University, and her current area of research is management of seed crops to improve seed yield and quality. She heads the team Seed Science and Technology with the objective to achieve basic new knowledge about the influence of growing conditions and crop management on yield and quality in seed crops. Recently the team has started research in the use of multispectral imaging to assess seed quality with the aim to develop fast, cost-efficient and non-destructive methods for seed quality assessment.