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Dr. Fred Allen is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Tennessee (UT). He was soybean breeder from 1975-1998 at UT, and served as Department Head from 1996-2001. In 2001, Fred became the Coordinator for the state-wide agronomic variety testing program for corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum and specialty crops. He continued in that role until his retirement in 2015. Fred’s plant breeding research focused on soybean cultivar development as well as improvements in selection and testing procedures to enhance the soybean breeding process. During his tenure as coordinator of variety testing, he standardized plot sizes, replications, seeding rates, numbers of locations, etc. for the replicated variety tests conducted on UT Research and Education Centers across Tennessee. He also incorporated the standardized, on-farm, county strip trials conducted in about 25 counties by UT extension agents and specialists into the official variety testing program. This greatly expanded the yearly amount of data that TN soybean producers have available to them to make purchase decisions. The results from both types of tests are reported together in the variety test bulletins as well as the variety test website.
The advent of intellectual property (IP) rights has directly impacted all of the steps of a public soybean breeding program. In my view, the IP rights have been a positive step forward but have added many requirements to the operation of a breeding program. For example, open germplasm exchange among public breeders is a practice of the past. The acquisition of parental stocks now requires lots of paperwork in the form of multiple MTAs or Research Agreements as well as additional time required for both party’s legal team reviews and negotiations. In some cases, it has caused a reduction in diversity of germplasm available to the breeder because no agreement can be reached. The IP rights also increase the costs of isolating and advancing some materials in winter nurseries as well as in yield testing novel traits in separate isolated tests with a third-party specified set of “check” cultivars. Furthermore, the cultivar release and marketing requirements have changed substantially from pre-IP days. This presentation will focus on such changes and added requirements as they relate to the soybean breeding program at the University of Tennessee over the past 25 years.