Seed World

Plant Breeders! Do Your Work With a Collaborative Spirit, Says Harvey Voldeng

Germination put out the call for nominations to identify some of our industry’s most important mentors who have played a role in helping the next generation develop their skills. We had three main criteria: they be a person who’s demonstrated proven mentorship skills; they be at least 55 years of age; and they be retired from their main seed industry job. Here’s the second of who we selected for 2022.

Harvey Voldeng

Age: 81

Location: Ontario

Known for: Leading next-gen soybean innovators

Harvey Voldeng worked as a plant breeder for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa, Ont., for 43 years. He was also a research lead for AAFC. He served as a soybean team leader and the plant breeding and genetics section head and was one of three program chairs at the Ottawa Plant Research Centre.

He was acting director for the centre after a major budget and staff reduction in 1995 and eased the transition for many staff members, remembers AAFC soybean researcher Elroy Cober, who was one of many mentored by Voldeng. Voldeng remained section head of Plant Breeding and Genetics of the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre until 1999.

While primarily a research scientist, Voldeng has sat on advisory committees and mentored a number of graduate students from the University of Guelph, McGill University and Laval University who have gone on to big things.

Ralph Martin founded the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, Nova Scotia and then became the Loblaw Chair in Sustainable Food Production at the University of Guelph. Francois Loiselle was a plant breeder with Pioneer/Dupont in Iowa. Gilles Saindon was a plant breeder at AAFC Lethbridge and is now the assistant deputy minister for the Science and Technology Branch at AAFC. Cober went on to replace Voldeng as soybean breeder at AAFC Ottawa. Voldeng has also been a mentor to many young AAFC research scientists in Ottawa, Cober notes.

Voldeng’s top piece of advice for young plant breeders is to do their work with a collaborative spirit.

“Plant breeding has become pretty complicated compared to what it was when I started out. It helps to really cultivate partnerships with other breeders and companies in the space,” he says.