Seed World

Removing Time from the Equation: Q&A with Daniela Sarti Dvorjak

Daniela Sarti Dvorjak, North America Soybean Market Segment lead for Syngenta, says in her perfect breeding program, she wishes time wasn’t something to worry about.

Seed World (SW): Favorite TV show?

Daniela Sarti Dvorjak (DSD): Having three young children, I haven’t had much time for watching TV lately. I’ve been into podcasts; my latest favorites are HBR Women at Work and NPR Rough Translation.

SW: What’s your No. 1 hobby?

DSD: My number one hobby is being outdoors. I love going for runs, walks, hiking, bicycle rides, etc. As a breeder, I really look forward to that first field visit during springtime and spending some time outdoors visiting plots.

SW: What did you originally want to grow up to be when you were a kid?

DSD: I grew up in Brazil and wanted to be a ballerina when I was young. In high school, I became fascinated by biology and genetics. When Dolly Sheep was cloned, I knew by then that I wanted to be a scientist. I started with animal science before moving to plants and finally found my passion for plant breeding. I still dance by the way.

SW: Do you have a motto that helps you with life/work?

DSD: I have two things I live by. No. 1: I truly believe that relationships are the foundation of everything. Connecting with people is my preferred learning method. The relationships I build are the major reason I am able to succeed. It is my caring for people that motivates me to work as hard as I do.

No. 2: Do not give up. Tough challenges don’t get less tough, but you will get stronger. Along my journey, I went through an intense period, having to prove my worth, conquer my space and show my voice in another language and in a different culture, in an area where initially I didn’t see many women leaders. Later on, and with every success, I was declared lucky. But rather than luck, I attribute my professional and personal success to my resilience and integrity. 

SW: Why soybeans in particular? 

DSD: I have worked with wheat, barley and sorghum breeding as well. I enjoy soybeans in particular because of its numerous uses around the world, from food, to fuel, to the medical field.

SW: No. 1 challenge soybean growers might face in 2021?

DSD: 2021 is fast approaching and the biggest decision the growers will have to make is the soybean seed choice and herbicide package for weed control that best fits their farm logistics and needs.

SW: If there was one thing you could completely eliminate challenge-wise from breeding soybeans, what would it be?

DSD: The challenges make breeding more fun. I am motivated by problem solving and the strategic thinking on the Breeder’s Equation. If I could remove something to make my plant breeding program less complex, that would be time. The goal is to increase rates of genetic gain without greatly increasing program size or cost. There are promising technology innovations that allow the breeders to work on this nowadays. Breeding is a continuous optimization and innovation field.