Seed World

How Tom Osborn Makes Private Sector Impact in Plant Breeding

The National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) Private Sector Plant Breeding Award, first established in 2020, recognizes an individual whose accomplishments as a
scientist in the private sector have had extraordinary impact in the field of plant breeding in areas such as germplasm development, cultivar release, technological innovation, and

The 2020 recipient is Dr. Thomas C. Osborn. Dr. Osborn is currently the Head of Global Analytics and Pipeline Design for Vegetable R&D at Bayer Crop Science in St.
Louis, where he leads a team of scientists and engineers that brings new insights and capabilities to the vegetable breeding pipeline using predictive analytics, accelerated breeding methods and advanced genomic and plant phenotyping technologies.

As one of his supporting letters attested: “Dr. Osborn’s work has impacted Bayer’s global portfolio of seed products across diverse crops. The advances in breeding methodologies
and introduction of novel traits have had a significant impact and delivered new vegetable varieties that provided much-needed solutions for growers and innovative products for consumers.”

Osborn got interested in biology as a young person , despite not growing up on a farm.

“Having a passion for what you do is essential to being a great vegetable breeder. That passion may be around the the field of breeding itself, but I think they have to have a passion for genetics and breeding itself. It helps if they have a passion for vegetables and making new products that consumers want. It’s just fascinating the levels of diversity we deal with in vegetables. I look for people that have a huge passion for that,” he says.

“The other element that’s important is the interest and innovation and new technology to create those innovations, and how to use it to really change how you do the work. I look for people who have been broadly trained, and then exposed to different things and have taken courses in a number of areas and people who are really lifelong learners and interested in continuing to learn in many different areas. The world is not static, and technologies keep changing. And if you come in with a fixed set of knowledge on technologies, and you don’t evolve, then you’ll quickly be outpaced.”