Seed World

Mario Carlone Says to Keep a Broad Germplasm Portfolio

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 leadership. The 2021 recipient is Dr. Mario Carlone, Corteva Agrisciences. Carlone sat down with Marc Zienkiewicz in Ames, Iowa at the recent meeting of the NAPB to talk about his career and his advice for other private and public sector breeders on how to be successful.

His top piece of wisdom?

“We have to make sure that germplasm stays diverse enough to give it the opportunity to change to the environmental needs, consumer needs, whatever those needs are. Yet, we also need to make gains. So you cannot keep it to too broad; as I always say, computing is a lot like being in the stock market; you need to keep a broad spectrum and have a balanced portfolio,” he says.

Carlone began his career at Garst/ICI Seeds in Slater, IA, learning the ropes on private sector corn breeding from 1987 to 1995. He was committed from those early years to two fundamental principles: 1) comprehensive knowledge of the germplasm; and, 2) running exceptional quality yield trials and nursery plots.

He tells Seed World about his award: “It’s a great honor to be recognized by your peers for an accomplishment. But it’s not just an individual being able to do it. I mean, you need your team of support staff getting the data and your other scientists adding information. And then of course, whoever’s funding it, like your organization or university.” In other words, it’s a team effort.