Seed World

Anju Biswas Wants to Ensure Alfalfa can Grow in Florida


Florida needs alfalfa, but right now can’t really grow it. Anju Biswas is out to change that.

Biswas is a Ph.D candidate in the agronomy department at the University of Florida. She works on on alfalfa breeding using phenomics and genomics selection and crop modeling to develop heat-stress tolerant alfalfa cultivars. She has obtained a prestigious seed grant award (~77.5k) from the AG2PI community. She sat down with Marc Zienkiewicz in Ames, Iowa, last month to talk about her work and why it matters to the world of alfalfa breeding.

“Florida is very hot and humid, and there is a huge demand for alfalfa because our cattle and horse industry are big there. Problem is we do not have enough alfalfa production there. There are no heat stress tolerant commercial cultivars available, so we have to import alfalfa from other parts of the country. So if we can have heat stress tolerant cultivars adapted to Florida, we will be able to meet our local demand for alfalfa,” she says.

That’s why she’s using different techniques so that researchers can reduce the time frame to develop such cultivars.

“Because for alfalfa, it takes 10 to 12 years to release a cultivar. So that’s why we’re using different techniques, for example, genomic selection, to reduce the breeding cycle. We also use high throughput phenotyping, precision phenotyping and crop modeling so that we have better prediction for the next generation, and we can skip some breeding cycles and speed things up.”