Seed World

For Luis Salazar, a Love of Plant Breeding Began at Hobby Lobby


Luis Salazar’s career in plant breeding began at a craft store.

“Back in the day, when I was about 11, my family and I were at a Hobby Lobby. I found a growing kit for carnivorous plants. The North American species of carnivorous plants, most of them require something called stratification for the seeds, where they have to go through a cold period to simulate the wintertime. So when I brought this kit home, it told me to put the seeds in the fridge for eight weeks. So I put it in the soil and this little plastic dome, and I kept it in the fridge. My mom hated it, but she let me do it,” he says.

“I waited those eight weeks and nothing germinated. I was devastated. I was so mad. On my 12th birthday, I convinced my mom to order carnivorous plants from a California nursery. I was just totally enamoured with plants. When I heard about plant genetics and GMO and plant breeding, I was around 13 or 14 and it just made total sense to me. Now here I am, soon to finish my Ph.D in plant breeding.”

Salazar is a fifth-year PhD candidate in the Horticulture & Agronomy Graduate Group studying plant breeding and genetics at the University of California, Davis. His research focuses on the physiology and genetics of salinity tolerance in wild lettuce species. As lettuce is a salt-sensitive crop, the objective of his research is to identify QTL related to salinity tolerance in wild lettuce species to breed salt-tolerant lettuce.

He sat down with Marc Zienkiewicz last month in Ames, Iowa, at the National Association of Plant Breeders annual meeting to talk about his research.