Seed World

EVENT PREVIEW: The NAPB’s 2024 Meeting Sparks New Partnerships with St. Louis Startups

The National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) is getting ready to hold its 2024 meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, from July 21-25 — and this year’s concept is an important one that the NAPB’s incoming president says will continue to build on the organization’s success and set the tone for the future.

The meeting is being hosted by Bayer and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“This gathering is really focused on three key themes: rethinking, reinventing, and revolutionizing the field of plant breeding. We centered it around these concepts, building on the legacy of previous gatherings,” says incoming NAPB president J.D. Rossouw, who serves as head of vegetables research & development at Bayer Crop Science. 

“Our emphasis was on engaging with graduate students, ensuring they gain exposure to both the private and public sectors, as well as potential future employers.”

The meeting also features a strong scientific component, including a field trip to the University of Urbana-Champaign, located near St. Louis. 

Additionally, organizers have invited local startup companies from the area to interact with attendees. This provides a platform for startups to showcase their journey of invention and commercialization, offering valuable insights into their experiences, Rossouw adds. 

Bayer’s J.D. Rossouw is incoming NAPB president

Meeting in the Midwest

Planning for this year’s meeting began over a year ago when the NAPB executive committee put forward the idea of hosting a plant breeding meeting in the Midwest. 

“We realized that Missouri hadn’t hosted an NAPB meeting before, and there was a perfect opportunity for collaboration between Bayer Crop Science and the University of Illinois,” Rossouw says. 

“That initial spark led us to craft an agenda that not only stood out but also diverged from previous meetings in its uniqueness. It’s been rewarding to present something fresh to the association, something that truly engages everyone involved.”

Organizers have put a lot of effort into crafting a diverse agenda for the meeting. 

“Personally, I’m particularly excited about the scholarship opportunities we offer, such as the Borlaug and George Washington Carver scholarships. These have gained momentum over the years and are always a highlight for me,” Rossouw says. 

“Alongside our partners, I’m eagerly anticipating hosting the graduate student session on Sunday. It’s a fantastic chance to engage with students who are embarking on their career paths in plant breeding, whether in the private or public sector, and to offer guidance as they navigate their options.”

Throughout the week, attendees will interact with both seasoned and budding plant breeders during the poster sessions and thematic discussions centered around rethinking, reinventing, and revolutionizing the field of plant breeding. Additionally, the panel session featuring the future of Illinois and the startup companies in St. Louis promises to be enlightening and engaging for all involved.

“The primary reason I’ve consistently enjoyed attending these meetings over the past several years is the opportunity to connect with industry players, both from the public and private sectors. Building a network within a global community is invaluable, especially in the field of plant breeding. Whether you’re a budding scientist or a seasoned professional, there’s immense potential to make an impact not only within the U.S. but on a global scale,” Rossouw says.

“Networking allows us to forge connections with fellow plant breeders, scientists, and students who will shape the future of the industry. It’s about cultivating relationships that can last for the next two to three decades, collaborating with peers on projects, and seeking guidance from those who have walked the path before us.” 

That network serves as a source of support and mentorship, helping meeting attendees to  navigate their careers and contribute meaningfully to the advancement of plant breeding worldwide. 

“It’s this sense of community and the opportunities it brings that has kept me engaged and eager to participate in these meetings year after year,” Rossouw adds.

The hotel chosen to host this year’s conference is St. Louis Union Station Hotel, housed in the former Union Railway Station, a St. Louis icon since 1894. It’s within blocks of the City Museum and less than a mile from the heart of downtown St. Louis.

To register visit