Seed World

Researcher Recognized with Lifetime Achievement Award in India

Dr. David Stelly at Texas A&M University recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Conference on Genetics and Cytogenetics in India. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

David Stelly recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Conference on Genetics and Cytogenetics at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad in Karnataka, India.
Stelly, a professor of cytogenetics, genetics, genomics and plant breeding in the soil and crop sciences department, holds a joint appointment with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M University in College Station.
He received his award during a program jointly organized by the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad and the Dr. S.W. Mensinkai Memorial Education and Research Foundation.
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have made immense contributions in the fields of genetics and cytogenetics, according to the organization. Another American lifetime achievement awardee was Dr. Bikram Gill, a cytogeneticist who works with wheat at Kansas State University.
Stelly has more than 40 years of diverse breeding experiences with diploid and polyploid crops such as potato, tomato, soybean, maize, conifers, sorghum and cotton, including researching germplasm introgression, reproductive biology and cytology, cytogenetics, genetics and genomics.
For over 30 years with Texas A&M, he has led a multi-faceted research program that collectively focuses on increasing the ability to use using wild genetic resources for genetic improvement of cotton and sorghum, both crops of immense importance to Texas, the U.S. and the world.
An aspect of recent scientific emphasis has been to create facile means of high-throughput genotyping cotton for research and breeding, so those methods can be coupled with his plant genetic diversification efforts, according to the award presentation.
Over the past half-dozen years or so, his lab and collaborators identified and mapped millions of minute molecular DNA markers called single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs or “snips,” Stelly said. Thousands of these were chosen for development of a high-quality, high-density SNP array that enables high-speed genetic analysis.
Research that once took years can now be obtained in a matter of days, he said. With expedited timelines, breeders and related researchers, including graduate students, can tackle more substantive research goals.
Moreover, the results can be used to develop marker-assisted selection, a technology where DNA markers are used individually or collectively for indirect selection toward genetic types with improved traits and trait combinations, Stelly said.
The award presentation noted Stelly’s genetic work has featured extensive efforts to create and analyze chromosome substitution lines. By replacing entire chromosomes of cotton with genes from a related species, he established means to more effectively harness the non-cultivated species germplasm resources for genetic analysis and the breeding of improved upland cotton.
Results of Stelly’s studies have been published in multiple high impact journals, and his contributions have helped spur cotton research and breeding forward domestically and globally, according to the citation.
He also was awarded with Cotton Genetics Research Awards in 1995 and 2008.
Stelly co-directs his department’s core AgriGenomics Laboratory and helped create Texas A&M’s Whole-System Genome Initiative, now known as the Texas A&M Institute for Genome Sciences and Society, and serves on its executive committee.
He was involved in the development of the International Cotton Genome Initiative and is currently chairperson. Stelly also was involved in the development of the National Association of Plant Breeders, the only U.S. organization solely dedicated to plant breeding. He also was the driving force behind the informal group that established the International Cotton SNP Chip Consortium and developed the cotton SNP array for high-throughput genotyping.
Stelly said he is excited about the new opportunities to combine the genetic materials he created with the new SNP genotyping methods, because together they promise significant increases in the ranges and rates of genetic inquiry and gain. He said this bodes well for graduate students and breeders alike.