Welcome to Agronomy 521, Principles of Cultivar Development. I am Walter R. Fehr, the instructor for the course. My official title at Iowa State University is Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I have been an instructor of the undergraduate plant breeding class and the first graduate plant breeding class on campus for many years. My research addresses the genetic improvement of soybeans. This includes cultivar development and basic research on soybean breeding and genetics.
The goal of Agronomy 521, and that of the preceding companion course Agronomy 520, is to investigate the strategies used by plant breeders to develop clonal, synthetic, pure-line, and hybrid cultivars. By the end of Agronomy 521, you will have been taught the alternative methods that breeders use and should be able to design a breeding program of your own for any of the cultivar types.
The two courses were developed with Dr. Walter P. Suza, a lecturer in the Department of Agronomy at ISU. The foundation material is provided in my text. For each lesson, we have designated the chapters that you should read and understand. We have added supplementary information for each lesson that includes examples taken from articles written by our colleagues about methods they have used in cultivar development, and pictures to help you visualize the methods under discussion. The homework is designed to give you experience in applying the principles of the lesson.
The thing that no course can give you, whether on campus or online, is practical hands-on field experience. If you really want to be a plant breeder and manage a cultivar development program of your own, it is essential that you find a field breeder who is willing to give you practical experience. All of the courses in the world will not substitute for being in the field getting dirty and sweaty while planting, crossing, taking notes, making selections, and harvesting. You also should actively participate in the decision-making process with regard to program design and execution. I hope you will find a way to get that experience.
Course Grading and Communication
One-third of your course grade will be based on your homework assignments, one-third on the mid-term exam, and one-third on the final exam. Each of your homework assignments will count equally in determining that part of your grade.
I encourage you to discuss with your fellow students and others the subject matter of each lesson. You may choose to form a discussion group for that purpose. I will not grade that activity. If you want me to monitor the discussion and make comments, I will be happy to do that, if requested. I will not have meetings for us to discuss a subject verbally because of the logistical problems of finding a time that is convenient for all of you. Instead, I will rely on the Ask Your Instructor section of Blackboard to get questions from you and answer them for each lesson. If you prefer, you do not have to identify yourself in asking or commenting on a question.