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American Seed Research Foundation marks 50 years of success

In 1959, the members of the American Seed Trade Association recognized the changing dynamics of agriculture and the seed industry. ASTA forged new ground in all areas from moving their headquarters from Chicago to Washington, D.C., to the inception of the American Seed Research Foundation. The advances in research and the innovation of the 1950s and 1960s laid the foundation for what was later called the "Green Revolution" which delivered hardy and high yielding seeds to feed the growing and often impoverished people around the world.

ASTA remained closely involved with scientific study and advances during these times, and in 1959, the American Seed Research Foundation first opened its doors, starting what would become a 50-year success story. The foundation's primary purpose was to promote research in plant and seed technology that would benefit seed companies, farmers and consumers.

Basic research in seed science takes considerable investment in resources and time. Most basic research can not be justified for the individual company, regardless of its size. State and federal experiment stations do some basic research in the area of seed science, but funding and facilities are limited and often prioritized to other activities. One way to increase the knowledge in seed sciences is for the seed industry to directly offer financial support to specific projects to enhance the publicly available information on seed growth and development to be utilized by all in seed research and innovation.

The efforts of ASRF have adapted and grown over time, but the mission remains committed to encouraging research in plant and seed biology and to facilitate the transfer of resulting technology to benefit the seed industry, farmers and consumers on a global basis. ASRF has seen many successes in its 50 years. The foundation has funded 54 project proposals. The total investment of ASRF in support of basic seed research has exceeded $800,000. These funds stimulated other sources of research support, with a three to one multiplier effect, adding another $2.5 million of matching funds provided by other cooperating organizations. ASRF funds have been distributed to 32 public institutions and supported 69 individual seed researchers.

"The American Seed Research Foundation has been the catalyst for encouraging investment in basic plant and seed biology research for over 50 years," said Rob Robinson, past ASRF president. "With a 3 to 1 multiplier on dollars invested, ARSF funded research has had a major impact on our understanding of why plants behave as they do. ASRF members, the seed industry and society at large have all greatly benefited from the good work of ASRF."

ASRF has expanded its activities to reach deeper into the research community through various initiatives. Operation Student Connection is an outreach program begun as a part of the "Re-Energyzing ASRF" strategic planning activities of 2000, which included education as one leading component of ASRF efforts. ASRF will assist and encourage graduate students majoring in seed biology or seed science and technology to attend and participate in ASTA's annual convention, thereby sharing valuable insight into the private sector of the seed industry and establishing personal contact with members of the seed trade. Students that have been selected to participate in OSC may have the opportunity to apply for the Roger Krueger Memorial Scholarship, directed toward students in agriculture - the future of the seed industry.

ASRF, in partnership with ASTA and the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders, held the first American Seed Research Summit on Sept. 25 to 26, 2008, in Chicago, Ill. The summit brought together leaders in public and private sector seed research to outline a strategic plan to help address the various hurdles facing seed research - training and education, funding, research trends, prioritization and public-private partnerships. Finding solutions and providing resourceful partnerships is critical because seed innovation and technology play a vital role in meeting the growing demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel. Robinson remarked that the first American Seed Research Summit was a resounding success. "Some of the brightest research leaders in industry, government and academia participated in creating an action plan that promises to move American seed research forward dramatically in the years to come."

ASRF also has the legal and administrative structure to disperse such tax deductible contributions that would support research which is aimed at specific segments of the seed industry represented by the various ASTA divisions. In 1991, ASRF assumed responsibility for the administration of the Vegetable & Flower Permanent Research Fund, the Corn Permanent Research Fund, the Soybean Permanent Research Fund and the Fruit Blotch Ad Hoc Research Fund.

ASRF will commemorate its golden anniversary at the 2009 ASRF Annual Meeting held in conjunction with ASTA's 126th Annual Convention in June. Associate Professor Hiro Nonogaki specializes in seed biology at Oregon State University and will speak at the ASRF Annual Meeting. For more information, please visit the convention website.

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