HOGS Invited Speaker Develops Flavorful Veggies

Graduate students listen to and enjoy lunch with Dr. Julie Dawson from the University of Wisconsin.

Dr. Julie Dawson speaks to faculty and graduate students.  Photo: Kathleen Rhoades.
Dr. Julie Dawson speaks to faculty and graduate students. Photo: Kathleen Rhoades.

HOGS invited seminar speaker Julie Dawson (University of Wisconsin) spoke at MSU February 20th about vegetable breeding and genomics for the small-farm fresh vegetable market. At the graduate student lunch, students enjoyed hearing about Dr. Dawson’s innovative focus on participatory plant breeding. Dawson's Seed to Kitchen Collaborative seeks to satisfy both the culinary requirements of fine chefs, and the cultivation requirements of small organic Midwestern farmers. Interestingly, flavor was the top priority for both chefs and growers. During Dr. Dawson's seminar talk, the department learned more about her unusual research initiatives. In addition to research station trials for quantitative data, she prioritizes on-farm trials for the best varieties. She makes it easy for farmers and gardeners to contribute by focusing on a few qualitative attributes and by allowing participants to join, track progress, and submit results through the “Seedlink” website.

Finally, the most unique varieties are sent to local chefs to professionally assess these new vegetable varieties for taste and preparation ease. Dr. Dawson focuses on unconventional traits, including breeding specialized carrots for organic production which could better out-compete weeds. Throughout, Dr. Dawson’s emphasis was on practical breeding that would improve vegetable flavor for consumers, and help small farmers make a profit in today’s tough market.

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