Faculty with Plant Breeding Programs



GAIL TAYLOR - Chair of the Department of Plant Sciences

Gail Taylor is the department chair, and professor, in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Taylor’s research is focused around leafy green salad crops, particularly watercress and lettuce and fast growing trees for bioenergy. In each she is focused on understanding the genetic and genomic basis of quantitative  traits underpinning plant vigour, stress resilience and for leafy crops, nutrient densification. She has developed the only watercress breeding programme, globally and currently is establishing this crop in California



CHARLES BRUMMER – Alfalfa, forages, wild rice, spinach

Dr. Brummer is the Director of the Plant Breeding Center. His research program focuses on developing cultivars and germplasm of alfalfa and other crops for forage and bioenergy uses. His research has focused primarily on investigating ways to improve biomass yield, from traditional breeding method enhancements to the use of molecular markers. 


ROGER CHETELAT – Tomato germplasm (Rick Center)

Dr. Chetelat’s lab studies the reproductive barriers that limit hybridization between cultivated and wild tomato species.  Their focus is on unilateral incompatibility, a prefertilization barrier, and they are cloning the  underlying genes and exploring their relationship to self-incompatibility. 


TED DEJONG – Plum, prune

Dr. DeJong is the Principle Investigator for a Dried Plum/Prune Breeding and Cultivar Development Program that has as its primary goal the development of new dried plum cultivars that mature earlier or later than the current industry standard cultivar, ‘Improved French.’  


JORGE DUBCOVSKY – Wheat, small grains

Wheat breeding and wheat genetics – the major goals of the research program are to gain a better understanding of the effects of allelic variants of wheat genes that are relevant to agriculture and to develop the tools required for an efficient manipulation of these genes in wheat improvement. 



Dr. Epstein’s interests are in sustainable and organic agriculture, she is willing to assist in the selection and breeding of disease-resistant varieties. 



Dr. Gepts’ research and teaching program focuses on crop biodiversity and genetic resources. He is interested in elucidating the evolutionary processes that shape the diversity of crops and their wild progenitors, with a focus on beans and cowpea, as well as Mesoamerican domesticates. 


THOMAS GRADZIEL – Almond, peach

Dr. Gradziel’s research focuses on the development of improved breeding lines and varieties of almond and processing peach. In his teaching, he examines the genetic and agro-ecological components of tree crop production as well as effective problem solving approaches in these complex, multidisciplinary systems. 



STEVEN J. KNAPP – Strawberry

Dr. Knapp is the Director of the Strawberry Breeding Program.  His research focuses on breeding, genetics, and genomics, cultivar development and deployment, understanding and identifying genetic factors underlying economically  important phenotypes (e.g., disease resistance, yield, daylight sensitivity, and fruit quality), marker-assisted selection and genomic selection, and conserving and utilizing genetic diversity. 



Dr. Michelmore’s research foci include classical and molecular genetics of disease resistance in plants, with particular emphasis on lettuce and tomato; comparative functional genomics of the Compositae; and molecular marker technologies for marker-assisted selection. 


DAVID NEALE  – Pine, walnut, pear

Dr. Neale’s research interests concern the genomics of forest trees, complex traits, QTL and association studies, population genetics and adaptation, and marker-based breeding. 


DAN PARFITT – Pistachio

Dr. Parfitt’s academic training is in the area of plant breeding and genetics, with practical experience breeding potatoes, sunflower, and more recently pistachio, of which he has recently released three new cultivars. He is also interested in the collection, maintenance, and evaluation of genetic diversity in economically important plants, especially the application of molecular genetic tools for evaluation of diversity. 



Dr. St. Clair’s lab studies breeding, genetics and genomics of quantitatively inherited traits in crop plants, including resistance to biotic (diseases and pests) and abiotic stresses. 



ALLEN VAN DEYNZE – Pepper, spinach

Dr. Van Deynze is responsible for developing, coordinating and conducting research and generating and disseminating scientific and informational content for the Center’s educational and outreach programs. 



Dr. Walker has been a faculty member of the Department of Viticulture and Enology since 1989, the same year he began breeding grapes. His research program focuses on developing new rootstocks with resistance to fanleaf, dagger and root-knot nematodes and phylloxera.