In the bustling world of agricultural innovation, Mohsen Yoosefzadeh Najafabadi, a dynamic researcher and associate at the University of Guelph, is orchestrating groundbreaking advancements in the realm of computational biology and soybean breeding. As he prepared to address the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association annual meeting last month, he sat down with Germination to reflect on his journey, motivations, and the transformational potential of his work.
Currently a research associate at the University of Guelph, he works alongside Istvan Rajcan, an accomplished soybean breeder and recipient of the 2022 Plant Breeding & Genetics Award. Mohsen’s academic roots trace back to his doctoral pursuit at the University of Guelph, focused on soybean breeding and genetics. This formative phase ignited his passion for integrating genomics, phenomics, and big data analysis to expedite crop enhancement.
Pioneering Publications and Recognition
During his academic tenure, Mohsen authored a series of impactful papers that have captured global attention. One seminal paper, published in 2021, spotlighted his innovative use of algorithms, a cutting-edge approach in harnessing big data for accelerated plant breeding. This work has garnered significant recognition, amassing numerous citations from researchers around the world. His contributions culminated in the University of Guelph’s top graduate convocation award: the D.F. Forster Medal, a testament to his excellence in the field.
The Urgency of Agricultural Innovation
Mohsen’s passion finds its nexus in the urgent global challenges that loom over agricultural production. As the world’s population continues to increase, the demand for sustenance intensifies. This burgeoning need intersects with the spectre of climate change, heralding a future of unprecedented challenges for crop growth. The proliferation of wildfires and the destabilizing effects of climate change impede not only human survival but also the vitality of crops. A significant proportion of yield losses, approximately 65%, can be attributed to abiotic stresses catalyzed by climate upheavals. Biotic stresses, comprising 11% of yield loss, are also exacerbated by the changing climate, he notes.
Modern Breeding Through Genomics
Mohsen’s endeavors crystallize in his commitment to surmount these obstacles through plant breeding. He envisions a landscape where yield improvements harmonize with environmental adaptability. At the nexus of conventional, molecular, and modern breeding, he champions a modern breeding paradigm empowered by genomics. Augmented by AI, machine learning, and quantum machine learning, this approach unravels the biological underpinnings of desirable traits. Through this lens, he aspires to equip farmers with the tools to optimize yields, ushering in a new era of agricultural abundance.
Empowering Seed Growers
The CSGA conference set the stage for Mohsen’s interaction with seed growers. Through the fusion of AI and genomics, he highlights transformative possibilities for seed growers. An illustrative example is the soybean, where his work showcases the potential to elevate yield even more. The essence of this approach lies in the comprehensive evaluation of yield components and a holistic understanding of plant genetics. By aligning breeding programs with the aspirations of seed growers, Mohsen envisions enhanced profitability and the propagation of certified seeds that underpin sustainable farming.