Published on 06/01/17

Partnership between UGA and Georgia Research Alliance brings new peanut genetics expert to Georgia

By J. Faith Peppers

David Bertioli, a world-class expert in the genetics and genomics of peanut species, will join the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences as a professor and the university’s first Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Distinguished Investigator.

”We are so pleased to have David join us as a Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator,” said Sam Pardue, dean and director of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “His research will be an important element in continuing UGA’s tradition of excellence in plant breeding and genomics.”

Bertioli will join the UGA Institute for Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, which is home to some of the most respected plant genetics experts in the world. He will lead research important to Georgia’s $600 million peanut industry. 

“We are fortunate in Georgia to have strong support from the Georgia Research Alliance, the Georgia Seed Development Commission, the Peanut Foundation, the National Peanut Board, the American Peanut Shellers, the Georgia Peanut Commission, Mars, Inc., and the J.M. Smucker Company to help recruit Dr. Bertioli to our faculty,” Pardue said. “This valuable partnership shows the commitment to and importance of UGA’s agricultural research programs.”

The genetics and genomics of wild peanut relatives are a primary focus of Bertioli’s work. His goal is to use valuable genetic traits found in wild species to improve cultivated peanuts so they require fewer inputs and are more sustainable and profitable for producers in Georgia and around the world. He will focus on increasing the resistance of the peanut to pests and diseases.

“David’s work on the use of traits from the wild relatives will have a major economic impact on Georgia growers, and we look forward to his contribution to the training of the next generation of scientists at UGA,” said Scott Jackson, a GRA Eminent Scholar in plant functional genomics and director of the Center for Applied Genetic Technologies in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Bertioli came to UGA in 2013 as a visiting professor on leave from the University of Brasilia in Brazil. His cutting-edge, practical work consistently receives financial support from commodity groups, nonprofits, for-profit companies and federal agencies. He works closely with Jackson at UGA’s campuses in Athens and Tifton, Georgia. 

Bertioli received his formal training in England, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in botany from Durham University and a doctorate from Oxford University. He has served as a professor at the University of Brasilia since 2009. From 2009 to 2012, he was a Fellow of the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development. In 2003, he was a visiting scientist at the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Center in Norwich, England.

“We are proud to welcome David to Georgia,” said Susan Shows, GRA senior vice president. “His expertise will be a unique asset to the UGA team and we are excited to see how they can expand their research portfolio.”

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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