Who are your favorite plant breeders?-- or favorite projects

I’d love to compile a list here from all of you… my questions for you:

Who (or what group) is doing something important or interesting with food crops?

Why is the project cool? Are seeds available, or do you wish they were available?
Would you want to support the project if you could?

You can also talk about why your own project is cool!

I think this kid has a bright future as a corn taster.


Favorite Plant Breeders:

  1. Indigenous traditional peoples of the world. The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara may have done more for gardening in Montana than any other group- corn, pepo and maxima squash, beans, sunflowers, and watermelons. Also, there is a very good gardening book called Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden. Also the Oscar H. Will seed company which preserved and bred with their crops.
  2. Carol Deppe, - Bred Goldinii squash and wrote three very nice gardening books.
  3. Art Boe- Bred Payette and a few others in ID and ND
  4. Albert F. Yeager- Bred Golden Bison and Fargo Yellow Pear tomatoes
  5. Alan Kapuler- Inspired me as the breeder at Seeds of Change back before it was bought out. Bred occasionally outcrossing tomatoes including Golden Tresette and wrote an essay about them.
  6. Tim Peters- Worked on perennial wheat and had an inspiring catalogue about 20 years ago. Bred Sweet Cherriette, Fuzzy, Fruity, and other tomatoes.
  7. Marc McCasslin- Bred Purple Zebra F1 an artisan tomato breeder breeding modern tomatoes with heirloom flavor.
  8. Joseph Lofthouse- Bred Big Hill HX-9, now an ancestor of most of my tomato crosses, made a very large number of forum posts across many forums, finally wrote a book, and has mentored me for the better part of a decade. Also bred some very flashy and tasty buttercup squash!
  9. Jason Cavotorta- Bred Galahad F1 an artisan tomato breeder breeding modern tomatoes with heirloom flavor.
  10. Fred Hempel- Bred artisan modern tomatoes for flavor.
  11. Brad Gates- Took Jim Myer’s Blue Work and made some real favorites like Amethyst Cream. I feel like I just cross Brad’s work with Josephs!
  12. Tom Wagner- Bred many tomatoes and potatoes and his Muddy Waters is one of my new favorite green when ripes- also blue skinned.
  13. Jim Meyers- his lab bred the blue skinned tomatoes and released the first of them just as my wife finished her degree at OSU and we bought a packet- very inspiring!
  14. Ken Fisher- from Belgrade MT. Bred Fisher’s Earliest Sweet Corn. Bred Fisher’s Earliest Paste tomato. Some others!
  15. Dave Christensen bred Painted Mountain Corn
  16. John Navazio bred Bitterroot Buttercup Squash, Montana Jack, and maybe some others while working briefly at Garden City Seeds.
  17. Podoll Family in North Dakota bred Dakota Dessert squash and a few others.
  18. Ed Schultz- Bred Papa’s Blue Corn and some others out of Dave Christensen’s work. Very cool.
  19. Lee Goodwin of J and L gardens. Bred Blue Ambrosia tomato which I used in my first crosses in 2017. Very cool wild species tomato breeding work.
  20. The Dwarf Tomato Project and Craig LeHoullier and Patrina Nuske Small. I particularly have enjoyed Dwarf Eagle Smiley, Dwarf Gloria’s Treat, and two of the green when ripes.
  21. Salvatore Ceccarelli and his evolutionary plant breeding projects- especially with wheat which is very essential and a traditional crop for my family- I would grow wheat more often if I could find a good spot free of Hungarian partridge. Working with small farmers to grow adaptable crops is very important.
  22. Not a plant breeder but Gary Paul Nabhan’s books have greatly inspired me and include stupendous information.
  23. Nikolai Vavilov for discovering and preserving so much crop diversity and promoting the understanding that crop diversity gives people an opportunity to resist famine.
  24. Gregor Mendel for some insights on how genes work.
  25. Luther Burbank for some insights into how persistence and a basic understanding of heredity (he was pre-Mendelian If I recall correctly) can give huge results for plant breeding.
  26. Experimental Farm Network Nathan Kleinman and Dusty Heinz for developing a catalogue which normalizes vegetable breeding.
  27. Justin Senryu Williams for having an absolutely amazing interspecies tomato crossing year this year- his first year of tomato breeding.
  28. John Snyder for breeding inspiring arthropod resistant tomatoes from Solanum habrochaites LA2329.
  • Starting to get hard to think of more.

In Australia, decades ago, there were ag colleges dotted across the country. They did lots of great breeding work which is now all but forgotten. Only a few of the varieties they developed are still extant but most people aren’t aware of their origins!

  • Carol Deppe

    • Introducing the idea that large scale breeding networks can fail and quality can deteriorate in commercial lines and that with education that you can bring back these deteriorating cultivars. The specific cultivar I was following was Oregon Sweet meat
  • Alan Kapuler

    • That some hippies can make a difference, a new seed saver organization, and maintain some of the best quality seeds I have grown.
    • Introduced me to the idea that cultivars can have varying nutritional qualities even though they’re all grown on the same farm. This was evidenced from investigating Nutribud Broccoli.
  • The Dwarf Tomato Project and Craig LeHoullier and Patrina Nuske Small.

    • Inspiring decentralized global breeding program using approchable techniques.
    • Allowed for group buy in, in that the allowed members to join in naming their crosses
    • A group project that arguably achieved their goals of improving dwarf tomato taste
  • Experimental Farm Network

    • For making what feels like a centralized collection service for independent breeders and like minded buyers.
    • Hope for small scale independent breeding networks that can pay for themselves
    • Other examples include the drymifolia collective which helps expanding grow out of plants in order to test winter hardiness in avocado cultivars.
  • Skill Cut

  • inspiration that one person can impact and enjoy new apples and daffodils.

  • Steve Solomon
    *reading about his variety trials and following him over the years. Still an example of selective breeding with his latest lessons of lettuce growing in Tasmania. Inspiring the idea that even lettuce could have high protein content. The idea that locality could impact nutritional quality of crops.


Impressive list! I’d suggest adding Ivan Michurin to it. He’s renowned for his groundbreaking work, which involved adapting various plants for the harsh Arctic conditions. Some of his notable achievements include:

Shipova: Michurin’s adaptation of the shipova, a hybrid of the pear and mountain ash, is a testament to his expertise.

Intergeneric Plants: He also made significant contributions to the development of various intergeneric plants, including unique fruit hybrids like the “Citrangarin” (citrus and mandarin hybrid) and the “Citrofortunella” (citrus and kumquat hybrid), showcasing his innovative breeding techniques.

Intergeneric Hybrids: Michurin was particularly known for creating hybrids between different plant genera. For example, he developed the “Apriums,” which are a cross between apricots and plums, and the “Plumcot,” a hybrid of plums and apricots.

Cold-Resistant Varieties: Given his focus on adapting plants to the harsh climate of the Arctic, Michurin created cold-resistant fruit varieties. His work with apple varieties like “Antonovka” and “Pepin Shafranny” significantly improved fruit production in colder regions.

Frost-Resistant Grapes: Michurin also developed frost-resistant grape varieties, making it possible to grow grapes in climates with severe winters.

Interspecific Hybrids: He worked on creating hybrids between different species of plants. For example, he produced the “Mazzard Cherry,” which is a hybrid of sweet and sour cherries, and the “Nectarine Plum,” a cross between nectarines and plums.

Disease-Resistant Varieties: His breeding efforts extended to developing disease-resistant plant varieties, including apples and pears that were less susceptible to common fruit tree diseases.

Despite his extraordinary contributions, it’s important to note that his name was indeed misused by the Communist regime in Russia. However, his remarkable breeding achievements and enduring legacy continue to inspire plant breeders worldwide.


Hi Julia,
Aside from you and Joseph, I really admire the breeding work Carol Deppe does. I also think her focus on (can I call it this?) “survival” foods is important at this point in history. Her book, “The Resilient Gardener,” is one of my very favorites. Adaptive Seeds’ Kale Coalition project is really cool, as is the work with collards done by Utopian Seed project on their “Ultra Cross Collards.” We ate a lot from both this year! I know there are many, many rock star plant breeders nowadays, but these projects, and the work you are doing, are very much a part of my life right now, it has literally been feeding me!


Culinary breeding network

I love following this rather large organization. I was following I guess a couple different aspects of this group and have enjoyed watching their social media post and finding some of their project seeds through local seed vendors, and Burgerville. I like their concept and tasting sessions.
Main individual goal of growing better tasting produce, tries to be informed by this group, but I haven’t found concrete examples of discrete how-to methods other than grow and taste. But it has shown me that we can breed plants based on culinary traits.

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Skillcult’s apple breeding project has me very excited. There are a few of his varieties (especially Black Strawberry!) that I really want to try.

What’s interesting is that he hates banana-flavored apples, and I love them. (I’m pretty sure that’s the flavor component that was in tree-ripened Golden Delicious apples that I considered the most delicious apples ever when I was a kid.)

So, whenever he complains that something tastes like bananas, I’m taking notes. (Laugh!) Since he’s not going to breed banana-flavored apples, and apples grow so well here, that seems like a great apple breeding project for me.

Of course I’m gonna be weird and shock everybody by talking about actual bananas. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

This guy is doing fantastic work on breeding cold hardy bananas:

I really want to work with him and help him test out varieties. I’ve e-mailed him to ask. It would be super, super cool if I can be helpful in that project.

Carol Deppe probably counts as one of my favorite plant breeders, just because I love her books and find them so valuable and inspiring. I have yet to try any of her varieties, even though I’ve purchased a few. :sweat_smile: A lot of them sound fantastic.

Joseph Lofthouse, for similar reasons. As a bonus, he lives in the same state as me, so that’s promising for his landraces working for me.

I think David the Good counts, now that he’s started getting into landracing! Especially since he’s been into seed-saving for ages, and even runs a plant nursery. He knows how to breed plants. His gardening books are fantastic; my favorites are Push the Zone and Grocery Row Gardening. I love his “make a big, wild mess and let the plants sort it out” approach. That suits my personality perfectly.

Not a plant breeder, but I truly loved Paul Gautschi’s Back to Eden film, and I think his advice is very applicable to my climate, given that we have similar rainfall patterns. (No rain at all in summer, almost all precipitation in the winter as snow, and low precipitation in general: he gets 15 inches a year, and I get 18.)