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Featured Speakers

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Dr. Jonathan Bennett

University of Saskatchewan

Jonathan Bennett is an assistant professor of plant ecology at the University of Saskatchewan. He received his PhD from the University of Alberta where he worked on grassland ecology. He also held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Tartu, Estonia, where he worked to predict plant invasion into grasslands, and University of British Columbia where he studied the role of plant-soil interactions in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Current work in his lab focuses on understanding how plant-soil interactions can be manipulated to enhance control of invasive plants and to maximize productivity in rangelands and tame forage systems.

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Dr. Marisol Berti

North Dakota State University

Marisol Berti joined the Department of Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University (NDSU), as an associate professor in July 2009. She was promoted to professor with tenure in 2016 and she continues working at NDSU. Previously to NDSU, she worked for 14 years at the Department of Agronomy at the Universidad de Concepcion (UDEC), in Chile, her home country. She has a B.S. degree in Agronomy from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Chile, and a M.S. and Ph.D. degree in Plant Sciences from NDSU.
Her research experience includes forages, cover crops, and bioenergy crops production research. Her work includes the study of innovative ways to modify cropping systems to provide year-round soil cover to reduce soil erosion, enhance soil health and reduce leaching and runoff of nutrients. She has secured 7.2 million dollars in extramural country for her research , but has been part of many other project for a total of 22 million dollars. She has led large multidisciplinary, multi-institutional USDA-NIFA grants and other sponsors. She is author or-co-author of 89 peer-reviewed publications, 26 proceeding papers, 3 book chapters, numerous extension publications, and over 200 conference and symposia presentations. She is currently board member or has served as chair/president in several scientific organizations such as the Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops (AAIC), C6- Forage and Grazinglands Division of the Crop Science Society of America, Midwest Forage Association and North Central SARE. She also served as editor-in-chief of the Industrial Crops and Products Journal for nine years (2013-2021) and serves as reviewer for over 20 other journals.

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Dr. Sylvie Cloutier


Sylvie received her BSc in Agronomy from Université Laval (1987), MSc in Plant Science from University of Guelph (1990) and PhD in Biology from Université de Montréal (1994). She joined AAFC’s Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg in 1995, first as a Visiting Fellow and then as a Research Scientist prior to moving to the Ottawa Research and Development Centre as a Principal Research Scientist in 2014. Dr. Cloutier’s research focuses on genetics, genomics and epigenetics of wheat and flax. She currently leads a pre-breeding program in wheat to identify new sources of resistance for FHB, leaf rust, stripe rust and powdery mildew from wild relatives using genome-wide markers, GWAS and genomic selection approaches. She coordinates a national phenotyping program in both winter and spring Triticum and Aegilops species. She co-led the TUFGEN (flax) large scale Genome Canada project (2009-2014) and she is currently co-leading a second one called 4DWheat (2019-current). She has published more than 115 scientific publications and 12 book chapters. She is an adjunct professor at the Universities of Ottawa and Guelph where she currently supervises 5 PhD and 2 MSc students. She was awarded the Rosemary Davis award in 2013 for leadership in Agriculture and recently received the 2021 Borlaug Global Rust Initiative Gene Stewardship group award for her contribution to the sustainability of rust resistance in wheat. Throughout her career, she has mentored more than 100 individuals including Visiting Scholars, Post-docs, Graduate, undergraduate and high-school students.

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Dr. Martin Entz

University of Manitoba

Martin Entz is professor in the University of Manitoba’s Plant Science department.  He received his PhD in drought physiology from the University of Saskatchewan in 1988 and worked as a farm manager and research agronomist before embarking on his academic career.
“The goal of my program is to discover new ways of farming ecologically; to empower farmers with knowledge to design farming systems adapted to where they live; and to engage students in this exciting process”.  He leads the Glenlea study – Canada’s oldest organic-conventional farming systems comparison study, which is entering its 31st season.  In 2011, Martin started Canada’s first farmer participatory wheat and oat breeding program focused on organic production; the program is now integrated into Agriculture and AgriFood Canada’s organic crop breeding programs. 
Martin teaches courses in crop production and agroecology, and has directly supervised 48 MSc and PhD students.  He has led agricultural projects in Central America, Zimbabwe, East Africa and North Korea, and is a friend of “Soils, Food and Healthy Communities”, an NGO in Malawi. Martin is a member of the “Prairie Food Vision Network”, winners of the 2020 Rockefeller Foundation Food Systems Vision Prize.

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Dr. Yvonne Lawley

University of Manitoba

Dr. Yvonne Lawley is an assistant professor in the Plant Science Department at the University of Manitoba. Her area of research is agronomy and cropping systems. Dr. Lawley’s research has focused on several crops including soybeans, corn, and wheat and a range of management practices from residue management, strip tillage, to cover crops. Her research involves both small plot and on-farm field scale agronomy research.  Dr. Lawley enjoys communicating the results of her research to a wide range of audiences and especially in the classrooms where she teaches at the University of Manitoba.  


Dr. Miao Liu


Dr. Miao Liu (Mindy) is a Research Scientist with the Biodiversity and Bio-Resource group at Ottawa Research and Development Centre, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada. She graduated with a B.Sc. and a Master degree of Plant Protection and Biological Control from Beijing Forestry University (1990), and received her doctoral degree in Mycology from Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University, New York (2005). Thereafter, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher in several institutes including: University of Kentucky; Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Center (current name: Ottawa Research and Development Centre), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Cereal Disease Laboratory, Agriculture Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture, St. Paul. Her research interests include taxonomy, phylogenetics, molecular diagnostics, population evolution and genomics of plant related fungi. Currently, her research is focusing on powdery mildews (Erysiphales), ergot fungi (Claviceps) and grass endophytes (Epichloë). She is serving as the representative of Eastern Ontario region for the Canadian Phytopathological Society, and the senior editor for taxonomy section of Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology.

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Dr. Curt McCartney

University of Manitoba

Dr. McCartney graduated with a PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics from the University of Manitoba in 2002. He then did a post-doc with AAFC-Winnipeg from 2003-2006 working on wheat genetics. Next, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan – Crop Development Centre working on cereal and flax pathology. In 2010, he re-joined AAFC working in Winnipeg and Morden as a cereal crop geneticist, mainly working on rust resistance in wheat and oat, and FHB and wheat midge resistance in wheat. In 2020, he joined the University of Manitoba as a wheat breeder and geneticist. His research interests are centred on wheat breeding and developing tools and knowledge to improve the efficiency of breeding programs. This genetic research includes mapping QTL controlling traits of interest, and mapping and cloning high value genes.

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Dr. Philipp Zerbe

University of California Davis

Philipp Zerbe is an Associate Professor at the Department of Plant Biology, University of California at Davis. His research focuses on the discovery and engineering of specialized terpenoid metabolism in food, bioenergy and medicinal plants to develop tools for producing terpenoids with human benefit. For his research, Dr. Zerbe recently received the 2015 Arthur Neish Young Investigator Award, a 2016/17 Hellman Fellowship, and 2018 Elsevier Young Investigator Award. Prior to his position at UC Davis, Dr. Zerbe received his PhD from the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany (2007) with emphasis on structure-function studies plant hormone metabolism, followed by positions as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Associate at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) where he focused his research on the discovery of terpenoid metabolism with relevance for bioproducts and stress tolerance in food crops and forest trees.


Dr. Belay Ayele

University of Manitoba

Dr. Belay Ayele is a Professor in the Department of Plant Science at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Ayele’s research is focused on investigating molecular mechanisms underlying traits of economic importance in cereal crops. Specifically, his research identifies the molecular aspects of hormonal regulation of traits related to grain yield and quality, and adaptation to abiotic stresses mainly in wheat.


Dr. Steve Shirtliffe

Steve Shirtliffe grew up and for a while farmed in Manitoba and then in the 90’s returned to the University of Manitoba for his MSc and PhD. Since then, he has been a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan. His position involves teaching, research, and extension in the areas of crop imaging, weed control and agronomy. Past and current research projects have focused on pulse agronomy, non-herbicidal weed control as well as phenotypic and agronomic applications of crop imaging using UAV, ground and satellite imagery. He has a wide range of interests and collaborates widely with computer scientists, plant breeders, geographers, soil scientists and engineers to form dynamic research groups to tackle inter-disciplinary problems

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