Lead Scientist, Perennial Legumes
A native of Nebraska, Brandon currently lives in Lindsborg, Kansas. In 2012 he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Nebraska Wesleyan University, and in 2016 he earned a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His graduate research focused on developing and utilizing genetic tools to accelerate breeding and domestication in cranberry, a perennial fruit crop native to North America.
What’s most inspiring about your specific position at The Land Institute?
In addition to their importance as a source of protein and fiber in human diets around the world, legumes have a special role in maintaining and improving soil quality within the Natural Systems Agriculture envisioned by The Land Institute. Through a symbiotic relationship with soil rhizobia, legumes fix atmospheric nitrogen, which is a critical plant nutrient and a major input in conventional agriculture. As the perennial legume breeder, I hope to collaborate with other researchers in creating new legume crops that produce nutritious grain for human consumption while also providing ecosystem services.
What would people never guess that you do as part of your role at The Land?
On any day, plant breeders can be an agronomist, a computer scientist, a statistician, a plant physiologist, an accountant, a writer, a geneticist, or a teacher.
What drew you to work at The Land Institute?
I have always wanted to be a part of something greater than myself and to make my existence helpful and meaningful to others. The Land Institute is that place for me.
Often plant breeders work toward the immediate benefit of either the farmer, the consumer, the processor, or even simply their plant breeding company or public program.
At The Land Institute, the work is different and is oriented toward the continual benefit of all people – now and in generations to come. I feel that The Land provides me the opportunity to become the best version of myself – not only intellectually and as a plant breeder, but more importantly, as a person, as a husband and father, and as a friend and colleague.
As the perennial legume breeder at The Land Institute, I get to explore my curiosities about the natural world, I get to use my imagination and to be creative, I get to collaborate and work with people who share the same passions and interests, and I get to have a role in working toward and communicating The Land Institute’s mission…I get to be me.
What Land Institute perennial crop do you look forward to eating most, and how would you prepare it?
The obvious answer is an edible perennial legume. After any test or exam, I always want to see how I did – good or bad.
What were you like at age 10?
I was a curious and avid reader, especially books like Where the Red Fern Grows, My Side of the Mountain, Tom Sawyer, The Yearling… basically, any stories with a little boy on an adventure.
My brother and I had a lot of our own adventures at that age, spending summer days wandering through the grove and catching fish, frogs, and bugs, and building makeshift rafts to float in the creek that ran through my parents’ property.
I had an obsession with the county fair and 4-H. In addition to showing dairy cattle, I would try to grow, build, and bake as many things as I could to enter into the 4-H competitions.
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