Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Kathryn Turner

Lead Scientist, Crop Protection Genetics

Kathryn was first introduced to the mission and people of The Land Institute as a summer intern. She attended Austin College and studied Biology and Environmental Studies. During her Land Institute internship in 2005, she developed an interest in plant breeding. Her graduate studies at the University of Minnesota focused on identifying disease resistance in annual wheat and perennial wheat. She was hired as a postdoctoral fellow under Shuwen Wang to better understand the genetics of perennial wheat.

While working on perennial wheat, she also researched disease problems in new crops being developed. This research led to her current position focused solely on crop protection genetics. In 2018, she became our first research associate, heading a new program to understand, identify, and control the diseases in our perennial crops. A couple years later, she became the lead of our CPG program.

Kathryn’s home state is Oklahoma and she has spent time in Texas, Kansas, and Minnesota, but currently she calls Abilene, Kansas, “home”. Read Kathryn’s “Interview with a Plant Scientist”.


What drew you to work at The Land Institute?
I don’t know of another place where I could see progress toward improved agriculture happen so quickly and with as creative and forward-thinking a group of people as at The Land.

What would people never guess that you do as part of your role at The Land Institute?
I spend quite a bit of time trying to make plants sick or even kill them. I subject particularly good plants with high yield or other desirable traits to horrific experiments. If any survive or withstand the infection, I will try to find out what enabled them to resist it.

What Land Institute perennial crop do you look forward to eating most, and how would you prepare it?
Perennial wheat. With its expected similarity to bread wheat, I can’t wait to bake nice fluffy, flavorful rolls with a strongly perennial, persistent wheat.

What else are you passionate about (outside of work)?
I enjoy working on utilitarian art projects and growing vegetables in the community garden. I love canoeing, swimming, biking, and yoga.

Support the work of Kathryn and others at The Land Institute with a donation.


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