2011 Researcher of the Year: David Douches

Michigan State professor awarded honor at PAA meeting

Published in the November 2011 Issue Published online: Nov 07, 2011
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A Michigan State professor was chosen as the Potato Grower magazine Researcher of the year, at the 2011 Potato Association of America Annual Meeting, held in August in Wilmington, N.C.

Dr. David S. Douches is a professor at Michigan State University with 29 years of experience in potato breeding and genetics. For the last 23 years, he has led an active potato breeding program directed toward the development of improved cultivars in Michigan. The focus of the program is to develop new cultivars for Michigan's potato industry by integrating new genetic engineering techniques with conventional breeding efforts.

Key traits targeted for improvement are Colorado potato beetle resistance, disease resistance to scab, late blight, PVY and chip processing from long-term storage. Numerous lines bred in the program are currently being tested in commercial field trials in Michigan in collaboration with the Michigan Potato Industry Commission. His research lab also provides a potato fingerprint service since 1990.

His program has conducted research to test genes in potato that confer resistance to Colorado potato beetle (Bt-cry3A), potato tuber moth (cry1Ia1), late blight resistance via the RB gene and MCR gene, drought resistance (CBF1), PVY resistance (e1F4E) and others. All these lines represent a diverse portfolio of lines that could be commercialized if the intellectual property rights and regulatory requirements could be met. David is also the co-lead of the USAID-funded Bt-Potato Project that began in Egypt and is currently in South Africa. This project is currently awaiting approval of the regulatory dossier for general release of the Bt-potato in South Africa.

David is the director of the multi-institutional USDA/NIFA grant, SolCAP: translational genomics for potato and tomato. They used high throughput sequencing and bioinformatics to identify variation in elite germplasm for candidate genes of high value traits such as carbohydrate, sugar and vitamin content. They developed an innovative community-based program to leverage the genotyping resources for additional mapping of agronomic, disease/insect resistance and quality traits. SolCAP is supporting SNP genotyping of relevant germplasm and mapping populations and created databases to curate and share information SNP and phenotype data. Community resources generated by SolCAP include SolCAP cDNA Libraries Sequenced and High Throughput SNP analysis, SolCAP Germplasm Panels, SNP Development for the Illumina Infinium Platform for 8300 potato SNPs and SolCAP workshops. These resources can be used to develop improved potato varieties.

He is the principal scientist of the Michigan State University potato breeding and genetics project and co-lead in the North Central Regional Potato Breeding and Genetics project. He is also providing coordination of the USPB-supported National Chip Processing Trial. David also serves on national committees such as Potato Association of America Breeding and Genetics Section (1986-present), NCCC-84 Potato Breeding and Genetics Technical Committee (1988-present) (Chair 2003, Chair 2008), National Potato Germplasm NRSP-6 Technical Advisory Committee (1998-present) (Chair 2005, 2009) and Special Crop Regulatory Assistance Steering Committee (2005-present).

David has developed and teaches a lab-based biotechnological techniques and principles course, as well as been the faculty coordinator for the Michigan State University Montcalm Potato Research Farm.

He is the director of the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Interdepartmental Graduate Program at Michigan State University and a long-term member of The Potato Association of America.