I lead the Cornell Forage Breeding Project to conduct genetic research and develop cool season, perennial forage cultivars with higher yield, multiple disease and insect resistances, and forage quality. My project conducts research on use of perennial grasses and legumes as feedstocks for the biofuel industry. I also do research on performance and breeding of industrial hemp cultivars. I teach plant breeding and quantitative genetics; and my project provides extension and outreach information to seed companies, other breeders, extension educators, and producers. As associate dean and director of academic programs, I also provide oversight to the improvement of academic programs in the college.
My research objectives are to breed improved forage cultivars (primarily alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil) for Northeast USA and promote their use by growers and seed companies. Although private breeding companies now provide most of the alfalfa cultivars in the USA, none of them focuses on traits specifically needed in the Northeast. Because there are few forage breeders in North America, a large proportion of my research is cooperative, facilitated through the NE1710 Multistate Cooperative Research Project. This project includes research to improve forage species, compare breeding methods, evaluate new cultivars of several forage species for yield, and conduct QTL and other genomic analyses. I am cooperating with other scientists in NE1710 to identify QTLs for forage yield and other agronomic traits. In 2005, I began efforts to evaluate perennial, warm season grasses (especially switchgrass) and breed them for use as feedstocks for biofuels. In 2016, my project began breeding research on industrial hemp.
Outreach and Extension Focus
The Forage Breeding Project interacts primarily with the seed industry, extension educators, growers, and biofuel and industrial hemp companies to provide information on new forage cultivars and traits that we are working with to improve forage species. Extension activities include field demonstrations and presentations, fact sheets, web sites, posters, Power Point files, etc. This interaction promotes the use of improved cultivars, which provide more economical production of feed for the dairy and other livestock industries. More than 400,000 pounds of seed of Cornell cultivars are sold annually to growers. This number translates to about to 25-30,000 acres planted. Since these fields last at least four years, a conservative estimate of total acreage of Cornell forage cultivars is more than 100,000 acres. Web sites, fact sheets, extension talks, and field tours also are mechanisms to disseminate information about feedstocks for biofuel uses and for industrial hemp.
Interaction with the groups mentioned above also provides feedback that helps guide our research objectives.
Yield trials of various forage species are conducted annually. The results are reported on the web.
My professional objectives include preparing students for plant science careers through my advising and teaching. My quantitative genetics course is structured for students to learn practical methods of quantitative genetic experimentation and to understand how plant breeders can maximize progress from selection for quantitative traits. Administratively, I enjoy facilitating the creation and implementation of academic programs and policies in CALS and across the University. I also enjoy organizing faculty development workshops in teaching.
Until 2016, I have taught PLBRG 7170, Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding, in alternate years. I annually teach three 75-minute class periods of PLBRG 4030, Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants, and one afternoon field lab on forage breeding in PLBRG 4060, Methods of Plant Breeding Laboratory.
- Owens, V. N., Viands, D. R., Mayton, H. S., Fike, J. H., Farris, R., Heaton, E., Bransby, D. I., & Hong, C. O. (2013). Nitrogen Use in Switchgrass Grown for Bioenergy Across the USA. Biomass & Bioenergy. 58:286-293.
- Viands, D. R., Hansen, J. L., & Crawford, J. L. (2012). Registration of 'Ezra' alfalfa. Journal of Plant Registrations. 6:225-228.
- Li, X., Wei, Y., Moore, K., Michaud, R., Viands, D. R., Hansen, J. L., Acharya, A., & Brummer, E. C. (2011). Association Mapping of Biomass Yield and Stem Composition in a Tetraploid Alfalfa Breeding Population. The Plant Genome. 4:1-12.
- Miller-Garvin, J. E., Hansen, J. L., Ehlke, N. J., Papadopoulos, Y. A., Smith, R. R., Bergstrom, G. C., Wunsch, M. J., Kalb, D. W., Tillapaugh, B. P., Crawford, J. L., & Viands, D. R. (2011). Improving Birdsfoot Trefoil for Resistance to Fusarium Wilt. Crop Science. 51:585-591.
- Fonseca, C. L., Viands, D. R., Hansen, J. L., & Pell, A. N. (1999). Associations among forage quality traits, vigor, and disease resistance in alfalfa. Crop Science. 39:1271-1276.
- Fonseca, C. L., Hansen, J. L., Thomas, E. M., Pell, A. N., & Viands, D. R. (1999). Near infrared reflectance spectroscopy prediction and heritability of neutral detergent-soluble fiber in alfalfa. Crop Science. 39:1265-1270.
- Salter, R., Miller, J. E., & Viands, D. R. (1994). Breeding for resistance to alfalfa root rot caused by Fusarium species. Crop Science. 34:1213-1217.
- Miller, J. E., Viands, D. R., LaRue, T. A., & Gorz, H. J. (1991). Cross-pollination technique for spontaneously self-pollinated sweetclover. Crop Science. 31:475-476.
- Vaughn, D. L., Viands, D. R., & Lowe, C. C. (1990). Nutritive value and forage yield of alfalfa synthetics under three harvest-management systems. Crop Science. 30:699-703.
- Hansen, J. L., & Viands, D. R. (1989). Response from phenotypic recurrent selection for root regeneration after taproot severing in alfalfa. Crop Science. 29:1177-1181.
Presentations and Activities
- Perennial Grass Feedstock Production on Wetness-Prone Marginal Soils in New York. Switchgrass V International Conference: Dedicated Energy Crops and Native Grasses for the Emerging Bioeconomy. July 2019. University of Illinois. Urbana, IL.
- Perennial Grass Bioenergy Feedstocks on Wetness-Prone Marginal Soils in New York: Yield, Emissions, and Soil Carbon Trends. Switchgrass Collaboration Meeting. February 2019. Noble Institute. Ardmore, OK.
- Perennial Grass Bioenergy Feedstocks on Wetness-Prone Marginal Soils in New York: Yield, Emissions, and Soil Carbon Trends. NEWBio Bioenergy Consortium Annual Meeting. September 2017. NEWBio NE Bioenergy Consortium/MABEX Conference & Expo. State College, PA.
- Sustainable Perennial Grass Bioenergy Production on Marginal Lands of the Northeast: Six Years and Counting. USDA Sustainable Bioenergy Program Project Director Meeting. October 2016. USDA-NIFA. New Orleans, LA.
- Perennial Grass Bioenergy Feedstocks on Wetness-Prone Marginal Soils in New York: Yield, Emissions, and Soil Carbon Trends. NEWBio Bioenergy Consortium Annual Meeting. July 2016. NEWBio NE Bioenergy Consortium. State College, PA.
- Sustainable Perennial Grass Bioenergy Production on Marginal Lands of the Northeast: Five Years and Counting. USDA Sustainable Bioenergy Program Project Director Meeting. November 2015. USDA-NIFA. Denver CO.
- Carbon sequestration and gaseous emissions in perennial grass bioenergy cropping systems in the Northeastern US. USDA Sustainable Bioenergy Program Project Director Meeting. November 2015. USDA-NIFA. Denver CO.
- Development of Gall Midge Susceptible and Resistant Cave-in-Rock Switchgrass Populations. Switchgrass III. October 2015. Knoxville, TN.
- Carbon sequestration and gaseous emissions in perennial grass bioenergy cropping systems in the Northeastern US. Project Director Meeting. October 2014. USDA-NIFA . Washington, DC.
- Development of sustainable perennial grass bioenergy on marginal soils of New York. Perennial Bioenergy Feedstock Tour and Persentation. July 2014. USDA-NRCS Big Flats Plant Materials Center. Big Flats, NY.