Keith Edmisten + NC State’s Crop Biotechnology Program

We had the recent opportunity to catch up with Crop and Soil Sciences Professor Keith Edmisten to learn more about his background, NC State’s Crop Biotechnology Program, and the courses he teaches.

Dr. Edmisten’s Background

First, let’s take a look at Dr. Edmisten’s background: Having grown up on a farm in North Carolina’s Iredell County, Dr. Edmisten went on to receive his B.S. from NC State in Agronomy, M.S. from NC State in Crop Science and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in Crop Physiology.  He served on the faculty at Mississippi State University and Auburn University prior to joining the NC State’s Crop Science faculty in 1992. In addition to being a professor, Dr. Edmisten also serves as the Extension Cotton Specialist for the department.

NC State: What is important to know about NC State’s Crop Biotechnology Program?

Dr. Edmisten: Biotechnology is a very powerful set of tools used by breeders, along with conventional breeding techniques, to improve crop varieties. The use of biotechnology enables breeders to introduce traits that might be impossible or very difficult to introduce working only with conventional breeding techniques. Biotechnology also allows for a more rapid and precise placement of genes into crop genomes. NC State faculty currently utilize various biotechnology tools in their research programs.

NC State: Tell us about the courses you teach.

Dr. Edmisten: I teach (1) CS 216 – Southern Row Crops – Cotton, Peanuts and Tobacco; (2) CS 224 – Seeds, Technology and Society; and (3) CS 590 – Special Topics: Intro to Regulatory Affairs.

  • CS 216 – Southern Row Crops – Cotton, Peanuts and Tobacco: Most students enter this course after taking a general crop production class. This class allows students to delve into the specific details involved in producing a specific commodity (in this case, cotton, peanuts and tobacco). This shows students although similar biological processes exist, there is no cookie-cutter recipe for growing crops. Production practices need to be tailored to specific crops and sometimes even to the end-use of the particular crop.
  • CS 224 – Seeds, Biotechnology and Society – In this class, we discuss agriculture in developed countries versus developing countries. We review how man came to have the diversity of crops we know now through crop domestication and early plant breeding. We consider how various biotechnology techniques can be used as tools to improve crops; we review what traits have been developed and who benefits from them. We also analyze the pros and cons of the use of biotechnology in terms of productivity, the environment, biodiversity and human health.
  • CS 590 Special Topics: Intro to Regulatory Affairs – Crop agriculture is a regulated industry. This is especially true in crop protection chemicals and biotechnology. Companies developing crop protection chemicals and/or biotechnology have scientists working in the regulatory arena to get technologies approved in the U.S. and abroad. This course depends heavily on guest lecturers who are working in various aspects of the regulatory pipeline. There are careers available in regulatory sciences and affairs. It is also important for scientists working in discovery to be aware of the regulatory process and be comfortable talking to people involved in the regulatory process.

NC State: What do you like about teaching online?

Dr. Edmisten: In all honesty, I prefer in-person teaching to online teaching, but I realize that online courses allow students to expand their academic horizons where geographical or time restrictions prevent face-to-face participation. I try to make the online experience as close to the on-campus experience as I can. I really enjoy when an online student sets up time to visit and talk about what he or she is learning in the class. Online classes also allow me to teach at times of the year when my research and extension program would make it difficult to participate in a regularly scheduled class.

Check back often as we look at different areas of study in Soil Science and learn more about the implications of crops and soil on the world around us.