STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma State University’s Liuling Yan has been named the 2012 recipient of the James A. Whatley Award for Meritorious Service in Agricultural Sciences.
The award was initiated in 1982. It is presented annually to the top young scientist in OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
An OSU faculty member since 2006, Yan is the holder of the Dillon and Lois Hodges Professorship in the department of plant and soil sciences.
“Dr. Yan’s research has brought unprecedented attention to OSU and conferred a higher reputation on its Wheat Improvement Team than would be attainable in his absence,” said Brett Carver, OSU Regents professor and holder of the university’s Wheat Genetics Chair in Agriculture.
Carver said Yan’s scientific discoveries are transforming wheat improvement programs in the public and private sectors.
“Reproductive differences in winter wheat, which Dr. Yan has addressed throughout his OSU career working on Oklahoma’s commercial plant – hexaploid wheat – are exponentially more difficult to dissect genetically than differences between spring and winter wheat,” he said.
Yan was the first to locate four genes, and to develop the corresponding gene markers for their detection, that regulate reproductive development in winter wheat. His discoveries have directly allowed the OSU Wheat Improvement Team to manipulate the vegetative period, and hence forage biomass, consumed by beef cattle on wheat pasture.
Mark Hodges, executive director of Plains Grains Inc., was one of many to write letters of nomination in support of Dr. Yan receiving the award.
“Wheat and its associated grazing component are worth in excess of $1.5 billion annually to the Oklahoma economy,” Hodges said. “These numbers, coupled with the support and belief that Oklahoma producers have in OSU’s wheat breeding program, showcase the importance of his contributions to our agricultural industry.”
Yan also was the first to find a robust genetic marker system for detection of key defense genes for protection against two of the most damaging diseases worldwide in wheat: leaf rust and stripe rust.
“Dr. Yan is rapidly gaining recognition as a national and international authority in wheat genetics,” said Dave Porter, head of the OSU department of plant and soil sciences. “His research has proven to be especially important for Oklahoma’s dual-purpose grain and grazing wheat production system; one extra week of grazing can generate an additional $3 to $4 per acre for producers, which adds up and may mean the difference between profit and loss.”
Yan’s research contributions are evidenced by his obtaining more than $1 million in direct grants since arriving at OSU, part of more than $30 million in grant monies attracted to the division in which his research has been a contributor, from such highly competitive funding agencies as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma Wheat Commission and Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, among others.
He has received more than 1,500 citations in ISI Web of Science for publications as the first or corresponding author, with an additional 600 citations for publications he has co-authored.
Yan currently serves as the major academic adviser to four graduate students and as supervisor of three postdoctoral research associates and two visiting scientists.
Prior to joining OSU, Yan served on the staffs of the University of California at Davis, University of Melbourne and Yangzhou University in China.
He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in agronomy and his Master of Science degree in wheat physiology from Yangzhou University in 1984 and 1987, respectively. Yan earned his doctoral degree in plant molecular genetics from Australia’s Victoria University in 2000.
Whatley, in whose name the award is presented, was an animal geneticist who became director of the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station and then dean of the division, which is comprised of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and two state agencies: the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system. Whatley served OSU for 41 years.
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