The impact of a forage plant breeder – the story of Herrick Sydney (Syd) Easton (1946 - 2023)
Herrick Sydney (Syd) Easton was a forage plant breeder for 46 years. He bred at least 11 forage cultivars, in ryegrass, tall fescue and lucerne that were successfully licensed and commercialised, and he was a key part of the team that developed the successful Epichloë fungal endophyte products ‘Endosafe’, AR1, AR37, and ‘MaxP’ (‘MaxQ’ in USA). Syd’s development of measurement techniques and documentation of genetic variation for potentially valuable novel traits has been detailed in 130 refereed and significant publications, and he was an inventor or co-inventor of 13 patents and/or Plant Variety Rights. Syd made an important contribution in the understanding of endophyte-ryegrass interactions. Through his innovation and leadership, he led the multi-disciplinary AgResearch endophyte research programme, coordinating and writing the first successful funding application that consolidated the team. Coming from a farming family Syd connected with farmers and understood the value of highly supportive farmers and agricultural professionals who were able to critique, understand the value of and use the technologies and knowledge delivered from the science research he was involved with. Like many others in the agricultural research profession, he gained immense satisfaction from seeing technologies resulting from his research being used on New Zealand farms.
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