Plant genetics at the center of the New Arkansas Statistician’s Agricultural Experiment Station

Fred Miller, Agriculture Division

Samuel Fernandes, a new agricultural statistician, joined the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station in June.

Samuel Fernandes, assistant professor of agricultural statistics, combines advances in computing with elements of agriculture to help plant breeders, growers and consumers.

“Sometimes we don’t have the time or the resources to do the proper experience that we would need to answer certain specific questions,” Fernandes said. For example, it is not possible to study plants in more than 1,000 locations, but computer programs allow researchers to assess given conditions over many years.

“It’s a simplification of real life, but it’s something that allows us to answer a lot of useful questions.”

Fernandes, a native of Minas Gerais, Brazil, joined the agricultural statistics lab at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station in June. He will primarily share his research between the Departments of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences and Horticulture.

Prior to joining the Experimental Station, the research branch of the System of Agriculture Division at the University of Arkansas, Fernandes studied the development and application of multivariate methods on plant breeding genomic data in as a postdoctoral student at the University of Illinois.

He developed a simulation package called “simplePHENOTYPES” on the statistical program R.

The package helps researchers simulate phenotypic observations based on molecular marker data, Fernandes said.

They can use these observations to test different methods, such as one to detect the number of genes involved in a trait, he said. If researchers apply their method to simulated yield data, for example, they will know whether or not their model is suitable for detecting the genes responsible for actual plant yield data.

“If we run it on real data, we would never be sure how well our method performed,” Fernandes said. In real data, it is unknown how many genes are involved in the genetic architecture of a given trait.

Fernandes’ simulation was released in early 2020 and has over 12,000 downloads, he said.

At the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, her research will focus on quantitative genetics. He will use his old programs and methods at the university to help other researchers develop new plant varieties and new research tools.

“Dr. Fernandes’ experience and expertise in genetics has the potential to significantly strengthen our plant breeding programs,” said Jeff Edwards, head of the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences for the Division of Agriculture System of the University of Arkansas and Dale Bumpers College. agricultural, food and life sciences.

“His research will allow our soybean and rice breeders to be more accurate and efficient in selecting traits that will benefit Arkansas stakeholders,” Edwards said.

Fernandes already discusses distinguished collaborations with many researchers at the University of Arkansas, including Margaret Worthington, assistant professor of fruit breeding and genetics, and Christian De Guzman, assistant professor of rice breeding and genetics.

Fernandes’ collaborative research approach is a great strength, Edwards said. “I really look forward to seeing his expertise and skills incorporated into our current research programs and seeing how his efforts push us in new directions.”

Fernandes will also teach introductory statistics courses through the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas.

“I focused a lot on quantitative genetics, but now I will have the chance to go back a bit more and work with this area that I have always loved,” Fernandes said of teaching the courses. of statistics.

Fernandes had to go through many passions to find where he is now. His father is a breeder, so animals and plants have always interested him. But he also loved computers and wanted to be interested in it as well.

It wasn’t until he completed a plant breeding internship that he felt like he found the field with the right mix of plants and IT.

Fernandes received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the University of Brasilia in 2010. He obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees. in Genetics and Plant Breeding from the University of Lavras in 2012 and 2016, respectively.

With his background in plant research, he said he hopes to be able to effectively communicate the data to students and researchers.

“Besides having this upbringing, I grew up on a farm – my dad is a rancher,” Fernandes said. “So I know what they’re talking about when they come to talk to me about things related to agriculture.

“I think it could be something beneficial for research and teaching here.”

To learn more about Agriculture Division research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch.

To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Agriculture Division: The mission of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture System is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research with the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the country’s historic land grant education system. The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities in the University of Arkansas system. It has offices in all 75 counties of Arkansas and faculty at five system campuses. The Agricultural System Division of the University of Arkansas offers all of its extension and research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin , religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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