Kidist Kibret: Why I chose plant breeding
At some point in their lives our support staff chose plant science as a career choice. And for Kidist Kibret this is evident. Her choice came at a young age on a family farm. She quickly decided to be a part of ending food-shortage and enhancing food security by finding ways to reduce crop failures. Below we chart her progress from hearing family worries to being award a PhD in Botanical Sciences and Plant Breeding.
Kidist was born in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia and she has also lived in the UK, Germany and Canada.
At Agronomix Software, not only do we have the best brains behind the scenes who make Genovix® the ultimate plant breeding software solution. But also the most passionate staff who are willing to give their all for the benefits of plant breeders the world over. Plant breeders across the world share a common mission: to enhance food security. Kidist Kibret, a plant breeder and our bioinformatician and Breeding Software Professional, is one of the people that make Agronomix outstanding. As a plant breeder she too wants to see enhanced food security in the long run, one breeder at a time.
In January 2021 Kidist shared her bioinformatics experience in an interview with Shawn Brook, President of Seed World.
How it all began…
For Kidist, it all started in her formative years. She lived with her grandparents who had a plantation, farm and garden in their compound in Ethiopia. Every year, she would always hear relatives from the countryside complain about some form of crop failure. It was in those years that she told herself “I do not want to hear about crop failure anymore”. That was a pivotal moment for her. Her focus was on enhancing food security for everyone.
Kidist gained a B.Sc. at Alemaya University in Agriculture Plant Sciences which led to scholarship for Master’s program in Applied Genetics, Crop Sciences at the University of Nottingham, UK. She completed a PhD in Botanical Sciences and Plant Breeding at Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany in 2017. Her thesis was an analysis of seedling vigour and osmotic stress tolerance in oilseed rape. She did her Postdoctoral research at the University of Manitoba, Canada in Organic Agriculture.
Her love for the plant sciences continues to grow. She has been on the journey of actualizing her dreams of eradicating crop failure since her youth. Kidist admits she was known as the “geek in her class”, a term often applied to describe the best brains and most passionate students in the group. However, she found a way to merge her love for technology with plant sciences. Kidist is the mastermind behind the BIOINFORMATICS module of our Genovix Plant Breeding Software.
For Kidist, one of the greatest challenges she faced during her schoolyears was the process of immigration. This translated into learning new cultures and hurdling languages barriers. What seemed like a challenge at the time can be seen as a launching pad into where she is today. Kidists’ ability to adapt as an immigrant in three different countries gave her the insight and knowledge that she needed to support plant breeders in different parts of the world. As our Breeding Software Professional, Kidist is honoured to support plant breeders all around the globe. A job she does exceptionally well. Her communication and relational skills indeed complement her technical skills.
Food Security through Agronomix Software
Kidists’ duties at Agronomix software vary throughout the client journey. She offers demonstrations of Genovix to new interested parties. Then helps them through the implementation process as a new client, getting their workflow started in Genovix. She helps test the software and writes documentation. Her “geek” side is well exercised too, she is responsible for developing and integrating our R packages in Genovix. And she liaises closely with our developers to further enhance the Bioinformatics module.
Kidist is thankful for the opportunity at Agronomix. Here, she is fulfilling her mission to reduce crop failures and enhance food security …one breeder at a time. Testimonials from clients with whom Kidist has rendered support range from “excellent” to “outstanding”. We have an exciting shared mission: to enhance food security by improving crop selection and production for billions of lives.
Papers and Publications
Since I worked on thesis projects since 2007, finished my PhD in 2017, and my PostDoc in 2019, I got to experience the rapid development of large-scale OMICS data analysis in plant breeding. Here I break down my theses and publications by the era.
The era of cytogenetics, and small-scale markers with AFLP, Microsatellite, DART and sanger sequencing. During this time, I got the chance to work on underutilized African crops. These technologies are still useful but are being rapidly replaced by the reduction of cost for Next Generation Sequencing. I was introduced to this new technology from my courses at University of Nottingham and wanted to pursue my PhD in this area.
- Thesis: Nuclear DNA amount and genetic structure of Yams. 2012, University of Nottingham, UK.
- Book Chapter: Kibret, 2021. The potentials of African neglected and orphan crops in augmentation of African food security. In: Food Security and Safety African Perspectives, Babalola, Olubukola Oluranti (Ed.). DOI. 10.1007/978-3-030-50672-8. Pages 43-62.
The era of Next Generation Sequencing. Illumina, was the first to break into the plant breeding industry. And in 2013 I got 3GB of sequences, field trial data, metabolite profile of Canola and Brassica rapa elite and diverse lines from several breeding companies in Europe as my PhD project. At the time, there were no bioinformatic tools to analyze the bulk data, and I had to figure it out. I adopted R programming and Shell scripts from human genetics and adapted it to the polyploid crop.
During my PostDoc project at University of Nottingham, I got to witness the progress in Next Generation Sequencing by PacBio when I got the FASTA sequences directly from the company, and they did all the quality filters. This saved me a lot of time in data analysis. The project ended up with a patent, and currently in process to be marketed so I cannot describe all the details.
- Thesis: Systems biological analysis of seedling vigour and osmotic stress tolerance in oilseed rape (Brassica napus L., Brassicaceae). 2017, University of Giessen, Germany.
- Paper: Drought-Tolerant Brassica rapa Shows Rapid Expression of Gene Networks for General Stress Responses and Programmed Cell Death Under Simulated Drought Stress. 2017, Plant Molecular Biology Reporter 35: 416–430
I was involved with the development of the Bioinformatics module at Agronomix Software. R statistical programming is becoming ever more popular in bioinformatic analysis. So, I decided to publish my PhD thesis R scripts as an R package. I am also working on a review paper about current best practices to integrate genomic tools to plant breeding.
- Reprint: SysBioCrops: An R package for Systems Biological Analysis of Complex Plant Genomes.
- Under Review: Best practices to integrate genomic tools in plant breeding programs.