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Legacy Seeds’ Veteran Alfalfa Breeder Prepares New Leader to Continue Reliable Results

By Legacy Seeds   |   January 28, 2022

Since Legacy Seeds first started in 2000, Dave Huset has been at the helm of the alfalfa breeding program.

Over his tenure, he’s built a reputation for breeding high-quality, high-yielding, persistent alfalfa varieties. Notably, the high-digestibility HD® line, and the aphanomyces root-rot resistant line StandLife Genetics®.*

And his impact has not gone unnoticed. In 2018, he received Honorary Membership with the North American Alfalfa Improvement conference for his outstanding contributions to improving alfalfa genetics.

Now Dave is getting ready to hand the baton off to Legacy Seeds’ next leader in alfalfa breeding, Olivia Steinmetz. 

Lab Background Helps Solve Real World Problems

Olivia and Dave

Olivia and Dave at the Research Learning Center

Olivia joined Legacy Seeds part-time in April 2018. At that time she was working on her thesis for her master’s in plant breeding and genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Olivia was attracted to Legacy Seeds for several reasons. She liked its small size and the fact that she could know key personnel like the president and head research director. 

“I could work closely with these people and know that my impact would be felt,” she says. “We all wear a few different hats, and that is really exciting.”

She also admired the company’s ability to prove its claims.

“I respect letting your work speak for itself,” she says. “Putting in all of that behind-the-scenes work, year after year. Dave’s really good at doing exactly what needs to be done and letting the results speak for themselves.”

Finally, with the addition of Legacy Seeds’ Research & Learning Center, it provided Olivia the opportunity to do field research while continuing the lab and greenhouse work she was familiar with. After graduating in January 2020, she joined the company full-time.

“I have the combination of my schooling and the theory of plant breeding. And now for the last 2 years, I’ve been able to apply that with Dave and have this conversation of how we apply the theories and how we can do what he’s been doing so successfully for 40 years, as well as what sort of things can we integrate and maybe change in specific ways.”

New Leadership, Same Trusted Breeding Process

With a high recommendation from her UW-Madison professor, the plan has always been for Olivia to take over Legacy Seed’s alfalfa breeding program.

“This has been a very thoughtful, intentional and thorough process,” Olivia says. “It’s been really nice to have the opportunity to have these ongoing conversations and make sure all of my questions are addressed. Really learning and witnessing Dave’s process, not just for a week or month at a time, but for years.”

Dave built the program using conventional breeding technology, which Olivia has no plans on changing. Instead, she wants to look for opportunities to improve alfalfa’s sustainability and disease resistance.

Dave ensures growers the program will always be focused on delivering reliable results. 

“Adding more disease resistance, more insect resistance, nematode resistance—things like that are wonderful and that’s going to help us down the road,” he says. “But we are always going to be focused on high forage quality, high yield and persistence going forward.”

Steady Growth for a Strong Future

Legacy Seeds Alfalfa breeding team

Legacy Seeds Alfalfa breeding team, left to right: Olivia Steinmetz, Travis Roth, Dave Huset

With Olivia stepping into the leadership role, she says the alfalfa breeding program will continue to grow. But the core of the program will stay the same.

“It’s a very intentional growth,” she says. “We’re going to add more people to the breeding team. We’re going to have more research plots across the state. We’re going to do more, but we’re not going to do everything differently. We’re just doing more of the same and growing in a sustainable, steady way.”

Dave describes Olivia as bright and quick to pick up on things, so he has full trust in her abilities to continue the alfalfa breeding so many farmers have grown to rely on.

“We’re in really good hands with Olivia taking over,” he says. “She understands things very well and I expect great things.”

*HD® and StandLife Genetics® are Registered trademarks of Legacy Seeds, LLC.

 

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