Seed World magazine is excited to announce the 2021 Future Giant of the Seed Industry Paul Nelson. He serves as a corn product design lead at Bayer and was selected for this award because of his leadership and vision for the future of plant breeding.
For the past 10 years, the Seed World editorial board honors an individual who has demonstrated excellence in their field of work, a commitment to the seed industry and leadership above and beyond the job description.
“I have worked with Paul for over ten years, the last five as the leader of the team that Paul is a part of,” says Jonathan Jenkinson, head of product design at Bayer. “There are few people I’ve known in my career who have added as much or been a greater pleasure to work with. I believe Paul is very worthy of this award.”
Starting his career as a corn breeder in Iowa, Nelson spent eight years managing a breeding program for central corn belt maturities.
“That was my dream job,” Nelson says, “everything from walking plots and managing nurseries to slogging through data during harvest, but when I was presented with opportunities to influence at a broader level, I made the tough decision to ‘hang up the boots’ and move into leadership.”
Now based in Chesterfield, Mo., Nelson has lead teams in data science, genomic prediction, and is now managing one of Bayer’s global breeding pipelines.
In addition to leading his team of scientists at Bayer, focused on developing new corn hybrids for growers, Paul is also actively engaged across the seed industry. He chaired the American Seed trade Association’s molecular marker working group for five years where he coordinated research and publications from that group, has influenced international plant intellectual property (IP) policy at UPOV and ISF, and currently sits on the U.S. Plant Variety Protection Board. Through these efforts, he has helped breeders to achieve more efficient and quicker IP for improved maize hybrids and soybeans varieties.
“What makes a good leader is someone who’s less focused on position and moving up, but instead is passionate about the science and focused on the people they lead,” Nelson says. “When I started my career all I cared about was seeing hybrids from my own breeding program on farmer’s fields; that was highly motivating and a lot of fun. But through different opportunities my career has taken an exciting path away from an individual breeding program. Now, I’m able to influence strategy and lead a team that gets the most out of our data and germplasm and allows us to create even better product for our growers. I’m very fortunate to be where I am today.”