Plant genetics is a focus for a statistician at the New Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station

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

Fred Miller, Department of Agriculture

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

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

“Sometimes we don’t have the time nor the resources to do the proper experiment that we need to answer some specific questions,” Fernandez said. For example, it is not possible to survey plants at more than 1,000 sites, but computer programs allow researchers to assess specific conditions over many years.

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

Fernandez, originally from Minas Gerais, Brazil, joined the Agricultural Statistics Laboratory of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station in June. He will divide his research primarily between the departments of Crops, Soils, Environmental Sciences and Horticulture.

Prior to joining the experiment station, the research arm of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Arkansas, Fernandez investigated the development and application of multivariate methods to genetic data for plant breeding as a postdoctoral student at the University of Illinois.

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

Fernandez said the package helps researchers simulate phenotype observations based on molecular marker data.

They can use these observations to test different methods, such as one to find out how many genes are 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 real plant yield data.

“If we run it on real data, we will never be sure how our method will perform,” Fernandez said. In real data, it is not known how many genes are involved in the genetic structure of a particular trait.

The Fernandez Simulation was published in early 2020 and has expired 12000 downloadsHe said.

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

“Dr. Fernandez’s expertise and experience in genetics has the potential to greatly enhance our plant breeding programs,” said Jeff Edwards, chair of the Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences division of the University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture and Dale Pampers College. Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences.

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

Fernandez is already discussing notable collaborations with several researchers at the University of Arkansas, including Margaret Worthington, associate professor of fruit breeding and genetics, and Christian de Guzman, associate professor of rice breeding and genetics.

Edwards said Fernandez’s collaborative research approach is a major strength. “I really look forward to incorporating his experience and skills into our existing research programs and see how his efforts are pushing us in new directions.”

Fernandez will also teach introductory statistics classes through the Dale Pampers College of Agriculture, Food, and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas.

“I focused a lot on quantitative genetics, but now I’ll have the opportunity to go back a little bit more and work with this field that I’ve always loved,” Fernandez said of teaching statistics classes.

Fernandez had to travel through many emotions to find where he is now. His father was engaged in cattle breeding, so animals and plants have always been of interest to him. But he also enjoyed computer science and wanted to pursue it as well.

It wasn’t until he had an internship in plant breeding that he felt like he had found the field with the right mix of plants and computer science.

Fernandez earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Brasilia in 2010. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees. He received his PhD 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 communicate the data effectively to students and researchers.

“In addition to that education, I grew up on a farm – my father is a cattle rancher,” Fernandez said. “So, I know what they’re talking about when they come in and talk to me about common things.

“I think this could be a useful thing to research and teach here.”

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