Dryland Genetics was founded in 2014 by professors at Iowa State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with experience in plant genetics and phenotyping. The goal of the company is to take crops already adapted to growing on marginal lands where other crops cannot grow without irrigation water and increase their yields and agronomic performance using genetic and statistical breeding techniques that have previously only been applied to a few major crops such as corn, soybeans, and cotton.

Our first target crop is proso millet (Panicum miliaceum) which requires less water than any other cereal to produce a harvest. This makes it an ideal crop for the arid great plains of North America, as well as for drylands in Australia, and northern China. Proso millet is grown on hundreds of thousands of acres in Nebraska, Colorado and South Dakota, yet this crop has missed out on the breeding revolutions which have allowed other crops to increase their yields per acre 4x or more in the past century. Using innovative genotyping, breeding, and selection strategies employing natural genetic diversity in proso millet collected from around the world, Dryland Genetics is already seeing significant yield improvement relative to the best lines currently on the market in trials conducting in Colorado and Nebraska.

Our Team


Our Leadership

James C. Schnable has been an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 2014 where his research group focuses on using both comparative genomics and new high throughput phenotyping techniques to link genes to functions in maize, sorghum, and allied species such as foxtail and proso millet. His lab is currently funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, The United States Department of Agriculture, ARPA-E, the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, and private industry. During his time at the University of Nebraska he has collaborated with statisticians, engineers, biochemists, and applied plant breeders resulting in 43 peer reviewed papers over the past four years and founded or co-founded three startups, including Dryland Genetics. He received his PhD from UC-Berkeley in 2012, and received an NSF Plant Genome Postdoctoral Fellowship which supported his postdoctoral work at the Danforth Center in St. Louis and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, China.

Patrick S. Schnable is a distinguished professor at Iowa State University where he holds the Iowa Corn Promotion Board Endowed Chair of Genetics and serves as the Director of the Center for Plant Genomics. He is also a ChangJiang Professor at China Agricultural University in Beijing, China. He has published over 100 scientific manuscripts and lectures and consults widely. Over the last five years Schnable has presented the results of his research at 34 national and 26 international venues and has consulted for numerous companies in the Ag genomics sector. He also serves on numerous scientific advisory boards and grant review panels. He is a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).