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Researcher Profile: Andy Hopkins

Posted Dec. 9, 2008

Andy Hopkins can draw a few parallels between his life and the classic baseball movie "Field of Dreams." As a teenager, he found his calling in a cornfield. In his current role as plant breeder, he faces his fair share of infield sagas. And he loves - maybe loved is a better way to put it - baseball. Unfortunately there are no mules in his story. Confused? Continue reading about Hopkins, who has led one of the Noble Research Institute's 18 laboratories for the past 11 years, but has spent a lifetime dreaming about his fields of plants.

On discovering his "Field of Dreams"

I am from the St. Louis, Mo., area, and there just so happened to be a corn breeding station nearby. A friend of mine worked there and told me about it. I thought it sounded interesting. I spent three summers during high school working there and continued studying plants in college. I focused on forages in graduate school. After 10 years and a Ph.D., I finally decided I could call myself a plant breeder.

On developing cool-season perennial grasses

I work with a number of cool-season perennial grasses like tall fescue, tall wheatgrass, orchardgrass and hardinggrass. Currently farmers and ranchers use cool-season annuals for high-quality forages for livestock. If we develop perennial forages to replace the annual systems, it could save agricultural producers time and money. Instead of needing to plant an annual each year, you plant a perennial one time and it's there for possibly decades.

On his hobby being ironically similar to his job

In my spare time, I enjoy gardening. What can I say? I like growing plants. People tell me I'm "out" "standing" in the field.

On Beekeeping 101

I took a college course in beekeeping. It was pretty funny because you could mail-order bees and set up hives at your house. I did that for a few years, not successfully, but I got a kick out of it and only a few stings.

On his lost love

I used to eat, sleep and breathe baseball. Player strikes, interleague games, the designated hitter rule, steroids and wild card teams have damaged the sport. I used to follow it closely, but haven't had the time to keep up with it for many years.

On what makes a great movie

I believe the three elements a movie needs to be great are trains, baseball and mules. "Fried Green Tomatoes" meets these criteria. "Field of Dreams" is another terrific movie, but needs mules.