An Agriculture Celebrity – Mary-Dell Chilton

We don’t have top many agriculture celebrities.  There are people you recognize because you see them on tv, at meetings or on YouTube but in actual fact there is not a TMZ like service following around farmers or industry people (thank goodness for that).

Recently I travelled down to North Carolina to visit the Syngenta Biotechnology Center and I had a true agricultural celebrity sighting.  Now I will I admit that I had no idea prior knowledge of who Mary Dell Chilton was but I definitely did after I left.

As Mary Dell Chilton walked within the halls of the Syngenta Biotechnology center the agriculture media was asking questions like, “Is Mary Dell Chilton actually here?” “Will we get a chance to meet Mary Dell Chilton?”

Mary Dell Chilton is responsible for the success of the Bt gene being inserted into the corn plant and much more.

According to her Wikipedia page:

Mary-Dell Chilton (born February 2, 1939, in Indianapolis, Indiana) is a key founder of modern plant biotechnology. She was the first (1977) to demonstrate the presence of a fragment of Agrobacterium Ti plasmid DNA in the nuclear DNA of crown gall tissue. Her research on Agrobacterium also showed that the genes responsible for causing disease could be removed from the bacterium without adversely affecting its ability to insert its own DNA into plant cells and modify the plants genome. Chilton described what she had done as disarming the bacterial plasmid responsible for the DNA transfer. She and her collaborators produced the first genetically modified plants using Agrobacterium carrying the disarmed Ti plasmid (1983). She has been called the “queen of Agrobacterium.”

 See a list of the 25 most famous people that you didn’t know were farmers

The great thing about people like Mary Dell Chilton is by all accounts, even though her contribution to the industry is in millions of dollars in value, she walks the halls with the same attitude as 30 years ago.  That is something she could even teach the mainstream celebrities.  Thank you for your contribution to plant breeding and the agriculture industry Mary Dell Chilton.


Shaun Haney

Shaun Haney is the founder of He creates content regularly and hosts RealAg Radio on Rural Radio 147 every weekday at 4:30 PM est. @shaunhaney


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