These keynote speakers already confirmed their presence on the symposium:

Cecile Desbiez

 Cecile Desbiez is a research scientist at the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA) in Avignon, France. After a PhD on the variability and evolution of zucchini yellow mosaic virus at INRA Avignon, she did a post-doc at University of Kentucky (USA) on the determinants of aphid transmission specificity in potyviruses. Since she got a position at INRA Avignon in 1998, her researches focus mostly on the different aspects of plant virus emergence at different scales “from plant to landscape”, particularly through molecular epidemiology and evolution studies of cucurbit-infecting potyviruses as a model. She has contributed to the knowledge of the viral pathosystem through the characterization of new viruses and the development of serological and molecular diagnostic tools. She also works on the molecular determinants of virus properties –host range, symptomatology, resistance breaking- and their consequences on virus fitness and evolution. Through molecular epidemiology analyses and experimental approaches in controlled conditions, she contributes to characterize the interactions between virus strains at different levels and their epidemiological consequences, as in the case of the rapid strain replacement of watermelon mosaic virus populations that took place in France in the last decade. 


Yaakov (Kobi) Tadmor

  Yaakov (Kobi) Tadmor is a research geneticist with the Newe Ya'ar Research Center at the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), Israel. Dr. Tadmor leads the Cucurbit Section of the ARO that combines breeding and research activities, resulting with successful commercial varieties and useful scientific tools and data. His research focuses mostly on cucurbit crops with special emphasis on a) development and discovery of unique plant material for research and breeding, and b) genetic and chemical analyses of quality attributes of agricultural products. Tadmor's integrative research major contributions are to the genetic dissection and mechanistic understanding of coloration processes in cucurbit fruit and in other agricultural products. 

Rebecca Grumet


Rebecca Grumet is a Professor in the Department of Horticulture and the Graduate Program in Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology.  She is a W.H. Beal Outstanding Faculty at Michigan State University and a Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science.  Her research deals with vegetable genetics and genomics, with a primary emphasis on cucurbit flower and fruit development and disease resistance.  She is currently the lead PI, along with 20 co-PIs, for the USDA-SCRI CucCAP project:  CucCAP: Leveraging applied genomics to increase disease resistance in cucurbit crops (  She also has performed research, teaching and outreach in the area of biotechnology biosafety working both nationally and internationally through USDA-, USAID-, and Bill and Melinda Gate’s Foundation- funded projects regarding risk assessment for transgenic crops.  R. Grumet has authored or co-authored more than 100 papers, was the lead editor for a book published in 2011 on ‘Environmental Safety of Genetically Engineered Crops’, and in 2017 for ‘Genetics and Genomics of Cucurbitaceae’ along with J. Garcia-Mas and N. Katzir.  R. Grumet has a B.S. degree from Cornell University, M.S. and Ph.D. from Michigan State University, and was the recipient of a North Carolina Biotechnology Postdoctoral Fellowship in Plant Molecular Biology at Duke University.

Irene Vänninen


Irene Vänninen is an experienced project manager with a demonstrated history of working in the research industry of biological and integrated pest management and knowledge management in horticulture. She is skilled in systems and strategic thinking, facilitation of coinnovation and change processes, sustainability, and life sciences. Her research on pest management includes both biological studies and people-centered interventions, with focus on integrated management of insect and mite pests in greenhouse vegetables and ornamentals, strawberry and the urban landscaping industry, as well as research on new pest threats associated with horticultural trade and climate change. Since 2016 she has worked as an innovation researcher and developer for the Ostrobothnian greenhouse cluster on the western coast of Finland, where the majority of Finnish cucumber, tomato and sweet pepper production is located. This work is based on knowledge management principles and includes problem formulation to define development programs, renewal of product development and its processes, guidance and initiatives for pest management research and product improvement, and improving communication in the greenhouse sector's value chain.

Guiseppe Colla

Guiseppe Colla is full professor in horticulture at the Department of Agriculture and Forest Sciences, University of Tuscia, Viterbo (Italy). He is member of the Ph.D program in Agriculture and Forest Sciences at the University of Tuscia and visiting scientist at the Department of Vegetable Crops at University of California, Davis and at Purdue University. Hes teaching activity at the University of Tuscia is on Vegetable Crop Production and Floriculture with as main research areas: plant nutrition, biostimulants, and abiotic stress tolerance. Besides he is member of the Management Committee of Italian Society of Horticulture; member of the International Society of Horticultural Science; member of the Editorial Board of International Scientific Journals (Scientia Horticulturae; Open Journal of Agriculture); editor in Chief of Scientia Horticulture; guest editor of two Special Issues on Plant Biostimulants in the International Scientific Journals 'Frontiers in Plant Science’ and ‘Scientia Horticulturae’; guest editor of a Special Issue on ‘Toward a Sustainable Agriculture Through Plant Biostimulants: From Experimental Data to Practical Applications’ in  Agronomy MDPI; editor of the first international book on plant biostimulants, Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing (in preparation); coordinator and principal investigator in many research projects on horticulture funded by EU, Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, Italian Ministry of Education, Ateneo Italo-Tedesco, private companies, etc and author or co-author of more than 300 publications on national and international journals.

María Belén Picó Sirvent

María Belén Picó Sirvent is professor at the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) (Spain) at the Institute for the Preservation and Improvement of Valencian Agro-diversity (COMAV)


Bhimu Patil


Dr. Bhimu Patil is a Professor and the Director of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center ( at Texas A&M University AgriLife. He also serves as the Director of National Center of Excellence of Melons ( and has been awarded as 2019 Texas AM University Professorship. He is recently elected as Chair of the newly formed Division of Horticulture for Human Health, in the International Society for Horticultural Sciences (ISHS). He has devoted his career to understand the role of the health-promoting factors by promoting the consumption of fresh, healthful, and delicious varieties of fruits and vegetables. His broad, multi-disciplinary research spans all aspects of fruit and vegetable production, from isolation and characterizations of the health-promoting compounds to plant breeding aimed to develop improved varieties, and post-harvest handling practices that will prevent soil-borne contamination of vegetables. He is currently the lead PI, along with 23 co-PIs, for the USDA-SCRI-CAP project: Table to Farm: A sustainable, systems-based approach for a safer and healthier melon supply chain in the U.S