The International Phytobiomes Conference 2022 brings together a broad community of U.S. and international scientists from the public and private sector as well as agricultural stakeholders. The Conference program will cover a wide range of topics related to phytobiomes and the list of speakers & panelists below reflects the interdisciplinarity of phytobiome science.


Plenary Speakers


Kellye Eversole

International Alliance for Phytobiomes Research

Kellye Eversole is an expert in agricultural genomics, biotechnology, and information technology research and a leader in the development of international, pre-competitive multidisciplinary, industry-academic research consortia. She is the Executive of the International Alliance for Phytobiomes Research which is pioneering a holistic, systems approach to understanding the complex interactions between the biological and geophysical components of agricultural production systems and support the development of novel, site specific products for enhanced sustainability.

Day 1 – Conference Kickoff
Plenary Lecture: Setting the Stage for a Systems Approach to Phytobiomes Research


Kirsten Hofmockel

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, US

Kirsten Hofmockel is the President of the Soil Ecology Society, an international organization focused on furthering the science, education and awareness of the importance of soils for human and environmental well-being. She serves as a liaison to the U.S. National Committee for Soil Sciences, which advises the National Academies and represents the interests of the U.S. soil science community in the International Union of Soil Sciences. Hofmockel is a Department of Energy Early Career Award recipient for research focused on how plants, microbes and soils interact to influence carbon storage. She is a Sr. Scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where she leads the Soil Microbiome Science Focus Area that investigates the basic biology underpinning how soil microbial community members interact to generate beneficial ecosystem functions. Hofmockel holds a joint appointment in the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University.

Day 2 – Session 3: Soils and Rhizosphere
Plenary Lecture


James Hurrell

Colorado State University, US

James (Jim) W. Hurrell is the Scott Presidential Chair of Environmental Science and Engineering at Colorado State University. He is a former Director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), where he was also a Senior Scientist in the Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory (CGD). Jim’s research has centered on empirical and modeling studies and diagnostic analyses to better understand climate, climate variability, and climate predictability. He currently serves as the Past President of the Atmospheric Sciences Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), and he is a member of Advisory Panel for the Division of Earth and Life Sciences, National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Jim is a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, the American Meteorological Society, and the AGU.

Day 3 – Session 5: Imaging and Modeling of the Phytobiomes
Plenary Lecture: Predicting Life in Earth System Models


Rachel Vanette

UC Davis, US

Rachel Vanette is Assistant Professor at the Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of California, Davis.

Day 1 – Session 2: Exploring Interactions within Phytobiomes
Plenary Lecture


Vittorio Venturi

International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology, Italy

Vittorio Venturi (graduated from Edinburgh University, UK in 1988, and received his Ph.D. degree in Microbiology from the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands in 1994. During his PhD research he focused in the regulation of iron-transport processes of beneficial plant associated bacteria which promote plant growth; the monopolization of iron nearby plant roots is an important trait which keeps microbial pathogens away. He then moved as a postdoctoral fellow to the International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology (ICGEB), Trieste, Italy, where he started investigating intercellular signaling among bacteria. He then went on to become Group Leader at ICGEB in 1998 continuing his studies on intercellular signaling. He is now particularly interested in (i) how plant associated bacteria undergo interspecies communication and interkingdom signaling with plants and (ii) plant microbiomes and the development of microbial products for a more sustainable agriculture. Since October 2019 he is also acting as the Scientific Coordinator of ICGEB.

Day 2 – Session 4: Phytobiomes Engineering
Plenary Lecture: Communication among microbes in the Phytobiome


Alyssa Whitcraft

NASA Harvest & University of Maryland, US

Alyssa Whitcraft is a geographer with broad training in remote sensing, agriculture, and interdisciplinary development studies. She is the co-founder of NASA Harvest, NASA Applied Sciences Program’s global food security and agriculture program, for which she co-developed the scientific scope and manage the operations of over 35 projects composed of more than 50 U.S. and international partners from various disciplines and sectors. She is an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, and since 2015, she has served as Program Scientist for G20’s Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM).

Alyssa is an expert in organizational change with respect to integrating new satellite technologies into workflows. She has developed collaborations and partnership models with public and private sector, emphasizing sustainable business models and value to all actors. Having grown up working in her family winery, she understands well the challenges of farm and supply chain resilience in the context of climate change, extreme weather events, and land mismanagement.

Day 3 – Session 7: Applying Phytobiome-based Solutions
Plenary Lecture


Invited Speakers


Vanessa Bailey

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, US

Vanessa Bailey

Vanessa Bailey is a laboratory fellow at PNNL. Her research focuses on understanding the integrated microbial, chemical, and physical system that comprise soils. To achieve this understanding, she studies how water dynamics within soil pores leads to changes in soil carbon chemistry at pore-, core-, and field scales. This helps resolve the bioavailability of chemically and spatially defined soil carbon to soil microorganisms. Soil microbial communities are a key buffer system against perturbations to the earth from climate change, pollution, and disturbance. Bailey and colleagues have conducted research showing, for example, that the rate at which microbes are transferring carbon from soil to the atmosphere has increased over a 25-year time period. She also manages one of the Department of Energy’s largest coastal research projects, COMPASS, where she is leading efforts to understand the transformations and exchange of carbon and nutrients across the interface between land and sea.

Day 1 – Session 2: Exploring Interactions Within Phytobiomes

Talk: Physical controls on microbial carbon cycling in soils


Richard Broglie

Pivot Bio, US

Richard Broglie, leads Pivot Bio’s research and development program, creating a vibrant and innovative R&D culture by championing strong, interdisciplinary connections between scientific specialties. In addition to leading the in-house research teams and managing partnerships with our external collaborators, Rich focuses on the acquisition of new technologies, building strong intellectual property portfolios, bringing products to market, working with our leadership team to develop long-term technology strategies, and mentoring young scientists.

Prior to joining Pivot Bio, Rich spent 30 years in research and global leadership positions at DuPont and DuPont Pioneer and brings extensive experience managing public-private sector partnerships and overseeing global, multi-crop R&D programs. During his tenure, Rich led several discovery programs that resulted in soybean and canola crops with healthier and more stable seed oil compositions. He also developed traits for disease and pest resistance in soybean, corn, wheat, rice, and sugarcane.

Day 2 – Session 4: Phytobiome Engineering
Talk: Enhancing nitrogen production in root-associated, diazotrophic bacteria


David Glass

D. Glass Associates, US

David Glass is a consultant specializing in industrial/ environmental/ agricultural biotechnology regulatory affairs, with over 30 years experience with government regulation of the commercial uses of modified microorganisms and plants and other products of biotechnology.
David Glass has provided strategic advice to numerous environmental and industrial biotechnology companies regarding compliance with the regulations of EPA, FDA and other agencies. Specifically, he has advised biofuel and bio-based chemical companies on the applicability of the EPA TSCA regulations to the use of modified microorganisms in fuel or chemical manufacture, he has advised clients on regulatory requirements for several types of FDA-regulated products, including food and feed additives, cosmetics, color additives and dietary supplements (nutraceuticals), and he has assisted in the preparation of submissions for approval of three animal feed ingredients.

Day 3 – Session 6: Regulatory Challenges & Barriers to Solutions
Talk: Achieving Regulatory Approval for Microbial Inoculants or Soil Additives


Prasanna Kankanala

Trace Genomics, US

Prasanna Kankanala is a plant pathologist with two decades of experience in plant-microbe interactions. Her prowess includes molecular interactions between plants and microbes, microbiome analysis, functional studies, whole genome sequencing, high-throughput assay development, and product evaluations. At Trace, Dr. Kankanala leads the efforts to innovate on high-throughput systems for development and evaluation of next-generation solutions for agriculture.

Day 3 – Session 7: Applying Phytobiome-based Solutions
Talk: Decoding Soil with Whole Genome Sequencing for Scalable & Sustainable Ag Solutions


Keith Matthews

Wiley Rein LLP, US

Keith Matthews has practiced environmental law focussing on the regulation of chemicals and genetically engineered organisms for over 25 years. He has practiced in the private sector, and for over 13 years was a staff attorney and Assistant General Counsel in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He then served for four years as the Director of the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division (BPPD) in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). Now, as Of Counsel with Wiley Rein LLP, his practice focusses on the regulation of chemical products, including biotechnology products regulated by EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Keith counsels and advises his clients using his breadth of knowledge on a variety of statutes, including the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Plant Protection Act.

Day 3 – Session 6: Regulatory Challenges & Barriers to Solutions


Jennifer Pett-Ridge

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, US

Jennifer Pett-Ridge is a senior staff scientist and group leader at LLNL who uses the tools of systems biology and biogeochemistry to link, identity, and function in environmental microbial communities and pioneered the use of NanoSIMS isotopic imaging in the fields of microbial biology and soil biogeochemistry. As lead scientist of the LLNL Genomic Science Biofuels Scientific Focus Area (SFA) (2009–2018) and more recently the LLNL Soil Microbiome SFA, she leads multi-disciplinary teams that integrate biogeochemistry, stable isotope probing, NanoSIMS imaging, molecular microbial ecology, and computational modeling to understand biotic interactions and energy flow in microbial communities critical to soil nutrient cycling and sustainable biofuel production. Pett-Ridge is currently leading a county-level assessment of options for carbon dioxide removal in the USA. She is the group lead for the Environmental Isotope Systems group at LLNL and manages a large portfolio of DOE, NSF, NASA and foundation support. Pett-Ridge has published over 120 peer-review articles, has received a DOE Early Career award, Secretary of Energy Achievement Award, the Geochemical Society Endowed Biogeochemistry Medal, and the DOE Office of Science Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award.

Day 2 – Session 3: Soil and Rhizosphere


Day 1 – Producer Roundtable


Benjamin Riensche

Blue Diamond Farming Company, US

Benjamin Riensche operates a 16,000-plus acre, sixth generation family farm known as the Blue Diamond Farming Company.  Primary operations are in Northeast Iowa where the farm produces corn, soybeans and seed soybeans, and in the Palouse Region of Washington and Idaho where white wheat and chickpeas are grown.

The Riensche Farm seeks to extract value by performing every function involved in their crop production, from soil fertilization on through production, processing and delivery of every bushel grown.  The farm has grown five-fold over the past 28 years of Ben’s leadership.

Ben has been farming since 1993.  Prior to this, Ben earned an Agricultural Business degree from Iowa State University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.  Between school and farming, he worked for Wells Fargo Bank and then for UBS (Switzerland) in their Wall Street, Chicago and Basel, Switzerland offices.  He currently serves as the chair of Indigo Agriculture’s Strategic Advisory Board, and on the Grower Advisory Panel of Crop Life America.


Joseph Cammack

Farmbox Foods, US

Joseph Cammack is the Executive Vice President, of Farmboc Foods. He us experienced in Entrepreneurship, Food Security, and Supply Chain Management. Driven by personal goals to build a sustainable and food safe world, he takes pride in providing mission driven strategies and process improvement practices. As Executive Vice President, his goals include team development, innovation, and eliminating food hunger. Joseph has been honored with the Newel K. Whitney Award for showing outstanding Character, Diligence and building a better world from Brigham Young University – Idaho


Day 1 – Industry Roundtable


Fernanda do Amaral, Joyn Bio, US

Richard Broglie, Pivot Bio, US

Charles Cowden, Valent BioSciences, US

Prasanna Kankanala, Trace Genomics, US


Day 3 – Regulatory Roundtable


Keith Matthews, Wiley Rein LLP, US

David Glass, D. Glass Associates, US

Boris Vinatzer, Virginia Tech, US