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     Serving the Horticulture Industry Since 1899
The SNA Conference Co-Chair

Monday, January 8 - Tuesday, January 9, 2018
The Southern Plant Conference

Dr. Thomas Molnar, Associate Professor
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ

Southern Plant Conference Co-Chair


Dr. Richard Olsen and Dr. Thomas Molnar Take the Lead
as chair and co-chair of the 2018 Southern Plant Conference

Dr. Richard Olsen, U.S. National Arboretum Director, and Dr. Thomas Molnar, Rutgers University Associate Professor, take the lead with The Southern Plant Conference for 2018 as chair and co-chair, respectively. Olsen and Molnar follow in the footsteps of Dr. Michael Dirr and Don Shadow, two world-renown plantsmen who have been the driving forces behind the conference and its programming for many years.

Dr. Michael Dirr, retired University of Georgia professor, author and plant breeder, was instrumental in the development of the conference in 1989, when the first Southern Plant Conference was held in Athens, Ga. In 1993, Don Shadow, retired fourth-generation nurseryman highly recognized both as an expert horticulturist and for his success in saving endangered animal species, became involved in the conference. Their vision for The Southern Plant Conference was to effectively increase communications of new plant varieties and decrease the average time needed to bring them to market. Their commitment and tireless effort helped mold The Southern Plant Conference into a very unique and popular industry event.

Moving forward, it seems an appropriate time for the next generation of plantsmen to take the lead in the conference and its evolution.


Thomas Molnar received his PhD from Rutgers University in 2006. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Plant Biology Department of the Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA). His research program concentrates on the genetic improvement and study of hazelnuts (Corylus) and large-bracted dogwoods (Cornus). Part of this work includes germplasm exploration, collection, and evaluation.

A major aspect of his current research is developing and characterizing genetic resistance to eastern filbert blight, a fungal disease which is the primary limiting factor of hazelnut production in the eastern North America. Breeding objectives in both woody ornamentals and hazelnuts emphasize selection for high levels of disease and pest resistance and cold hardiness.

Professor Molnar now continues the dedicated work of Dr. Elwin Orton that began in the 1970s. When he joined the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology in 2004 he soon began working alongside Orton, conducting research for the NJAES. Molnar is currently in charge of the Rutgers dogwood tree breeding program and, like Orton, expanded his vision to focus on a hazelnut breeding program, as well. His main focus is breeding plants for improved qualities – first with dogwoods, then with hazelnuts. Dr. Molnar is proud to carry on the legacy of Dr. Orton and conduct valuable research at Rutgers University.


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    Cover Story (October 2017)

Preserving a Vision

Thomas Molnar honors the work of his mentors through his hazelnut and dogwood breeding.

by Susan Martin, Nursery Management

Dr. Tom Molnar with Scarlet Fire® dogwood.        Dr. Tom Molnar standing by a Rutgers Venus® dogwood tree.
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