Female #FoodHeroes

Martina Gunnemann

Martina is the Germplasm Development Team Lead for Winter Oilseed Rape (WOSR) in Europe Africa Middle East (EAME) for Syngenta in Germany.

What do you do?

We are breeding hybrid seeds fitting the needs of farmers in differing countries and regions. The targets are high: we are working to achieve a stable yield with high oil content combined with resistant traits for important diseases like Phoma, Clubroot, Verticillium, Sclerotinia and TUYV. In some regions winterhardiness is mandatory, and we are screening our material for that too. Also, drought-tolerance is becoming more and more important due to climate change.

Why do you love your job?

I really like the diversity of my job. The combination of being in the field, analyzing the data with different tools, work with innovative equipment and new technologies makes it interesting every day. I also appreciate working with colleagues from other countries and functions, discussing different aspects and ideas, and finding solutions to deliver products for farmers.

How did you get here?

I joined Syngenta in 1998 and was trained in carrying out trials, plant breeding and agronomy. I grew up on a farm and was always interested in genetics and plants, so this education was the perfect match for me. After that I started to work as Technical Assistant in the WOSR team. At that time my passion for the crop – especially the breeding part – grew and I started to develop myself further with some Breeding Academy Courses and training on the job. I gained more responsibility within the team, becoming Assistant Breeder, Junior Breeder and eventually Breeder with my own program. Since last year I have been leading the WOSR Breeding team in EAME.

What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?

My advice is not just for women, I would say this could be helpful for everyone: when you want to achieve your goals, you should know what you want, be reliable, stay authentic, and work together as one team. I like the slogan “one team – one plan”.

How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?

There are many ongoing changes in agriculture and related fields at the moment. Farmers are facing several challenges coming from the government with more and more restrictions, as well as difficult weather conditions. Sustainability is becoming more important, and I think that’s the goal for the future. We need to provide varieties with a good package of traits adapted to the environment. In parallel we need to build partnerships with farmers to explore new growing regions and cultivation methods, implement new technologies to optimize the use of resources, and maintain the land and ecosystem in a sustainable way.

We also need to have a dialogue with the end-consumer, to show that agriculture can be innovative and sustainable at the same time: we are delivering good products, healthy food, and taking care of nature.


Martina is just one of many inspirational women working in agriculture. Visit our Female #FoodHeroes page to hear from other women working to improve plant science and nutrition.