Julie Borlaug is Assistant Director of Partnerships for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture. This post was originally featured at PlentyToThinkAbout.org, a blog that focuses on issues of global hunger and food production.
My grandfather, Dr. Norman Borlaug, had a lifelong passion for the advancement of agriculture and his philosophy continues to impact the world today. Some of his greatest achievements were: developing improved wheat varieties, educating and preparing future generations of scientists, and creating alignment between policymakers, scientists, and the public and private sectors to bring advancements in agricultural research to farmers. He is credited with having “saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.” His mission continues today in various ways as those following in his footsteps seek to identify solutions to address global food challenges.
The Food and Agriculture Organization recently reminded us that our challenges within the next 40 years are great. The challenges include producing 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050, while at the same time combating poverty and hunger, using scarce natural resources more efficiently and adapting to climate change.
The solutions will require innovative approaches, partnerships and alliances to develop sustainable and reproducible strategies to face these concerns. My grandfather always believed that investments in the next generation of people would bring solutions to future challenges.
Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars program exemplifies my grandfather’s commitment to education and agricultural research to improve wheat production as well as a productive public/private partnership. I’ll never forget that we launched this program at my grandfather’s 95th birthday celebration and how pleased he was to have his name associated with this program, along with Dr. Henry Beachell.
Since 2009, the program has been providing fellowships for Ph.D. scholars in rice and wheat plant breeding. The program is a partnership between well-known agencies in the private and public sector: Monsanto Company and Texas AgriLife, an agency of the Texas A&M University System. Toward this initiative, Monsanto pledged $10 million for five years as part of its commitment to sustainable agriculture.
Dr. Ed Runge from Texas A&M AgriLife is the program director, and the commitment he brings to the program is amazing. During his tenure, the program has identified, and now supports, 38 international Ph.D. scholars. These scholars’ applications were carefully reviewed and selected by an esteemed international panel of judges to receive support so they may become highly qualified breeders and agriculture leaders in the global community.
These scholars are pursuing their Ph.D.s at prominent universities with strong wheat and rice programs and collaborating with leading scientists/professors at world-renowned institutions. As they pursue degrees from schools such as Cornell University, University of California-Davis, University of Agricultural Sciences in India, Wageningen University in the Netherlands, their research projects address improving rice and wheat yields and quality of crop varieties: breeding for water use efficiency and drought resistance; characterizing root systems for water-scarce conditions; resistance to parasitic nematodes; identifying and characterizing new stem and leaf rust in wheat; understanding characteristics of the rice and wheat that impact the food value chain; etc.
The opportunities provided to these scholars through this partnership will enhance their knowledge, experience and exposure to potential solutions as they continue to develop improved crop varieties and progress toward leadership.
Like my grandfather, I am proud to have my family name associated with this program, because this program strives to be a part of a solution to the world agriculture needs.
To learn more about the program, information is available atwww.monsanto.com/mbbischolars.