New Revolutions in Agriculture

Posted by on September 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments »

By Margaret Zeigler & Edona Dervisholli 

The Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) is honored to be a part of the World Food Prize and Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium, which draws over 1,500 people per year from 75 countries and has been called “the premier conference in the world on global agriculture.”  For the 5th year we will launch our annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®) before a diverse audience of farmers, private sector agriculture leaders, United Nations and international development leaders, university and student leaders, and citizens concerned about hunger, nutrition, and global agriculture.    GAP 2013

The GAP Report® evaluates progress in improving global agricultural productivity using the measure of Total Factor Productivity (TFP) and serves as a platform to advance public policies that help improve food and nutrition security.  The 2014 GAP Report®, will be launched on Wednesday, October 15 at 11:00 am Central Time, and provides a special focus on many revolutionary innovations and sustainable practices that will help us meet the massive global agriculture demand of our planet by 2050.  The report also examines the agriculture and food systems of India, a dynamic and rapidly growing country, home to the original “Green Revolution” in crop technologies.

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Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram with Indian wheat farmers Photo Credit: DCM Shriram Ltd.

We are especially pleased that our report reinforces the exciting work of this year’s World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Sanyaja Rajaram .  Every year the World Food Prize recognizes people who have made a significant contribution towards increasing quantity, quality and availability of food throughout the world. On October 16, The World Food Prize will recognize the achievements of today’s preeminent plant scientist working on wheat production.  Born in India and a citizen of Mexico, Dr. Rajaram’s work has great impact for Indian farmers.  The late Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and also a founding visionary of the Green Revolution, has described Dr. Rajaram as a “scientist of great vision who made a significant contribution to the improvement of world wheat production, working for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of farmers in countries across the globe.”

Born in 1943, near a small village in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northeastern India, Sanjaya and his family grew up in a five-hectare farm growing wheat, rice and maize. His parents recognized his keen interest in agriculture and education, and they sent him to primary and secondary school outside of his village, which was unusual in that time. After completing his secondary school, he went on to the College of Jaunpur at the University of Gorakhpur and later earned a B.S. in agriculture in 1962. He continued his education by studying genetics and plant breeding under the distinguished Dr. M.S. Swaminathan at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi, and ultimately graduated with his Master’s degree in 1964.

Dr. Rajaram then moved to Australia for his Ph.D. with a specialization in plant breeding at the University of Sydney. Remembering his village experiences as a child and the challenge of food insecurity and hunger, Dr. Rajaram decided to conduct plant research in order to help provide solutions. He was recommended to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug and Dr. Glenn Anderson at the International Maize and Wheat improvement Center (CIMMYT)in Mexico to continue his work on plant breeding.

At CIMMYT, Dr. Rajaram’s distinguished scientific career in wheat research commenced. He was mentored and worked closely with Dr. Borlaug beginning in 1969 and eventually led the wheat breeding team at CIMMYT in 1972.  Dr. Rajaram continued the strong field and farmer focus that Dr. Borlaug always emphasized, and strengthened experimentation in cross breeding winter and spring wheat varieties for dynamic new traits. He also proceeded to initiate a major expansion of Dr. Borlaug’s ingenious shuttle-breeding approach in countries beyond Mexico. Shuttle-breeding produced two test generations of wheat each year instead of one, thereby reducing in half the time needed for research and breeding new varieties.

Photo: Bloomberg News

Photo: Bloomberg News

Wheat is an important staple food crop and provides a primary source of calories and protein for 4.5 billion people around the world. Dr. Rajaram’s work in improving high-yielding wheat varieties that are disease and stress resistant and adaptable to diverse regions and climate conditions has been a significant achievement. He also launched a global scientific wheat network, a worldwide exchange of genetic resources, information and innovations among researchers.  In the words of Dr. Norman Borlaug, Dr. Rajaram has “….developed into the greatest present-day wheat scientist in the world and have learned to work effectively in many different countries with political leaders of different ideologies.”

We congratulate Dr. Rajaram and look forward to honoring him on October 16, 2014 at the World Food Prize Ceremony!

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