Gates Foundation gives $24 million to Cornell for crop research

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant is for $24 million. | Contributed photo

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have awarded Cornell University a $24 million grant to conduct research on the global threat to wheat crops. 

Throughout the world, the wheat supply is vital to food security in conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East. The grant will help to get Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW) by developing new strains of wheat that can tolerate heat, wheat rusts and other diseases.

“Over the last eight years, we have built a global consortium of wheat scientists and farmers whose efforts have so far prevented the global epidemics of Ug99 stem rust predicted back in 2005,” Ronnie Coffman, international plant breeder and director of Cornell’s International Programs that lead the consortium, said. “We have improved wheat resistance to stem and yellow rust globally and increased global yields.”

The grant will run for four years and is a continuation of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI), led by the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project that was funded from 2008-16 by the Department of International Development and the Gates Foundation. BGRI is trying to identify the strains of wheat rust that was first seen in East Africa but has now spread to the Middle East.

“For many of the poorest people in Africa and southern Asia, wheat provides most of their food and is an important source of income,” Coffman said. “It’s these people who have benefited the most from the DRRW and the BGRI’s successes at developing new strains of wheat that are high yielding, rust resistant and nutritious. With this grant, we will continue to involve farmers in the variety selection and seed multiplication process and train the next generation of wheat warriors to keep up the fight.”

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