Grant Supporting International Food Security Awarded to Iowa State University, Colorado State University

Man at podium in front of banner with lettering
Walter Suza, Iowa State University adjunct associate professor in agronomy, with the Plant Breeding Education for Africa e-learning program, speaking at a PBEA annual meeting in Kampala, Uganda.

AMES, Iowa – Improving international food security is the focus of a grant awarded to researchers and educators working in plant breeding and genetic resources in Iowa State University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Colorado State University.

The two institutions received a $750,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to support development of training materials to enhance crop improvement and food security.  

The ISU team’s focus will be to develop training videos and digital learning materials for use in training and education programs targeted for training students and professionals (public, governmental and private sector) around the globe in plant genetic resource management and utilization.

Collaborators at Iowa State include Walter Suza, adjunct associate professor in agronomy, with the Plant Breeding Education for Africa e-learning program, and Candice Gardner, affiliate assistant professor of agronomy and research leader for the USDA National Plant Introduction Research Unit in Ames.

The project’s research leader is Patrick Byrne, professor emeritus of plant breeding and genetics at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Iowa State will receive about $140,000 over three years for its role in the NIFA award. The project also involves the USDA ­­National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins. The facility is part of a national network of gene banks that collect, store and distribute plant germplasm (i.e., seeds and cuttings) to researchers around the world for breeding purposes.

Suza said the new collaboration will build on the work PBEA has been doing since 2013 to educate the next generation of crop improvement scientists in sub-Saharan Africa. The e-learning program has developed a network of global collaborators, which will help expand the project’s reach.

“This project will enhance the PBEA collection of e-learning resources for use by plant breeding instructors and students in Africa,” Suza said.

Byrne agreed that working with the Iowa State project will provide greater opportunity to have a worldwide impact.

“Conserving and breeding with plant germplasm are globally important priorities for food security,” Byrne said. “Interacting with the Plant Breeding Education for Africa program will extend the impact of our project to a part of the world where agriculture will be seriously affected by climate change.”