Citing the need to double food production to feed a hungry world, Purdue President Mitch Daniels has announced $20 million in University funding to expand research and education in plant sciences in the College of Agriculture. The plant sciences initiative, announced Thursday during a President’s Forum, is among 10 targeted programs designed to enhance research and educational opportunities for students and broaden Purdue’s global impact. “One of the critical questions we face is how to feed a growing world population,” Daniels said. “This initiative can lead to answers to that question by helping to produce plants that have higher yields and can grow in a variety of environmental conditions.”
The investment will dramatically expand Purdue’s capabilities in plant sciences, helping the university to move discoveries from the laboratory to commercialization or to the farm in innovative ways, said Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture. He added that it also fits well into the state’s focus on innovation in life sciences, “The state of Indiana sees innovation in this area as an economic driver. Companies will want to come to our state to foster innovation.” He added Purdue will be in a position to partner with these companies to develop the technology needed to feed a growing world population.
The new research efforts will focus on these key areas:
* Expanding research and education in plant biology through 10 new faculty hires that would be affiliated with a new Center for Molecular Agriculture.
* Enhancing the college’s ability to move research discoveries into commercially important crops with development of a plant transformation facility, which will bridge a gap between identification of valuable genes in crop production and their commercialization.
* Building high-speed, large-scale capabilities to assess crop characteristics and performance through automated field phenotyping that will provide for detailed assessments of plant traits that are important for both research and commercialization.
* Establishing a plant commercialization incubator facility to create opportunities for plant sciences faculty and students to move their ideas to the farm and the marketplace through commercialization and licensing arrangements.
* Developing student leaders in the plant sciences through a precollege summer institute to help attract students to the area, research and experiential learning activities throughout the curriculum, and engagement in licensing and commercialization.
The investment will dramatically expand Purdue’s capabilities in plant sciences, helping the university to move discoveries from the laboratory to commercialization. At least 10 new researchers will be hired and current facilities and laboratories will be modernized and expanded.
Gebisa Ejeta, distinguished professor of agronomy and 2009 World Food Prize laureate, said the funding reflects Purdue’s leadership role in working to find ways to feed a world population expected to increase from about 7 billion now to 9 billion by 2050. “Science, technology and innovation are key to feeding humanity sustainably,” Ejeta said. “With this investment, Purdue University is making a commitment to the future of agriculture in Indiana and beyond and showing the collective resolve that we all share at this institution to remain among the very top tier of leading universities in the world.”