Norman E. Borlaug

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Norman E. Borlaug (1914-2009)

A central figure in the "green revolution", Norman Ernest Borlaug (1914-2009) "was born on a farm near Cresco, Iowa, to Henry and Clara Borlaug. For the past twenty-seven years he has collaborated with Mexican scientists on problems of wheat improvement; for the last ten or so of those years he has also collaborated with scientists from other parts of the world, especially from India and Pakistan, in adapting the new wheats to new lands and in gaining acceptance for their production. An eclectic, pragmatic, goal-oriented scientist, he accepts and discards methods or results in a constant search for more fruitful and effective ones, while at the same time avoiding the pursuit of what he calls "academic butterflies". A vigorous man who can perform prodigies of manual labor in the fields, he brings to his work the body and competitive spirit of the trained athlete, which indeed he was in his high school and college days...

"In 1944 he accepted an appointment as geneticist and plant pathologist assigned the task of organizing and directing the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program in Mexico. This program, a joint undertaking by the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation, involved scientific research in genetics, plant breeding, plant pathology, entomology, agronomy, soil science, and cereal technology. Within twenty years he was spectacularly successful in finding a high-yielding short-strawed, disease-resistant wheat...

"When the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations in cooperation with the Mexican government established the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), an autonomous international research training institute having an international board of trustees and staff, Dr. Borlaug was made director of its International Wheat Improvement Program. In this capacity he has been able to realize more fully a third objective, that of training young scientists in research and production methods. From his earliest days in Mexico he has, to be sure, carried on an intern program, but with the establishment of the Center, he has been able to reach out internationally. In the last seven years some 1940 young scientists from sixteen or so countries (the figures constantly move upward) have studied and worked at the Center.

"Dr. Borlaug is presently participating in extensive experimentation with triticale, a man-made species of grain derived from a cross between wheat rye that shows promise of being superior to either wheat or rye in productivity and nutritional quality." [1]

Education

Borlaug graduated from University of Minnesota with a BS in 1937, an MS in 1940, and a PhD in 1942, all in Plant Pathology. His primary mentor, who persuaded him to change majors from forestry to plant pathology, was Elvin C. Stakman, who later recruited him to work for the Rockefeller Foundation's Mexican Agricultural Program. At the University of Minnesota, Borlaug also came into contact with wheat breeding pioneer Kendall Hayes.[2]

Early Career

Prior to his historic work in Mexico, Borlaug "worked on such topics as mildew resistance in the rayon fabrics used by the military" for DuPont. His work there was dictated by the Selective Service System, as the U.S. was fighting World War II when he completed school.[3]

Borlaug and the Green Revolution

Wheat Breeding in Mexico

Borlaug was recruited to the Mexican Agricultural Program by Elvin Stakman and J. George Harrar (another former student of Stakman's) beginning in 1942. He arrived in Mexico in October 1944 to work on wheat breeding. Of first importance was breeding wheat that was genetically resistant to several strains of wheat rust, a fungal disease that was a major problem in Mexico at the time, particularly in the newly irrigated regions in the Northwest.[4]

Within his first several years of work, Borlaug succeeded in creating rust-resistant varieties of wheat.[5] However, in 1953, he received samples of semidwarf wheat varieties, originally from Japan. These varieties allowed him to create hybrids that were not only resistant to rust but could also utilize large amounts of commercial nitrogen fertilizer, resulting in high yields.[6] Borlaug released semidwarf wheat varieties to Mexican farmers beginning in 1962.[7]

For more information, see the article on Wheat Breeding in the Green Revolution

Honors and Affiliations [8]

Criticism

Official Biography

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. Norman E. Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize, accessed December 9, 2007.
  2. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 224
  3. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 224
  4. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 224-8
  5. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 228-229
  6. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 230
  7. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 230=231
  8. Norman E. Borlaug CV, World Food Prize, accessed May 1, 2008.
  9. Directors, Population Action International, accessed May 1, 2008.
  10. Council of Advisors, World Food Prize, accessed December 9, 2007.
  11. Advisory Board, Population Media Center, accessed September 16, 2008.
  12. Advisory Board, Earth Institute, accessed August 5, 2009.
  13. 2007 Annual Report, Technoserve, accessed February 20, 2010.