Celebrating Thirty Years of Collaborative Research on Grains

August 27, 2013
USAIDDr. Gebisa Ejeta (left) and Dr. John Yohe (right) with a farming family in Ethiopia.

Before President Obama launched Feed the Future in 2009, the Collaborative Research Support Programs (CRSPs) led by U.S. land grant universities laid a solid foundation for some of the research and development that Feed the Future now employs to improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers around the world.

One of these programs is the Sorghum, Millet and Other Grains CRSP, which ended in March 2013 after 30 years of collaboration and capacity building with developing country scientists. Under the expert leadership of Dr. John Yohe at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, this program made tremendous contributions to global food security both overseas and in the United States, introducing dozens of new sorghum lines and reaching thousands of smallholder farmers. Many new sorghum varieties developed under the program have also been taken up by U.S. private industry, which can now produce and sell these improved seeds to farmers in the United States and around the world.

The Sorghum, Millet and Other Grains CRSP also nurtured over 1,100 scientists from over 30 countries including the United States, training both graduate students and visiting scientists to address major challenges in agriculture and food security and building countless networks for mentoring and collaboration.

One of the most famous scientists associated with the program is Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, who grew up in rural Ethiopia and earned his Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics from Purdue University. He went on to win the 2009 World Food Prize for his contributions to developing sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and disease, enhancing the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sorghum and millet are staple crops for millions of people and are particularly important in regions of the world where water resources are limited. Thanks in part to the work of this CRSP, a variety of both innovative technologies and new platforms for technology dissemination have been developed that now serve as a model for scaling up technology adoption under the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

A new Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum & Millet was awarded last month to Kansas State University and will build on the accomplishments of its CRSP predecessor.

Learn more about the work of the University of Nebraska and its partners on sorghum, millet and other grains.