From Better Seeds to Beneficial Insects

Can a wasp feed the world? It can help. If its larvae are nurtured near millet fields where a devastating moth steals harvests from the field, they can grow to become predators that destroy the pests and save a crop. And that just might put more food in more mouths and earn money for struggling farmers in the world’s poorest countries.

“In some sense, the science, how to increase crop productivity, is the easier part,” said Gary Pierzynski, a Kansas State University researcher. “The challenge is how to get the people from these developing countries to do it.”

His work to that end, and that of others on the K-State campus, has brought $100 million in federal grants to the university to explore the varied and complicated questions of how to feed the world’s fast-growing population amid quickening climate change. Read more here in the Kansas City Star.

A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself

The dun wheat field spreading out at Ravi P. Singh’s feet offered a possible clue to human destiny. Baked by a desert sun and deliberately starved of water, the plants were parched and nearly dead. Dr. Singh, a wheat breeder, grabbed seed heads that should have been plump with the staff of life. His practiced fingers found empty husks. “You’re not going to feed the people with that,” he said. Read more in The New York Times.

Putting Up Resistance

Beneath a steely and frigid Minnesota sky, the warm orange glow of a greenhouse beckons me to enter. But getting inside requires special security clearance and the donning of a white Tyvek gown, and visitors must shower upon leaving. Scrambling up a snowdrift outside the glass building affords me a less encumbered peek at what’s inside: row upon row of wheat plants, riddled with a fungal pathogen that has destroyed countless hectares of the crop in Africa and, more recently, the Middle East. Read more at TheScientist.

Wild Relatives

Plants closely related to crop species, such as wild maize in Mexico and wild rice in West Africa, often happily grow in and around the disturbed soils of agricultural fields, passing their genes along to these crops with the help of wind and insects. Some traditional farmers even encourage such “weeds” because they recognize that their presence has a positive effect on their crops. Read more at TheScientist.

Position Announcement - Associate Scientist

Through support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Kansas State University will establish the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Climate Resilient Wheat. The Innovation Lab will apply advanced molecular breeding approaches for development of heat tolerant wheat varieties for South Asia. Working at the interface of wheat genomics, breeding and international development for food security, the Innovation Lab will apply next-generation sequencing to genomic selection for rapid development of superior wheat varieties. The associate scientist in bioinformatics will have primary responsibility for analyzing and interpreting large genomic datasets, giving context and applying molecular markers for wheat improvement.  The scientist will analyzewhole genome sequence and genotyping-by-sequencing data of wheat, integrating genomic and genotyping resources for molecular breeding and improved assembly and anchoring of the wheat genome. Candidates are expected to analyze genotyping-by-sequencing data from wheat breeding programs to characterize breeding lines for whole genome prediction and genetic mapping.  The associate scientist will lead preparation of scientific manuscripts reporting research methodology, results and interpretations.

See complete description for additional information.