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N RELEASE P

E MCKNIGHT FO NATION
600 TC ower
121 South Eighth Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55402 For information: Michael O'Keefe
Executive Vice President
(612) 333-4220

FOR RELEASE
April 20, 1995


THE McKNIGHT FOUNDATION AWARDS NINE MAJOR GRANTS IN ITS NEW,
INTERNATIONAL, COLLABORATIVE CROP RESEARCH PROGRAM

The McKnight Foundation has awarded a total of $5,624,000 in grants over three years to nine
partnerships of U.S. and developing country crop scientists, Michael O'Keefe, executive vice
president, announced today. Projects are located in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The grants are
part of the Foundation's new six-year, $12 million Collaborative Crop Research Program. An
additional $981,000 over three years was approved to support grantee conferences, technical
assistance to grantees, and oversight of the projects.

The Collaborative Crop Research Program supports basic and applied research aimed at improving
food crops and agricultural systems in developing countries. Grants will increase the capacity of
researchers in selected countries to meet priority food and nutrition needs by encouraging innovative
approaches to scientific research and training. An important feature of the grants is their support of
collaborative partnerships among teams of plant scientists in the developing countries and their
counterparts in the United States.

The grants announced today build on the Foundation's previous support for basic research in plant
biology. Over the past decade, the Foundation made grants in that area totalling more than $18
million. Those grants supported interdisciplinary approaches to basic plant biology research and
encouraged hundreds of talented young scientists to pursue careers in agricultural research.

"The Collaborative Crop Research Program has a more applied focus than its predecessor," said
James M. Binger, a member of the McKnight board of directors. "It is designed to support solid
research that will have a more immediate impact on food needs in the developing world. Also, we









Collaborative Crop Research Program


hope to help scientists in these countries make more rapid progress in improving food production and
nutritional content."


The Foundation received over 450 requests in response to its original call for planning proposals,
issued in November 1993. In that call the Foundation invited developing country scientists to identify
priority research needs and select a U.S. partner with whom to develop a joint planning proposal for
research and training directed to those needs. In April 1994 the Foundation awarded funds to 18
partnerships for development of full proposals. In selecting the nine finalists from these 18 proposals,
members of the Oversight Committee this past fall visited more than 30 research sites located in
developing countries and in the United States. "All 18 of the partnerships met the submission
deadline with strong and impressive proposals. Our task in the site visits and committee discussions
was a formidable one," said Usha Vijayraghavan, of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and a
member of the Oversight Committee that helped shape the program.


The criteria that committee members used to select grant winners included: the scientific soundness
of objectives and capacity of the partnership; the potential impact of the proposed research on specific
food and nutritional needs in developing countries and its linkage to key social and economic sectors;
evidence of an effective and equal partnership among scientists in the developing country and the
United States; and evidence of creativity and commitment in developing a training program to
increase the capacity of scientists in developing countries to pursue priority plant biology research.


"We were most impressed by proposals where high quality research and innovative training plans
were married to high priority needs in developing countries," said Robert Goodman, a professor of
plant biology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and chair of the Oversight Committee. "We
also looked for evidence of a good match between the partners involved, as well as for the human
qualities-commitment to excellence, ambition, energy, and dedication-that make international and
interdisciplinary research successful," he said. "The portfolio of funded projects reflects a broad
range of crop improvement challenges and of scientific approaches. Projects also differ in their
degree of risk-taking and in the types of institutions involved."


In site visits to developing countries, members of the Oversight Committee were impressed with the


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Collaborative Crop Research Program


quality, creativity, energy, and commitment of crop researchers in the developing world. "There are
many well-trained scientists in developing countries," O'Keefe said. "Yet they often lack resources
and connections to their colleagues in developed countries. The Collaborative Crop Research
Program aims to link these highly qualified scientists with people and resources in the United States
and other developed countries."


The benefit of a collaborative approach is that it will allow some scientific work to get done that
otherwise would not. "It wouldn't get done in developing countries because they don't have the
resources," O'Keefe said. "It wouldn't get done here because we don't have the same priorities."


To help improve scientific training and research programs in developing countries, the Collaborative
Crop Research Program supports activities designed to integrate education and training needs in the
region with research activities. "This is what we do in the United States," Goodman said. "It's not
what is typically done in other countries. In many other countries, research is not a fully integrated
component of university education, and ministries of agriculture separate from universities have
significant research responsibilities. We are encouraging institutions to experiment and work together
in new ways. In some cases, this means strengthening the training role of government labs. In
others, it involves increasing the scope of educational activities in universities to include research."


Funds are approved for the first three-year phase of a six-year commitment by the Foundation.
Programs will be periodically reviewed and decisions on renewal funding will be made in 1997.


The Foundation's awards are:


$546,000 to a team of researchers led by Dr. Peidu Chen and Dr. Dajun Liu at
Nanjing Agricultural University in the People's Republic of China and Dr.
Bikram S. Gill at Kansas State University (U.S.A.) to use advanced cytogenetic
techniques to improve wheat resistance to wheat scab disease. Wheat scab, caused by
a fungus, remains a major threat to this important food crop. Recently, Chinese
scientists have discovered good resistance to scab in some wild relatives of wheat.
This project will make use of advanced breeding technologies to transfer this exotic


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Collaborative Crop Research Program


genetic material into cultivated wheat in an attempt to increase its resistance to wheat
scab.


$780,000 to a group of researchers led by Dr. Daleng Shen and Dr. Chang-ben U
at Fudan University in the People's Republic of China and Dr. Frank F. Richards
at Yale University (U.S.A). Also included in this partnership are Dr. Roger Hull
at the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom; Dr. Serap Aksoy and Dr. Scott
O'Neill at Yale University; and Dr. Angray S. Kang at The Scripps Research
Institute (U.S.A.). This team will investigate the feasibility of an innovative
approach to control the spread of plant viruses in crops. The focus of the project is
on an insect-borne virus of rice, but the implications of its success extend to a large
proportion of the viruses that cause crop losses around the world. The project is
directed toward reducing the ability of insects to transmit viruses, and combines
studies in virus epidemiology, insect population biology, and the engineering of
bacterial endosymbionts found naturally in the insects that transmit many crop viruses.


$720,000 to a partnership of scientists led by Dr. P.K. Ranjekar at the National
Chemical Laboratory in India and Dr. Clarence A. Ryan at Washington State
University (U.S.A.). The research will focus on genetically improving chickpea
production, a rich source of dietary protein and the major legume in the diets of many
people in India. The partnership will employ the full range of traditional plant
breeding techniques, DNA marker approaches, and genetic engineering to improve
chickpea's resistance to insects, disease, and drought, and to increase crop yield. If
successful, the project could significantly improve the living conditions of marginal-
income farmers in this country, whose population is approaching the one billion mark.


$744,000 to a partnership of scientists led by Dr. Lindela R. Ndlovu at the
University of Zimbabwe and Dr. Jess D. Reed at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison (U.S.A.) to improve food security in the semi-arid regions of Zimbabwe and
other parts of Africa. Drought resistant crops such as sorghum are often more
suitable than corn or maize for small-scale farmers who raise crops and livestock and


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Collaborative Crop Research Program


practice agroforestry. Secondary plant compounds such as proanthocyanidins (also
known as condensed tannins) lower the contribution of sorghum and other crops to
food security because they make these crops less desirable for consumption by the end
user. Yet these compounds have several beneficial effects on crop and livestock
production. Applying techniques from a field of study called ecological biochemistry,
researchers will seek ways to maximize the beneficial effects of proanthocyanidins
while reducing their adverse impacts on crop utilization.


$600,000 to a partnership led by Dr. Hailu Tefera at Alemaya University of
Agriculture/Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center in Ethiopia and Dr. Henry
T. Nguyen at Texas Tech University (U.S.A.) to study the genetic improvement of
tef, a staple cereal grain that feeds 50 million people in Ethiopia and a versatile
species that thrives in a broad range of growing conditions. Advanced plant breeding
techniques developed during the past 30 years, which have proved so successful in
improving the major cereal grains (e.g., wheat, rice, maize), and modern molecular
genetics will be applied in an effort to make more rapid progress in improving this
important African food crop.


$192,000 to Mr. Robert O.M. Mwanga at the Namulonge Agricultural and
Animal Production Research Institute (NAARI) in Uganda and Drs. Janice Bohac
and Michael Sullivan at Clemson University in Charleston, South Carolina
(U.S.A.) to strengthen ongoing work on a major sweetpotato improvement program.
Sweetpotato is a major source of calories, nutrition, and vitamins in much of Africa,
Indonesia, and other tropical countries. Sweetpotato weevils and viruses are the
major problems limiting its production. Increased sweetpotato resistance to weevils
and disease would have a major impact on food security and nutrition. This grant
provides a fellowship for Mr. Mwanga to study with Dr. Wanda Collins at North
Carolina State University (NCSU) and to collaborate with Drs. Bohac and Sullivan at
Clemson University and other scientists at Mississippi State University and the
International Potato Center, as well as for related research in Uganda.


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Collaborative Crop Research Program


$890,000 to a partnership of scientists led by Dr. Felix H. Franca at Empresa
Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuaria (EMBRAPA) in Brazil; Dr. Julio C.
Kalazich at the Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA) in Chile; Dr.
Robert L. Plaisted at Cornell University (U.S.A.); and Dr. James H. Lorenzen at
North Dakota State University (U.S.A.) to improve potato crop production in Chile
and Brazil by introducing insect resistance mediated by glandular trichomes and
leptines into cultivated potatoes in those countries. Potatoes are an important staple
food crop in Chile, Brazil, and many other developing countries. Presently, large
quantities of insecticides are needed to produce viable crops, representing a significant
social, economic, and environmental burden.


$250,500 to Dr. Rolando Estrada Jimenez at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de
San Marcos (Peru) and Dr. Hector E. Flores at The Pennsylvania State
University (U.S.A.) to fund socioeconomic, ethnobotanical, and biological studies of
key Andean root and tuber species, major staple crops of some of the poorest
subsistence farmers in the world. Evidence indicates that a diverse group of root and
tuber crops once supported a pre-Columbian population that was much larger and
better nourished than that living in the Andes today. These studies will help scientists
better understand the potential of these crops to support the nutritional and economic
needs of the Andes population and form the basis for future work on their
improvement.


$901,500 to a group of biological, social, and economic scientists representing
four institutions in Mexico and four institutions in the United States. The project
is led by Dr. Robert Bye at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and
Dr. Calvin O. Qualset at the University of California, Davis (U.S.A.). They will
study ways of applying modern knowledge about genetic diversity and innovative
farmer-based approaches to the genetic improvement of the milpa system of
agriculture in Mexico. A fairly complex system of food production at the village
level, the milpa system centers around maize, beans, squash, and a group of leafy
vegetables.


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Collaborative Crop Research Program


THE McKNIGHT FOUNDATION
The McKnight Foundation is a private grantmaking foundation with a primary interest in assisting
people who are poor or disadvantaged by enhancing their capacity for productive living. The
Foundation also seeks to strengthen community and community institutions, to enrich people's lives
through the arts, to encourage preservation of the natural environment, and to advance scientific
knowledge that can improve people's lives. The Foundation's primary geographic focus in its human
services and arts grantmaking is the state of Minnesota. The Collaborative Crop Research Program is
one of three research programs and complements a modest level of other international grantmaking.


Founded in 1953 and endowed by William L. and Maude L. McKnight, the Foundation has assets of
about $1.1 billion and paid grants totalling $53.8 million in 1994. Mr. McKnight was one of the
early leaders of the 3M Company, although the Foundation is independent of that corporation.


***


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