About “Beyond the Rows”

Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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Helping Farmers Fight Plant Diseases

Today is the deadline for the applications for the 2012 Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program. We asked some of the current scholars to provide a perspective on what their experience has been with the program. More information can be found at Monsanto’s corporate web site.

By Kebede Muleta

Native country: Ethiopia
Home University: Washington State University (U.S.)
Collaborating organization: USDA-ARS

After graduating with a BS degree in plant science and later a MS degree in plant pathology from Haramaya University, I was able to receive the opportunity to work in various research institutes and agricultural universities. This has given me a chance to work closely with poor farmers. I have been able to look at several biophysical, technical and socio-economic factors that affect the production and productivity of their crops, leading to poor harvests and economic hardship in these societies.

Diseases, particularly the wheat rusts, are responsible for catastrophic yield reductions at various times. Since the beginning of my career, I have been interested in developing strategies to mitigating losses due these diseases.

Although great progress has been made to manage these diseases—and huge global efforts are underway—it is still imperative to design a strategy to identify and utilize cultivars with combined durable resistance to wheat rusts. My interest is particularly on the identification, characterization and deployment of cultivars carrying effective seedling resistance genes in combination with durable adult plant resistance genes. In fact, this is not feasible to me without sufficient financial resources and access to advanced technologies.

With the marvelous opportunity I have received from the most prestigious MBBISP scholarship, my wishes are getting closer to becoming a reality. It has given me a chance to pursue my education at one of the most renowned universities with access to the best facility, and exposure to the most prominent scientists, while learning advanced breeding techniques along with many more advantages. This will obviously enhance my professional competence, allow me to work more efficiently, and significantly contribute to my country.

In fact, to me, MBBISP is much more than a source of funding. It is an organization aimed at developing scholars with versatile skills and knowledge who can make significant contributions to the increasing productivity of wheat and rice. The stipend, tuition, research and other applicable fees provided by the scholarship, in addition to providing an opportunity to attend the World Food Prize (WFP) symposium, are indicators of this fact.

The 2011 WFP symposium was very remarkable and it enabled me to share experiences with groups from diverse backgrounds. I enjoyed it a lot. It inspired me, and gave me greater motivation. It was a great experience and forum to help recognize the issues in global wheat and rice productivity.

Top Photograph: The MBBISP scholars at the World Food Prize, Des Moines, Iowa, October 2011. Muleta is second from left.

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