By Daniel Caddell
MBBISP Scholar, University of California, Davis
The Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program (MBBISP) aims to develop the next generation of rice and wheat scientists, researchers, and breeders around the world. Daniel Caddell, MBBISP Scholar and PhD candidate at the University of California, Davis reflects on the significance of MBBISP.
As a MBBISP recipient, I have had the opportunity to focus on improving our understanding of how rice perceives and responds to stress. In an effort to further my research, I will soon be leaving for the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, where I will be working alongside internationally renowned rice breeders to breed improved pathogen resistance into the agronomically important rice variety known as Sub1, which allows rice to sustain long periods of flooding without significantly reducing its yields.
The MBBISP is also committed to helping each of the scholars make successful transitions from students to ag experts. Every MBBISP recipient has the opportunity to attend the World Food Prize, participate in leadership training courses, and just this week we are converging in Cuidad Obregón, Mexico alongside agricultural superstars to celebrate Norman Borlaug’s legacy on the 100th anniversary of his birth. These experiences are particularly important to get a better idea of how to tackle complex issues such as food security. During our Ph.D. studies, each of the MBBISP scholars only has enough time to focus on a very narrow aspect of crop improvement. By bringing together people of diverse backgrounds, skillsets, and ethnicities, we can improve our chances of making impactful decisions that will lead to improving food availability to the one billion people living in extreme poverty, especially in countries where rice and wheat are major staple crops.
Norman Borlaug was able to feed nearly a billion people by enhancing wheat yields, disease resistance, size, and environmental tolerance, all without understanding anything about the genetic makeup of wheat. Using today’s technologies, I am optimistic about what we will be able to achieve in the decades to come. Fortunately, thanks to MBBISP there are now over sixty young career scientists training to join a global workforce that is driven to continue this fight. And since we represent only a small fraction of all scientists researching new ways to combat these problems, I am optimistic.
While the MBBISP fellows including myself will never have an opportunity to thank Dr’s Beachell and Borlaug for the amazing opportunity this fellowship has provided, we can strive to make an impact, which I hope is a bigger thank you than words alone could have produced.