Known as the father of the Green Revolution, Norman E. Borlaug was born in 1914 on a farm near Cresco, Iowa. After completing his early education in his hometown, he went on to study forestry and plant pathology at the University of Minnesota, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and completed his doctorate in 1942. After two years as a microbiologist with the DuPont de Nemours Foundation, he took on the challenge of leading the wheat improvement efforts of the Cooperative Mexican Agricultural Program, sponsored by the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation.
It started with a
man named Norman.
His mission was
to fight hunger
In Mexico, Dr. Borlaug’s scientific knowledge found expression in a humanitarian mission: developing improved grain varieties to feed the hungry people of the world. A practical, energetic, hands-on researcher, Dr. Borlaug worked in the fields alongside farm workers, students, and interns, sharing his knowledge as well as the labor of producing food crops. During his 20 years in Mexico, Dr. Borlaug and his colleagues perfected a semi-dwarf, high-yielding wheat variety that was resistant to disease and resisted lodging (the bending and breaking of the stalk that often occurs in high-yielding grains).
His findings pioneered
modern wheat research
as we know it today.
In 1964, Dr. Borlaug was appointed director of the Wheat Research and Production Program at the then newly established International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) near Mexico City. This position allowed him to expand his teaching mission. He shared his immense knowledge of research and production methods with thousands of young scientists from all over the world, “seeding” agricultural production in their home countries with new ideas and new productivity.
For his work in South Asia, and for his earlier work in Mexico, Dr. Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Over the years, he received honorary degrees and recognition from universities, governments, and organizations worldwide. Through it all, he remained a deeply humble and practical man who was as productive after winning the Peace Prize as he was before. His longstanding commitment was to the farmers of the world, and that no child should go to bed hungry.
Dr. Borlaug was instrumental in founding the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative in 2005.
Continuing His Legacy
The BGRI continues to advance Dr. Borlaug’s vision
for a more secure wheat crop worldwide.
Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW)
From 2016 to 2020, the Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat project, or DGGW, worked to modernize breeding programs at CIMMYT and national programs in India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal and Bangladesh to increase the rate of genetic gain for wheat, and systematically reduce the world’s vulnerability to wheat disease and climate change. The DGGW built on the DRRW, an international collaboration of scientists and farmers that was inspired by Norman Borlaug. Both projects were managed and led by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and UK aid from the British people.
Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW)
From 2008 to 2016, the overarching objective of the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project, or DRRW, was to systematically reduce the world’s vulnerability to stem, yellow and leaf rust of wheat; to evolve a sustainable international system to contain the threat of wheat rusts; and to continue enhancements to productivity to withstand future global threats to wheat. A precursor to the DGGW, it included 22 research institutions around the world and was led by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) in International Programs of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at Cornell University.