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genius of the week

Norman Borlaug is credited with saving millions of people from starvation in what has been named the Green Revolution. His role as an international leader is due not only to his research in wheat genetics, but also to his unique ability to create and implement programs which shared that knowledge with farmers in underdeveloped countries throughout the world.

Norman Ernest Borlaug is an American agricultural scientist, humanitarian, Nobel laureate, and the father of the Green Revolution. Borlaug received his Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942. He took up an agricultural research position in Mexico, where he developed semi-dwarf high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties.

To significantly increase yield in nutrient-poor soil, Borlaug needed to use fertilizer. However, the cultivars he was working with had tall, thin stalks. Taller wheat grasses could better compete for sunlight, but tended to collapse under the weight of the extra grain-a trait called lodging-and from the rapid growth spurts induced by nitrogen fertilizer. To prevent this, he bred his wheat to favor shorter, stronger stalks that could better support larger seed heads. In 1953, he acquired a Japanese dwarf variety of wheat called Norin 10 that had been crossed with a high yielding American cultivar called Brevor 14. Dwarfing is an important agronomic quality for wheat; dwarf plants produce thick stems and do not lodge.

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