Who is Norman Borlaug and why is he important?

“What?  No bread photo?”  I hear you ask.  “No photo of mill stones?”

Nope.

This is in honour of Norman Borlaug, the American agronomist who discovered a gene that boosted wheat crop yields, and, more importantly, resisted P. graminis, the most severe form of the fungal infection that attacks and kills wheat.  It is commonly called wheat rust.  No photo because wheat rust is on the march again – in new and different forms that are difficult to fight and that travel widely.  There is wheat rust now in many parts of Africa, including South Africa, and it has shown up in the Punjab – one of the worlds largest wheat growing areas.  To give an idea, wheat rust periodically killed 20% of the US wheat harvest.

This is a problem because wheat is our most widely planted crop and accounts for 20% of the human calorie consumption on the planet.  A resurgence of wheat rust – with the resultant destruction of acres and acres of the wheat crop – would surely lead to hugely inflated wheat prices and, ultimately, famine.  The Economist magazine ran two interesting articles in the July 3 2010 issue which we should all read.  No bread.  No photo.

Is this a job for genetic engineering?  Stay informed.  Join the debate.

2 Replies to “Who is Norman Borlaug and why is he important?”

  1. Trouble is that Normans wheat requires artificial fertilizer/herbicides/insecticides to survive, all from the agro corporations,all of which have devastated ecosystems in Asia(normans bad tasting rice) and the people have to buy new seed every year from the corporations..and his wheat is not the only rust resistant one, but it too has succumed, its the anti-biotic story over again, nature always finds a way. better be smart than endlessly engineer crops to outstrip the predators which isnt smart at all…just looks that way.

    1. Thanks John – I actually went to talk to the Soil Assoication and to a very senior scientist friend of mine about this topic. Whilst my head has NO IDEA whom to believe, my heart is with you on it.

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