Thursday, June 18, 2015

Plant Breeding for Food Security symposium focuses on global impact of Gurdev Khush’s work on rice production

The Plant Breeding Center, in collaboration with the Confucius Institute, hosted the Plant Breeding for Food Security symposium on the global impact of plant genetics to rice production in honor of the work of Gurdev Khush.

Dr. Khush is an agronomist and geneticist who shared the 1996 World Food Prize with Henry Beachell for his achievements in attaining global rice security during a time of exponential population growth.  After serving as a faculty member of the University of California for seven years, he joined the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines as a plant breeder and was appointed head of the Plant Breeding Department in 1972. He spent over 21 years at IRRI directing and participating in genetic research and breeding. Dr. Khush played a key role in the development of more than 300 modern high-yielding rice varieties, which helped increase world rice production from 257 million tons in 1966 to 626 million tons in 2006. He returned to UC Davis where he is currently adjunct professor.

With a panel of his international colleagues and mentees, Dr. Khush addressed the symposium to discuss the challenges he faced during the Green Revolution, and once again expressed his dedication to and deep appreciation for the faculty he learned from, claiming, “UC Davis faculty prepared me for those challenges.” Audience members engaged the highly respected line-up of international and local speakers with questions and suggestions for future research, and to share stories of how Dr. Khush inspired them in their own work.

“To an American, it’s hard to understand just how important rice and rice breeding is to the world,” Dr. David Lobell, associate professor at Stanford University, said to give the audience some perspective on the breadth of Dr. Khush’s global recognition. “For an American like me, maybe the best way to understand the impact of Gurdev Khush is to know that, in many places, he is more of a household name than Michael Jordan.”

Over 200 guests came from all over the world to attend the day-long symposium to discuss the advances of global production in rice, wheat, and tomato; the future obstacles that face an ever-growing world population; and the technologies that will revolutionize farming and food production.


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