A Purdue University professor has received a $5 million grant to help develop hybrid grain seeds that will resist parasite weeds.
Gebisa Ejeta received the four-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Journal and Courier reported. It is the second foundation that has donated to the cause.
“It’s very helpful a grant such as this for the kind of programs that they support in developing countries because it allows us to engage beyond the normal boundaries we operate,” Ejeta said.
Ejeta and his researchers are hoping to expand the knowledge between the parasite weed gene that attacks sorghum. He also hopes young entrepreneurs in developing countries will be mass producing the seeds at the end of the four years.
Ejeta grew up in a one-room thatched hut in Ethiopia and eventually became a professor at Purdue. He developed a hybrid sorghum seed that’s drought-tolerant and resistant to Striga, which strips food sources from its nutrients.
Ejeta is credited with helping feed hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa with his work developments.
He also received the 2009 World Food Prize for his work after spending 15 years designing the hybrid seed. The prize is considered the top global honor for scientists and others who have improved the quality and availability of food.
More than 900 tons of sorghum seed have been distributed to more than 400,000 farmers in Ethiopia and Tanzania
Gebisa Ejeta was born and raised in a small rural community in west-central Ethiopia. He completed his early education in his native country including a BS in Plant Sciences from Alemaya College in 1973. He attended graduate school at Purdue University earning his Masters (1976) and PhD (1978) in Plant Breeding & Genetics. In March 1979, Gebisa joined the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and conducted seminal sorghum research in Sudan for five years. In January 1984, Dr. Ejeta returned to Purdue University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agronomy. Since then, he has led a comprehensive educational and research program at Purdue with emphasis on African agricultural research and development. He currently holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Plant Breeding & Genetics and International Agriculture at Purdue University.