Feeding the World from the University of Minnesota

For an inspiring source of information on efforts to feed the world check out the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities website.

In these dark days of midwest winter, when the cold earth seems barren of life, this series of articles and videos on kernza, a new higher protein wheat, that will stay in production for five years, reducing the need for tilling the soil is truly inspiring. As is the feature on the graduate student, Caroline Jones, who is going into accounting to help reduce poverty by working in non-profits dedicated to this mission.

daffodils.jpg

I enjoyed the wonderful feature on professor James Bradeen, who is researching ways to reduce chemical use in food production. The post features a great series of info graphics and brief videos highlighting the importance of the potato in food security. Did you know the potato has over 39,000 genes and that over 1 million people died during the potato famine?

I really love how the University of Minnesota web and news team integrated these inspiring and informational stories in a thematic way.

As an educator concerned with helping students think of non-traditional careers (plant research is non-traditional in suburban Detroit, as is accounting for non-profits!!), I really love how the team wove the personalities into the science.

I think educators who are interested in helping students find ways to solve-pressing real world problems would find this series of features from the University of Minnesota to be a great resource.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is food security such an important issue?
  2. How many potato genes are involved in detecting pathogens?
  3. Why is reducing chemical use in food production important?
  4. What are the benefits of kernza? Can you think of any negative consequences?
  5. Why is the potato such an important element of food security?
  6. How has genetic research changed in the past ten years? How has this change been helpful?
  7. Where did Caroline Jones work as a field accountant? What does she see is her true passion?
  8. What other crops do you think are essential to food security?
  9. What crops are important in your state?
  10. Why is an interdisciplinary approach essential to solving the issue of food insecurity and hunger?
  11. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, and do?”

Who Was Norman Borlaug?

According to the University of Minnesota, their graduate, Norman Borlaug, was “the man who saved a  billion lives.” Not bad for a boy growing up in 12 miles from the nearest town in rural Iowa in the early 1900’s, and whose education began in a one room school house.

Borlaug, went on to study Forestry at the University of Minnesota (after initially flunking the entrance exams!) Then he earned a Masters, followed by a  PhD studying plant disease. He received a big break in 1944 when he was invited to work on a project in Mexico to help the farmers grow their own wheat.

His research and work in educating farmers left a long legacy of helping develop self-sufficiency and feeding the world. His work is acknowledged as being at the leading edge of the “Green Revolution” and his work and teachings live on.

leaflook-closely

The University of Minnesota have an excellent Norman Borlaug website devoted to his work. Anyone who is interested in ecology, biology, agriculture, history, or anyone seeking inspiration about how a dedicated, passionate researcher can truly make a positive impact on humanity should learn more about him and check out the website. Be sure also to check out his 2001 Nobel Centennial Symposia speech at nobelprize.org  as well as the video Rusts Never Sleep available under the resources link at the website.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What were some of the formative experiences of Norman’s early years?
  2. What were his early educational experiences?
  3. What were significant world events that shaped his research?
  4. How did Norman persevere through significant adversity? Give examples.
  5. What were the topics of his master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation?
  6. While in Mexico, what was his group’s unspoken motto?
  7. Describe how the “shuttle breeding”program worked?
  8. What threat did the stem rust fungus cause and how did his work prevent worse destruction of crops?
  9. What were three significant contributions Borlaug made to the benefit of humanity?
  10. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn,do?”