WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue’s College of Agriculture will
receive more than $20 million in university funding for plant sciences research
and education to strengthen Purdue’s leadership in developing new and novel ways
to help feed a rapidly growing world population.
The plant sciences initiative, announced by President Mitch
Daniels on Sept. 12 during a President’s Forum, is among 10 targeted programs
designed to enhance research and educational opportunities for students and
broaden Purdue’s global impact.
“One of the critical questions we face is how to feed a
growing world population,” Daniels said. “This initiative can lead to answers to
that question by helping to produce plants that have higher yields and can grow
in a variety of environmental conditions.”
The College of Agriculture plans to add 10 new faculty
positions, some new facilities and remodeling of existing facilities and
programmatic support for research and student recruitment and education.
The investment will dramatically expand Purdue’s
capabilities in plant sciences, helping the university to move discoveries from
the laboratory to commercialization or to the farm in innovative ways, said Jay
Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture.
“In addition, we will be embedding educational opportunities
for students throughout this process of discovery and innovation, creating a
unique learning opportunity for the next generation of leaders in the plant
sciences,” Akridge said.
Gebisa Ejeta, distinguished professor of agronomy and 2009
World Food Prize laureate, said the funding reflects Purdue’s leadership role in
working to find ways to feed a world population expected to increase from about
7 billion now to 9 billion by 2050.
“Science, technology and innovation are key to feeding
humanity sustainably,” he said. “With this investment, Purdue University is
making a commitment to the future of agriculture in Indiana and beyond and
showing the collective resolve that we all share at this institution to remain
among the very top tier of leading universities in the world.”
The plant sciences investment will be divided into four main
areas, with student engagement a fundamental part of each:
* Expanding research and education in plant biology through 10 new faculty
hires that would be affiliated with a new Center for Molecular
* Enhancing the college’s ability to move research discoveries into
commercially important crops with development of a plant transformation
facility, which will bridge a gap between identification of valuable genes in
crop production and their commercialization;
* Building high-speed, large-scale capabilities to assess crop
characteristics and performance through automated field phenotyping that will
provide for detailed assessments of plant traits that are important for both
research and commercialization;
* Establishing a plant commercialization incubator facility to create
opportunities for plant sciences faculty and students to move their ideas to the
farm and the marketplace through commercialization and licensing arrangements;
* Developing student leaders in the plant sciences through a pre-college
summer institute to help attract students to the area, research and experiential
learning activities throughout the curriculum and engagement in licensing and
The university initiatives were developed over several
months of work that involved deans, faculty and others at the university. The
university’s trustees have reviewed and given support for the programs.
“This investment in the plant science research and education
pipeline will catapult Purdue’s efforts to enable faculty and students to
translate their creativity into new products to help feed a hungry world,” said
Karen Plaut, senior associate dean for research and faculty affairs.