Graduate honoured as 2014 World Food Prize Laureate

19 June 2014

Dr Sanjaya Rajaram, a PhD graduate from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, has been honoured as the 2014 World Food Prize Laureate for developing new wheat breeding technologies to provide the world with higher yields of better quality food.

The ceremony took place this week at the Dean Acheson Auditorium in Washington, DC, and was attended by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the President of the World Food Prize Foundation, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn.

"When you do the math, when our planet needs to support two billion more people in the next three decades, it's not hard to figure out: This is the time for a second green revolution," said Kerry.

"That's why Dr Sanjaya Rajaram is being honoured with the World Food Prize. We are grateful for the hundreds of new species of wheat Dr Rajaram developed, which deliver 200 million more tonnes of grain to global markets each year and feed millions across the world."

Born in India, Dr Rajaram studied genetics and plant breeding at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi, and graduated with his master's degree in 1964. The following year he moved to Australia to carry out his PhD research at what is now the IA Watson Grains Research Centre in Narrabri, where the University of Sydney has been developing breeding techniques for wheat and other crops for over 50 years.

A recommendation from his professor and mentor at the University of Sydney, Dr I.A. Watson, saw Dr Rajaram continue his research at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, where he has spent many years coming up with solutions to global food shortages. During this time, with the help of his colleague, Dr Norman Borlaug, he developed several hundred varieties of wheat that can be grown in many different climates all over the world, while offering higher yields and a resistance to the devastating rust disease. It was this achievement that earned Dr Rajaram the title of this year's World Food Prize Laureate.

"As the head of International Center for Wheat and Maize's wheat-breeding program for several decades, our Laureate developed 480 high-yielding disease- and stress-resistant wheat varieties that have been grown on 58 million hectares in 51 countries, thus increasing world wheat production by more than 200 million tonnes," said Ambassador Quinn at the ceremony.

"His breakthrough breeding technologies have had a far-reaching and significant impact in providing more food around the globe and alleviating world hunger."

Contact: Verity Leatherdale

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