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5th September 2022 (7 Topics)

Indian scientist wins award for fortifying millet

Context

Telangana-based agriculture scientist Mahalingam Govindaraj has won the coveted 2022 Norman E. Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application.

About

Norman Borlaug Field Award:

  • The Norman E. Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation, is presented every October in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, by the World Food Prize Foundation.
  • This $10,000 award recognizes exceptional, science-based achievement in international agriculture and food production by an individual under the age of 40.
  • Awardees emulate the same intellectual courage, stamina and determination in the fight to eliminate global hunger and poverty demonstrated by Dr. Norman Borlaug as a young scientist working in Mexico in the 1940s and '50s.

2022 Recipient

  • Mahalingam Govindaraj, Senior Scientist for Crop Development at HarvestPlus and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, has been named the 2022 recipient of the Norman E. Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by The Rockefeller Foundation.
  • He is recognized for his outstanding leadership in mainstreaming biofortified crops, particularly pearl millet, in India and Africa.
  • For more than a decade, he has directed the development and dissemination of high-yielding, high-iron and high-zinc pearl millet varieties which have contributed to better nutrition for thousands of farmers and their communities.
  • As a scientist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) starting in 2011, Govindaraj defined a strategy for biofortification of pearl millet with high iron and zinc content and dissemination of these high-yielding, drought-tolerant varieties to farmers.
  • Biofortification is the process of increasing the micronutrient content of a crop through selective breeding, and has become a keystone strategy for reducing vitamin and mineral deficiencies in low- and middle-income countries.
  • In 2014, Govindaraj released Dhanashakti, the world’s first biofortified pearl millet.
  • Independent clinical studies showed that 200 grams of Dhanashakti provided women with more than 80 percent of their recommended daily allowance of iron, compared to only 20 percent in regular pearl millet varieties.
  • Govindaraj’s active collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research led to India becoming the first country in the world to commit to iron and zinc standards as core traits in their national cultivar release policy.
  • Pearl millet became the first crop in which minimum levels of these essential micronutrients were mandated in 2018.
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