U of S now accepting applications for major graduate scholarship in global food security

Applications are now being accepted from graduate students for the Dr. Donald Baxter Scholarships for Global Food Security.

Value: $40,000 per year

Number offered: One each in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, two in each of the following school years.

Description:

The Dr. Donald Baxter Scholarships for Global Food Security was established through a $1M endowment from Dr. Patrick Man Pan Yuen, MD, FRCP(C), an alumnus from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine, class of 1964. The Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) will provide an annual matching contribution of $40,000 for 25 years.

Over the next 25 years, the Baxter Scholarships will reward achievement and recognize graduate students from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Hong Kong involved in research and study in any pertinent academic department of the University of Saskatchewan. The student’s primary supervisor must be a GIFS member or associate member.

Eligibility:

  • The student must be a citizen of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) or Hong Kong.
  • The student must be registered full time in a graduate degree program or have been recommended for admission to a graduate degree program in the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the University of Saskatchewan.
  • The student’s primary supervisor must be a member or associate member of the Global Institute for Food Security at the University of Saskatchewan.
  • The student must have a minimum entrance average of 85%. When determining eligibility, only whole terms (not partial terms) are used to obtain a minimum of 60 credit units on which to compute the student’s GPA. Courses with grades of Pass, Credit, etc. are not included when computing the student’s GPA.
  • The student cannot hold any other scholarship while in receipt of a Dr. Donald Baxter Scholarships in Global Food Security.

Renewal Criteria:

  • In order to be eligible for renewal of their scholarship, the student must remain in full-time studies, must maintain good academic standing and an average of 80%, continue in a program as identified above, continue to have their primary supervisor be a member or associate member of the Global Institute for Food Security, and uphold the spirit of the award.
  • Annually, the student must submit to the Chair of the Award Committee a one-page report describing their research progress. The Award Committee must also receive a letter from the Chair of the student’s Advisory Committee stating the unanimous recommendation of that Committee for renewal of the student’s award.

Additional Information:

  • Master’s students are eligible to hold this scholarship for a maximum of two years if they meet the renewal criteria.
  • PhD students are eligible to hold this scholarship for a maximum of four years if they meet the renewal criteria.
  • A student who receives the scholarship as a Master’s student and converts to a PhD program is eligible to hold the scholarship for a maximum of four years if they meet the renewal criteria.
  • A student who receives the scholarship as a Master’s student, completes their Master’s program, and applies for a PhD program is eligible to re-apply for the scholarship but can hold the scholarship for a maximum of four years in total if they meet the renewal criteria.

Apply:

For the 2017-18 academic year, applications will be received from July 11 to August 18, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. CST.

Click here for a list of Global Institute for Food Security Members and Associate Members.

Click here to Apply Now.

Press Release: U of S alumnus establishes major graduate scholarship in global food security

U of S alumnus establishes major graduate scholarship in global food security

SASKATOON – Today the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) celebrates the establishment of the Dr. Donald Baxter Scholarships in Global Food Security, made possible by a $1-million gift from Dr. Patrick Man Pan Yuen, a distinguished pediatrician and U of S alumnus living in Hong Kong.

Dr. Yuen has named the scholarship fund in memory of his mentor Dr. Donald Baxter, who taught neurology at the U of S medical school when Yuen was a medical student.

“This $40,000-a-year award is the largest donor-funded graduate scholarship ever offered at the U of S and we are extremely grateful to Dr. Yuen for making this major investment in young academic talent that will advance our global research collaboration in our signature area of food security,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad.

The gift will be matched by the U of S Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) through an annual contribution over 25 years. One to two graduate students from either mainland China or Hong Kong will be awarded $40,000 a year to study at the U of S for up to three years under the supervision of a GIFS researcher.

Maurice Moloney, GIFS executive director and CEO, noted that China has become an international leader in the area of agricultural research.

“This very generous gift will ensure that we make the most of productive collaborations and the talents of graduates from both countries working together in pursuit of a common goal—to bring global food security to both developed and developing regions for future generations,” he said.

Back in 1963 at the U of S medical school, Yuen and Baxter co-authored a research paper, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, on age-related neurodegeneration in brain cells.

“I was completely thrilled,” Yuen recalled. “I learned from him the great importance of being meticulous and taking great pride in everything you do.”

Dr. Patrick Yuen

Dr. Patrick Yuen

Yuen returned to Hong Kong in 1974 and became a pioneer in the fields of pediatric oncology and hematology, serving as founding chair of the Hong Kong Paediatric Haematology & Oncology Study Group in 1993. In 1995, he became the pediatrician in charge of The Lady Pao Children’s Cancer Centre, a leading cancer centre in South East Asia. In 2006, he was elected the Outstanding Asian Paediatrician by the Asian Pacific Pediatric Association.

Baxter went on to become director of the Montreal Neurological Institute where he made a significant contribution to the field of neurology and brain research.

“Dr. Baxter will always be a great teacher to me. I owe him a great deal,” Yuen said.

Yuen’s experience as a pediatrician has led him to believe that food security and nutrition are of utmost importance to the health of future generations.

“Throughout my medical career, I have come to the conclusion a medical doctor can really save relatively few of his patients in his lifetime. By offering to help set up research in increasing food production to combat hunger, far more lives can be saved,” he said. “I cannot think of a better place in the world than the University of Saskatchewan in fulfilling my wishes, since the place is well known as a major player in global food security.”

The scholarships will be awarded to high-achieving graduate students undertaking research at the U of S in areas such as seed and developmental biology, root-soil-microbial interactions, and related digital and computational agriculture. In the event that there are no suitable candidates from China or Hong Kong, the scholarships can be awarded to qualified Canadian students to carry out research in China.

Applications will be accepted starting July 10 through the College of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies.

“I know that my husband would be very honored that Dr. Yuen has named this scholarship after him and that the legacy of their work together at the U of S will be exciting research opportunities for graduate students from China today,” said Dr. Baxter’s widow Anne Baxter, who attended the celebration.

About the University of Saskatchewan:

Set in an architecturally stunning century-old campus in Saskatoon, the U of S is the core of a dynamic research hub working to address critical challenges faced by people locally and around the world. World-class research centres include global institutes for food and water security, the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, the Crop Development Centre, and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), plus an impressive array of national and provincial bio-science research labs. With stellar research teams and annual research income of more than $200 million, the university has earned a place among the U15 group of Canada’s top research universities.

More information is available at: www.usask.ca

About the Global Institute for Food Security:

The Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) performs discovery research that aims to deliver transformative innovation in agriculture in both the developed and the developing world. To address these issues, GIFS research focusses on three areas: Seed and Developmental Biology, Root-Soil-Microbial Interactions, and Digital and Computational Agriculture. GIFS was founded as a public-private partnership among PotashCorp, the University of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Saskatchewan and is based at the University of Saskatchewan. It is the home of leading researchers and has attracted over $100M in funding to date.

For more information, visit: www.gifs.ca

For more information, contact:

Murray Lyons
Media Relations Specialist
University of Saskatchewan
Office: 306-966-1851
murray.lyons@usask.ca

Sara Alexander
Director of Marketing & Stakeholder Relations
Global Institute for Food Security
Office: 306-966-3704
Cell: 306-250-9910
sara.alexander@usask.ca

Press Release: Global Institute for Food Security Appoints Top International Science Advisory Panel

View International Scientific Advisory Panel

The Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan announces today that it has completed the appointment of a full International Scientific Advisory Panel, which will provide scientific advice, feedback and oversight to GIFS research in the areas of seed and developmental biology, root-soil-microbial interactions, and digital and computational agriculture.

“We are honoured to have attracted such an extraordinarily talented group of scientists from around the world,” said Maurice Moloney, GIFS’ Executive Director and CEO.

“Their expertise covers botany, plant science, genetics, chemistry, entomology, molecular biology and leadership in industrial agriculture and in regulatory affairs. Many members of the panel are pioneers in their fields, members of the Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and winners of major awards and honors including the Wolf Prize for Agriculture, the U.S. National Research Initiatives Discovery Award, American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) Gibbs Medal, the Belgian Francqui Medal, and Companion of the Order of the British Empire. ”

Members of GIFS International Scientific Advisory Panel (ISAP) appointed by the GIFS’ board of directors include: (Biographies to follow.)

  • John Pickett, CBE, DSc, Fellow of the Royal Society – ISAP Chair
  • Julia Bailey-Serres, PhD, Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences
  • Richard (Dick) Flavell, PhD, DSc, CBE, Fellow of the Royal Society
  • Margaret Gadsby, MSc, former Vice-President Bayer Crop Science, Regulatory Affairs (Seeds)
  • William Lucas, PhD, DSc, French National Academy of Sciences
  • Kiran Sharma, PhD, Principal Scientist – ICRISAT (CGIAR)
  • Joerg Bohlmann, PhD, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
  • Gijs van Rooijen, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Genome Alberta

“The entire membership of the advisory panel is excited to be involved in the research program taking place at GIFS,” said John Pickett, chair of the GIFS International Scientific Advisory Panel. “Food security is of the utmost importance, and GIFS is addressing it by attracting researchers who are at the top of their field and by working collaboratively with the most knowledgeable research groups and institutes globally. We’re delighted to be involved in GIFS’ work.”

“The appointment of such an august scientific advisory panel is an important milestone that underscores the high-level international research and global partnerships of the Global Institute for Food Security,” said Karen Chad, U of S Vice-President Research. “We welcome the panel members to the U of S community, and are indeed privileged to be the beneficiary of their vast experience and tremendous knowledge.”

About The Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS):

The Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) performs discovery research to deliver transformative innovations in agriculture in both the developed and the developing world.  To address these issues, GIFS research is focussed on three areas: Seed & Developmental Biology, Root-Soil-Microbial Interactions, and Digital & Computational Agriculture.

GIFS was founded as a public-private partnership between PotashCorp, the University of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Saskatchewan. It is the home of leading researchers and has attracted over $100M in funding to date.

Visit www.gifs.ca for more information.

About the University of Saskatchewan:

Set in an architecturally stunning century-old campus in Saskatoon, the U of S is the core of a dynamic research hub working to address critical challenges faced by people locally and around the world. World-class research centres on campus include global institutes for food and water security, the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, the Crop Development Centre, and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), plus an impressive array of national and provincial bio-science research labs. With stellar research teams and annual research income of more than $200 million, the university has earned a place among the U15 group of Canada’s top research universities. More information is available at: www.usask.ca

For more information, please contact:

Sara Alexander
Director of Marketing and Stakeholder Relations
Global Institute for Food Security
sara.alexander@gifs.ca
Office: 306-966-3704
Cell: 306-250-9910

 

Why a method of asexual seed production called apomixis could be a key to feeding the world.

Many consider it one of the most important questions facing the world today: How to feed the nine billion people expected to populate the planet by 2050? Answer: Eliminate sex from agriculture.

plant-breeding

Dorota Paczesniak, Angie Li and Andres Posso-Terranova — all members of the apomixis research team — work at the Global Institute for Food Security in Saskatoon, Sask. Photo: Global Institute for Food Security.

That’s the vision of Tim Sharbel, a world leader in the study of asexual seed production known as apomixis. Born and educated in Montréal, Sharbel spent 20 years doing pioneer work in Germany before moving back to Canada last year to help launch an apomixis research program at the Global Institute for Food Security, located at the University of Saskatchewan.

Tim Sharbel is a world leader in the study of asexual seed production known as apomixis.

Tim Sharbel is a world leader in the study of asexual seed production known as apomixis.

Tim Sharbel is a world leader in the study of asexual seed production known as apomixis.

Apomixis is a naturally occurring phenomenon in certain types of plants such as St. John’s wort and Kentucky bluegrass, which reproduce seed asexually, whereby all offspring are genetically identical to the mother plant.

It isn’t found in any food crops — but if apomixis could be successfully introduced into agriculture, Sharbel says it could be a disruptive technology. Essentially, it would enable the immediate fixation of any desired genotype and lead to faster, simpler breeding schemes.

“People have been studying the biology of these asexual plants and animals for 100 years or so, but it’s only 20 or 30 years ago that people started thinking about it in terms of agriculture,” he says. “There are a number of laboratories around the world studying apomixis. It’s worth billions of dollars if we can get it working.”

Through their applied work on apomixis, Sharbel and his team are uncovering clues to this evolutionary puzzle. Their research encompasses population genetics and evolutionary theories, functional genetics and an assortment of technologies such as high throughput phenotyping, genomics, proteomics and genome editing to carefully analyze reproduction in asexual plants (typically hybrids or polypoids) and apply that knowledge to food crops.

Sharbel’s research involving plants in the wild Brassica genus Boechera has resulted in the isolation of two genes, APPOLO and UPGRADE, which appear to have pivotal functions in the transition to apomixis. Variants of the genes are being tested in canola.

“We’ve advanced very rapidly and have identified some candidate genes that we’re working with,” Sharbel says. “Proof of concept is where we’re at. We’ll know within six months if the genes are actually working.”

High Risk Research

Sharbel, who describes his work as “high risk,” says it’s difficult to predict the results of his testing, since apomixis is such a complicated form of reproduction. “It could work right away or it could take another five years, or longer,” he notes, adding his team has similar projects underway with other crops such as corn, chickpeas and lentils.

So why is it such a game changer? Sharbel says growers who now choose to buy pedigreed seed every year from seed suppliers could conceivably only have to buy seeds with the enhanced traits they’re seeking just once.

“Think of apomixis as a switch to turn sex on or to turn sex off,” he says. “If we had that switch and could use it, then the farmer would get his first generation hybrid seed, which produce these hybrids that propagate clonally. Those first generation hybrids will produce genetic copies of themselves and subsequent generations.”

Saskatoon Star Phoenix: Carbon pricing must be fair to farmers and foresters

While some parts of the economy might be generating CO2, other parts of the same economy could be sequestering massive amounts of CO2. This occurs through photosynthesis, either in agriculture or forestry, and even in marginal land with grass or shrub cover

It is a sad but true fact that a vast proportion of cyberspace is devoted to complete nonsense.

Ironically, a large proportion of this appears on the surface to be plausible. A vivid example of this is the story of dihydrogen monoxide. The website www.dhmo.org tells you all about the hazardous properties of DHMO: death through inhalation, severe burns from gaseous DHMO, etc. In the environment, it is also responsible for severe corrosion of metals, soil erosion and is the major constituent of acid rain.

It certainly sounds like a very hazardous substance and should probably be banned. Except, of course, that the alternative name of this substance is water.saskatoon-sask-july-28-2015-maurice-moloney-executive-dir

We are now at risk of demonizing another common chemical in the environment without a proper scientific understanding of its properties. That substance is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide has been in the headlines recently as the federal government obviated the ongoing negotiations with the provinces about carbon pricing by providing the answer unilaterally.

There is a legitimate discussion occurring globally about carbon dioxide and climate change, but it is a complex topic with different risks and benefits depending on where you live.

As a scientist, I don’t like the political distortion of things that can be described and analyzed by good science. The first step in this distortion is the misuse of vocabulary. Attaching a pejorative name to something distorts the discussion by providing the conclusion bef
ore the debate has commenced.

We’ve seen that with “frankenfoods” — a thoroughly uninformative and misleading term designed to scare people about genetically modified crops. But now we are hearing carbon dioxide described a “pollutant.” This term was actually used in the House of Commons recently in debate. CO2 is not a pollutant any more than dihydrogen monoxide (water) is a “corrosive agent.”

This misuse of vocabulary is already skewing what should be a rational discussion.

First, let us be clear. Carbon dioxide is an essential part of our atmosphere, and all life depends on it. It is vital for plant life and therefore for all food. If it were depleted much below historical averages, we would see massive food shortages. Indeed, increases in atmospheric CO2 since 1982 have been shown by scientists in Australia to have increased plant growth by about 11 per cent. Hardly what you would expect from a pollutant.

This does not in any sense suggest that high CO2 levels could not have other deleterious effects on climate, but the situation is complicated and must be appreciated as such.

This report from highly reputable scientists reminds us that the most fundamental “thermostat” for carbon dioxide in the environment is photosynthesis, the process through which atmospheric CO2 is converted to food and fibre such as wood. Photosynthetic organisms, early plants, have for more than two billion years controlled the CO2 and oxygen balance on Earth. Land plants, such as trees and grasses (and crops) only emerged around 500 million years ago, but they now perform a large part of this stabilization through sequestering atmospheric CO2.

What has this got to do with carbon pricing? Well actually a great deal. This is because while some parts of the economy might be generating CO2, other parts of the same economy could be sequestering massive amounts of CO2. This occurs through photosynthesis, either in agriculture or forestry, and even in marginal land with grass or shrub cover.

If you plan to tax somebody within a jurisdiction for creating atmospheric CO2, it is only fair to ask that jurisdiction if it sequesters large amounts of CO2 to offset its “industrial” carbon.

Neither in the Paris accord nor in recent Canadian government discussions have the contributions of photosynthesis in agriculture or forestry even been mentioned. Yet, new farming practices such as no-till agriculture, made possible through biotechnology crops, have sequestered the carbon equivalents per annum of removing four million cars off the roads.

So if we are to get carbon pricing right, it must be scientific, quantitative and, above all, fair. It isn’t simple, but it is only reasonable that if we tax someone for increasing carbon in the atmosphere, we must also pay those who counterbalance those emissions through the process of managed photosynthesis (farmers and foresters) and indeed give credit to low population provinces or territories that sequester CO2 for us all through large areas of forests or grasslands.

Maurice Moloney is Executive Director & CEO, Global Institute for Food Security at the University of Saskatchewan.

U of S Awarded $20M Canada Excellence Research Chair

World Expert in Food Security to join U of S and GIFS

SASKATOON – Today Leon Kochian, one of the world’s most highly cited scientific researchers, was named the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Food Systems and Security at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S)—a $20-million initiative that will use cutting-edge plant and soil science to help feed a growing world.

“We are excited to recruit an individual of Leon’s research pre-eminence to lead this multidisciplinary program that will drive change in agricultural technologies, practices and policies, while training young scientists in an innovative systems approach to global food security,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research.

“Combined with our $37.2-million Canada First Research Excellence Fund program in food security launched in August and our world-class facilities and agri-food expertise, we are poised to provide transformative and sustainable research solutions to the world.”

Kochian joins the U of S and its Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He will serve as associate director of GIFS—founded  in 2012 by PotashCorp, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the U of S—and will lead the institute’s research on root, soil and microbial interactions. He will also hold faculty appointments in plant sciences and soil science at the U of S College of Agriculture and Bioresources.

In announcing the $10-million federal contribution, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale said, “The arrival of Leon Kochian as CERC in Food Systems and Security is a coup for the U of S and for Canadian research. As we examine the social and societal implications of climate change, his work will help strengthen Canadian agriculture – and make our economy more resilient, which will improve our collective well-being and strengthen the middle class.”

The seven-year funding for the $20-million research program comes from the federal government ($10 million), the U of S Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) ($7 million), and the U of S ($3 million).  A further $800,000 will be contributed by the Canada Foundation for Innovation towards the cost of a $2-million “Roots of Food Security” research facility to support the work of the CERC team in designing and breeding better crops with more efficient root systems. The remaining funding for the facility will be sought from public and private sources.

“The new crop varieties and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices and technologies that Leon and his CERC team will develop at GIFS will have a significant impact in both the developed and developing world,” said Maurice Moloney, GIFS executive director and CEO. “With Leon as a critical part of our growing GIFS team, we will work with producers and other partners around the world to promote adoption of these new crops and technologies in order to address daunting global food security challenges.”

Kochian and his team aim to improve crops by unlocking the secrets of the plant’s “hidden half”—the root system, an unexplored aspect of plant research and crop development.

“We will develop new root-based approaches to crop improvement that will lead to targeted breeding of superior root traits and ultimately new crop varieties with higher yields and greater capacity to thrive in the world’s less fertile soils,” Kochian said.

The CERC team will use the Canadian Light Source synchrotron and other revolutionary root imaging tools, along with the latest computer technology, to digitize desired crop traits (phenotypes) and link them to specific genes in a searchable database. This will enable tailored design and breeding of root systems to specific agro-environments for the major crops, including wheat, barley, lentils, and canola.

“The successful recruitment of such a highly cited and influential individual to the U of S and the Global Institute for Food Security demonstrates the strength of our province’s research community,” said Saskatchewan Minister of Agriculture Lyle Stewart. “Leon Kochian is a skilled, respected researcher whose work, in addition to further establishing Saskatchewan as an international leader in the biosciences, will help feed a growing global population. On behalf of the entire Government of Saskatchewan, I want to congratulate him on this prestigious appointment. We wish him all the best.”

This is the second CERC awarded to the U of S. Howard Wheater holds the U of S CERC in Water Security and leads the Global Water Futures, a $143-million research program that is funded in part by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

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About Leon Kochian:

  • Named to the 2015 Thomson Reuters list of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds”, Kochian has earned an international reputation for his work on crop adaptation to marginal soil environments. The 2015 Thomson Reuters ranking (see http://stateofinnovation.thomsonreuters.com/worlds-most-influential-scientific-minds-report-2015 page 97) is based on a citation analysis that identifies the scientists—as determined by their fellow researchers—who have made the most significant global impact within their respective field of study.
  • For the past decade, Kochian has led an international team of crop researchers using molecular breeding to produce cereal crop varieties with improved yields on highly acidic soils that limit crop production in tropical developing countries.
  • Kochian has published more than 210 peer-reviewed articles in high-profile journals including Nature, Nature Genetics, PLOS Genetics, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as more than 40 reviews, book chapters and proceedings.
  • Since 1997, he has been director of the Robert Holley Center for Agriculture and Health at Cornell University, an internationally respected centre of excellence for crop genomics research.
  • A Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society of Plant Biologists, he was elected to the Agricultural Research Service Hall of Fame “for internationally recognized pioneering work using molecular biology, genetics and plant breeding to improve crop yields on marginal soils in developing countries.”

About CERC:

The CERC program attracts some of the most talented and innovative researchers from around the world, and helps to further Canada’s growing reputation as a leader in research, higher learning, and science and technology development. More information about the federal CERC program is available at: http://www.cerc.gc.ca/home-accueil-eng.aspx

About GIFS:

The Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) performs discovery research that aims to deliver transformative innovation in agriculture in both the developed and the developing world.

To address these issues, GIFS research focusses on three areas: Seed and Developmental Biology, Root-Soil-Microbial Interactions, and Digital and Computational Agriculture.

GIFS was founded as a public-private partnership among PotashCorp, the University of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Saskatchewan and is based at the University of Saskatchewan. It is the home of leading researchers and has attracted over $100M in funding to date. Visit gifs.ca for more information.

 For more information, contact:

Jennifer Thoma
Media Relations Specialist, University of Saskatchewan
Jennifer.thoma@usask.ca
Ph: 306-966-1851, Cell: 306-270-4513
www.usask.ca
Michael Adams
Communications, Canada Excellence Research Chairs
michael.adams@chairs-chaires.gc.ca
Ph: 613-944-1758, Cell: 613-219-7523
www.cerc.gc.ca
Sara Alexander
Director of Marketing & Stakeholder Relations
Global Institute for Food Security
Cell: 306-250-9910
sara.alexander@usask.ca
www.gifs.ca

Radio Interview with Sara Alexander on GIFS and Global Food Security at the APAS Midterm Meeting, Saskatoon, SK

Sara Alexander, Director of Marketing and Stakeholder Relations at GIFS, spoke to Glenda Lee Vossler of Golden West Media at a meeting of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan about the issue of global food security and the importance of GIFS’ work in both developed agricultural areas like Saskatchewan and in the developing world.

New U of S Plant Research Centre Launched to Design Crops for Global Food Security

For Immediate Release – Aug. 29, 9:15 a.m.

 

The University of Saskatchewan marked the official launch of its unique Plant Phenotyping and Imaging Research Centre (P2IRC) today with an international symposium and demonstration of new drone technology to be used in novel crop development approaches.

The creation of the P2IRC stems from a $37.2-million award over seven years from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) for the innovative research program “Designing Crops for Global Food Security”—one of only five CFREF grants awarded across Canada last year in the inaugural competition.

 “Thanks to this major federal investment, we can undertake leading-edge research and technology development that will transform crop breeding and provide innovative solutions to national and global food security,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice president research.

“This new centre will offer unprecedented research opportunities for our students and faculty, and will enhance the U of S biosciences cluster—one of the largest clusters of food-related researchers in the world.”

The P2IRC is led by Maurice Moloney, executive director and CEO of the university’s Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS), who has been building a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from across the U of S campus and from other Canadian universities and centres.

“By 2022, we hope to create a unique global resource for plant breeders seeking to develop new crop varieties at unprecedented speed and scale,” Moloney said.

“The new science we are developing at the P2IRC will elevate Canada’s position as a global powerhouse in agricultural research and lead to commercial spin-offs involving field and aerial sensors, satellite imaging, robotics, and big data analytics.”

He noted the P2IRC is unique in that it combines plant genomics with crop phenotyping (the identification of useful traits), high-performance computing, and digital imaging technology, as well as undertakes research to address societal and developing world impacts.

Research projects in four theme areas have undergone rigorous international peer review involving an eight-member International Scientific Advisory Committee that includes experts from Australia, Germany, France, and the U.K., several of whom are participating in the symposium.

The research involves scientists from GIFS, a wide range of U of S colleges, the U of S Crop Development Centre in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, the Canadian Light Source, and the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation which operates a cyclotron on campus capable of creating radioisotopes for all forms of biological imaging. The Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy is the lead partner on policy research.

The new centre also involves partnerships with four Canadian universities, three international institutes, and more than 15 private and public organizations, including the National Research Council and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The P2IRC is currently recruiting graduate students, technicians, software developers, and researchers. Over the seven years, 60 graduate students and 35 post-doctoral fellows will be trained at P2IRC, and four or five new faculty positions will be created.

“This new facility exemplifies the forward thinking, highly convergent view of science that Canada needs to succeed in the current fourth industrial revolution,” said B. Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, speaking on behalf of Canada’s research granting councils.

“By bringing together diverse partnerships and diverse lines of investigation such as imaging, genomics, robotics and policy research, P2IRC will help establish Canada as a major player in the growing field of precision agriculture.”

For more information, visit http://P2IRC.usask.ca.

 

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 For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Thoma, Media Relations Specialist

University Relations, University of Saskatchewan

Office: 306-966-1851

Cell: 306-270-4513

 

Sara Alexander

Director of Marketing and Stakeholder Relations

U of S Global Institute for Food Security

Office: 306-966-3704

Cell: 306-250-9910

June 14, 2016 – Government of Canada Supports Emerging Technologies for Global Food Security conference

http://m.marketwired.com/press-release/government-of-canada-supports-emerging-technologies-for-global-food-security-2134155.htm

June 19, 2016 – GMO proponent Mark Lynas

http://globalnews.ca/video/2064467/gmo-proponent-mark-lynas