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Posted on: December 1, 2020

Kansas State University Improving Global Ag with USAID Feed the Future Innovation Labs


Kansas State University is a hub for research and expertise in agriculture and is dedicated to making strides against hunger worldwide, in an effort to feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050 through its Feed the Future Innovation Labs. 

The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, funds 25 Feed the Future Labs across the United States, with researchers working in 12 countries around the world. Four of those labs are based at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Talented researchers at these labs collaborate with fellow scientists around the globe, tackling one of the world’s biggest challenges through sustainable, innovative agricultural practices. 

Each lab has a specific focus, but they often work interconnectedly, as well as with other universities and agricultural entities. K-State’s labs specialize in sorghum and millet production, applied wheat genomics, sustainable intensification, and reduction of post-harvest loss. They all focus on innovations that can be adopted by small-scale farmers to improve nutrition for their own families, as well as their communities. 

Read an overview on all four of K-State’s Feed the Future labs and their work to improve global ag production. 

Sorghum and Millet

The Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab aims to reduce poverty and hunger in East and West Africa, with a focus on Senegal, Ethiopia and Niger. The goal of the lab, which is led by Timothy J. Dalton, is to empower small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs and improve the quality and profitability of sorghum- and millet-based production in semi-arid climates.

Read more about this Innovation Lab:

Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss

This program, directed by Jagger Harvey, addresses issues related to the loss of stored crops — grains, seeds, legumes, nuts and root crops — after the harvest. This lab aims to help focus countries improve the quantity and quality of stored crops by enhancing their drying, conditioning, handling, storage, pest management and transportation processes. They work with local farmers, artisans, businesspeople and workers to help address social and economic issues facing smallholder farmers, increase access to healthy food and reduce malnutrition for members of the community. 

Their recent work in Nepal helped establish a wet lab for testing food for mycotoxins, which are believed to contribute to growth stunting in children. 

Applied Wheat Genomics

This lab, which is directed by Jesse Polland, aims to solve the challenges of climate change on the growing of wheat in South Asia, an area which accounts for around 20% of global wheat production. The project is working to create the largest public resource of wheat varieties with phenotype and genotype information to optimize future wheat breeding systems. These varieties will have climate resilience and maximum yield potential which will help future generations adapt and strengthen their wheat supply.

In a paper published November 25 in Nature, researchers from the Applied Wheat Genomics lab, in collaboration with the international 10+ Genome Project led by the University of Saskatchewan, announced the complete genome sequencing of 15 wheat varieties representing breeding programs around the world — an invaluable resource to improve global wheat production. Read more about the project. 

Sustainable Intensification 

The Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab, led by program director Vara Prasad, takes a systems approach to reducing global hunger and poverty as well as improving nutrition among community members and smallholder farmers. Working with farmers in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Senegal and Tanzania, this lab helps to increase production of nutritious food and increase involvement of women in agricultural production. 

Most recently, this lab was awarded a grant to research cowpea to increase food and fodder production in Senegal. 

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