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Viewpoint: Distinguished lecture series brings noted plant breeders to campus

image image Nationally recognized plant breeder Stan Cox shed light on the daunting challenge of breeding perennial grain crops as part of a new Texas Tech’s Department of Plant and Soil Science Distinguished Lecture Series launched this semester. Speaking to an audience of students and faculty Sept. 27 at the Escondido Theater in Tech’s Student Union Building, the senior research scientist and coordinator of research at The Land Institute related his work to increased food and ecosystem security.

The Salina, Kansas-based Land Institute is a non-profit research and education organization that has worked for more than three decades on challenging agriculture problems. Its purpose is to develop an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops.

To ensure food and ecosystem security, farmers need more options to produce grains under different, generally less favorable circumstances than those under which increases in food security were achieved this past century. Development of perennial versions of important grain crops could expand these options.

Cox received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy form the University of Georgia and his master’s and doctorate in plant breeding from Iowa State University. He previously worked at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service wheat geneticist.

The next speaker in the department’s distinguished lecture series will be Gebisa Ejeta, a distinguished professor of plant breeding from Purdue University. He will make his presentation at 3 p.m. on Jan. 31.

In 2009, Ejeta received the received the World Food Prize, an honor that is considered by many to be the Nobel Prize of agriculture. He won the prize for his research, which led to increased availability of sorghum in Africa. Sorghum is one of the world’s top cereal grains.

His research led to the development of sorghum varieties that can stand up to drought and parasitic weeds, which are two of the most harmful environmental stresses on the grain. Sorghum is the major food source for nearly 500 million people in Africa.

Raised in west-central Ethiopia, Ejeta received his bachelor’s degree in plant sciences from Alemaya College. His master’s and doctorate degrees in plant breeding and genetics are from Purdue University. Before joining the faculty, he worked with the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics and conducted seminal sorghum research in Sudan for five years.

“Bringing high profile speakers like these to our department is an exciting development that will improve the quality of our graduate education,” said Plant and Soil Science Graduate Council President Cody Zilverberg.

Written by Norman Martin

CONTACT: Thomas Thompson, professor and chairman, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2838 or

1001NM10 / Photo Illustration: N Martin


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