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Beachell-Borlaug scholars join CIMMYT

January 16, 2014

By Brenna Goth/CIMMYT

Monsanto and CIMMYT are harvesting the passion of young wheat researchers through a fellowship that provides them with academic and field support. CIMMYT is working with three scholars from the Beachell-Borlaug International Scholar Program Class of 2013, which was announced by Monsanto in October.

The scholars will be supervised by CIMMYT advisors as they gain hands-on experience. Monsanto established the program in 2009 for Ph.D. students in rice and wheat breeding. The program’s namesakes, Henry Beachell and Norman Borlaug, made huge strides in crop improvement. The three scholars associated with CIMMYT will be researching various aspects of wheat breeding.

Golnaz Komaei Koma, a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who is originally from Iran, will focus on heat and drought stress in Turkish and Iranian wheat landraces under the supervision of Stephen Baezinger, professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Marta Lopes, a winter wheat physiologist for CIMMYT-Turkey. She will develop molecular markers for key traits associated with drought adaptation in Turkey and further determine whether these traits are still present in modern elite winter wheat germplasm.

Photo courtesy of Silvano Assanga Ocheya

Photo courtesy of Silvano Assanga Ocheya

Silvano Assanga Ocheya, a 2013 scholar and Ph.D. student in plant breeding at Texas A&M University (TAMU), focuses on drought tolerance in wheat and resistance to wheat streak mosaic virus, which is particularly common in the Central Plains region of the United States. Ocheya will visit CIMMYT’s station in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico, in March with his TAMU advisors to finalize the logistics of his research here.

A Kenyan native, Ocheya worked with CIMMYT while completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He has visited CIMMYT stations in Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe. “My biggest ambition is to apply the skills and knowledge obtained during my matriculation to make a difference passion for working in developing nations to improve the livelihood of farmers. I trust that I will become a better breeder with blended training from TAMU and CIMMYT.”

Photo courtesy of Philomin Juliana

Photo courtesy of Philomin Juliana

Philomin Juliana is the third Beachell-Borlaug scholar working with CIMMYT. Juliana, from India, is studying plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University. She is researching wheat disease resistance under CIMMYT wheat breeders Pawan Singh and Ravi Singh. She visited CIMMYT stations in El Batán and Toluca, Mexico, last year and said she was impressed by CIMMYT’s focus on farmers.

“I’m inspired by the way CIMMYT works on the extension part,” she explained. After completing her research, Juliana said she wants to work in the public sector. “I dream of an India free from hunger and I will commit every single endeavor of my research in wheat to achieve this,” she said.


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