FFAR Awards $1 Million Grant to Combat Water Scarcity and Increase Yields

MANHATTAN, KS and WASHINGTON (July 16, 2019) – The production of food and fiber consumes 70 percent of the world’s water, placing a burden on farmers to increase water productivity and efficiency. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $1 million Seeding Solutions grant to Kansas State University to increase water-efficient crop yields. Kansas State University, Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission, Corteva Agriscience, Collaborative Sorghum Investment Program, and University of California matched the FFAR grant for a total $2 million investment.

Many regions in the United States struggle with water scarcity, which threatens ecosystem sustainability and farmers’ livelihoods. To combat the effects of water scarcity, farmers need access to more diversified farming systems that balance water conservation with crop productivity and environmental sustainability. Crops like sorghum can diversify the farming system to balance conservation with productivity while supporting the vitality of rural communities. However, the use of these crops has declined partly because of the lag in genetic gain for minor crops, when compared to other crops like corn, and soybeans.

Scientists have developed a genome-to-phenome (G2P) breeding approach that combines crop modeling, genomic prediction and managed-stress experiments to increase water-limited yields in corn. This transformative approach that improves crops using G2P breeding was developed by project collaborator, Corteva. Kansas State University is using the FFAR grant to extend the G2P approach in underutilized crops like sorghum. Researchers are optimistic that if water-efficient crops produce greater yields, farmers will be more willing to diversify their fields.

“This project has the potential to increase yields of crops that grow using less water, and when planted alongside leading crops, can better distribute the existing water in the soil and supporting thriving farms,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “Using this new approach, Kansas State can boost yields and conserve limited water resources. This work could be a breakthrough for sustainability and profitability.”

Researchers are using sorghum as a model to determine how this breeding approach can effectively lay the groundwork for increased yields for water-efficient crops. The successful implementation of this breeding approach could increase crop diversity and overall productivity of crops in water-scarce environments. This project engages early career plant breeders and scientists to learn and adopt this breeding technique.

“Getting high yield and water efficiency from the same crop is a challenge, but G2P breeding navigates around the trade-offs” says Dr. Geoffrey Morris, Associate Professor, Agronomy at Kansas State University “We’re excited to bring the G2P approach to sorghum and other water-efficient crops”.”

FFAR’s Seeding Solutions grant program is an open call for bold ideas that address a pressing food and agriculture issues in one of the Foundation’s Challenge Areas. This research supports FFAR’s 2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area, currently the Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area. FFAR’s work in this area focuses on increasing water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reducing agricultural water pollution and developing water reuse technologies.

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Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization originally established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today's food and agriculture challenges.  FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation.

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking |

Corteva Agriscience

Corteva Agriscience provides farmers around the world with the most complete input portfolio in the industry to enable them to maximize yield and profitability — including some of the most recognized brands in agriculture: Pioneer®, Granular®, Brevant™ seeds, as well as award-winning Crop Protection products — while bringing new products to market through its robust pipeline of active chemistry and technologies. The company is committed to working with stakeholders throughout the food system as it fulfills its promise to enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume, ensuring progress for generations to come. Corteva Agriscience became an independent public company on June 1, 2019 and was previously the Agriculture Division of DowDuPont. More information can be found at www.corteva.com.

Connect: @Corteva

Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission

Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission provides value to Kansas sorghum farmers through investments in research, market development, education and promotion.

Kansas State University

K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well‑being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan. For more information, visit www.ksre.ksu.edu