THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCE PRIZE IN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE SCIENCES

The National Academies of Science (NAS) Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences was established by FFAR, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), to recognize extraordinary contribution to agriculture and the biology understanding of species important to food and agriculture production. FFAR and BMGF established the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences to elevate food and agriculture research and highlight the critical need for scientists working toward more productive, sustainable agriculture.

Beginning in 2017, the prize recognizes mid-career scientists at U.S. institutions, working in scientific fields applicable to agriculture, including plant and animal sciences, microbiology, nutrition and food science, soil science, entomology, veterinary medicine, and agricultural economics. One recipient each year receives a medal and a $100,000.

2020 NAS PRIZE IN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE SCIENCES WINNER: DR. ZACHARY B. LIPPMAN

Dr. Zachary B. Lippman, a Jacob Goldfield Professor of Genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Investigator, is the 2020 recipient of the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences.

Lippman’s groundbreaking research focuses on increasing crop productivity in the face of declining agricultural land and population growth. His research has shown that yields can be increased, new crops created and adapted to new environments, using genes that determine when, where and how many flowers are produced on a plant.

Specifically, Lippman studies how groups of stem cells become flowers, which ultimately give rise to fruits and seed, making them vitally important to food production. He discovered timing mechanisms that control how many flowers a plant will produce. This discovery allowed him to control how much fruit and how many seeds a plant would make. When combined with hormones that control flowering and gene editing, Lippman and his team embarked on a new frontier of quantitively fine-tuning traits in ways that were previously impossible, revealing principles that could be applied to all crops to improve productivity. Moreover, this newfound control of plant gene function and activity allowed Lippman and his team to accelerate the time-consuming domestication process of a wild plant, the groundcherry, opening the door to the taming of many new and under-utilized crops to help meet global food demands.

Learn more about Dr. Lippman’s research

2019 NAS PRIZE IN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE SCIENCES WINNER: DR. ELIZABETH AINSWORTH

Dr. Elizabeth Ainsworth, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service researcher and adjunct professor at the School of Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois, is the 2019 recipient of the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences.

Ainsworth’s pioneering research focuses on how the world will eat in the face of climate change and other threats. This research has revealed how man-made atmospheric changes will affect the physiology and growth of crops around the world. Ainsworth is the lead investigator for the SoyFACE Global Change Research Facility, which is studying how crops will be affected by increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and ozone in combination with drought and other environmental stresses, as well as possible solutions. The work recently revealed that a large portion of the United States harvest of corn and soybean was lost due to ozone pollution over the past 20 years.

Learn more about Dr. Ainsworth’s research

2018 NAS PRIZE IN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE SCIENCES WINNER: DR. RODOLPHE BARRANGOU

Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou, an Associate Professor of Food Science and the Todd R. Klaenhammer Distinguished Scholar in Probiotics Research at North Carolina State University, is the 2018 recipient of the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences.

Dr. Barrangou’s groundbreaking research established CRISPR as the adaptive immune system of bacteria, a discovery which promoted the practical use of CRISPR-Cas systems for genome editing. The work has tremendous worldwide applications in food and agriculture, including virus resistance in the widely used yogurt starter culture, Streptococcus thermophilus, and the potential for translational genome editing in other microbes, crops, and livestock.

Learn more about Dr. Barrangou's research.

2017 INAUGURAL WINNER: DR. EDWARD BUCKLER

Dr. Edward Buckler is the inaugural National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences recipient. Buckler, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service researcher and adjunct professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University, studies the connection between a crop plant’s genetic makeup and the physical traits exhibited by different strains.

Buckler’s research aims to combat vitamin A deficiencies, a life-threatening issue in the developing world. Buckler and his colleagues used their findings to breed a new kind of maize with 15 times more vitamin A than conventional varieties. This biofortified maize is now widely available in Zambia, where more than half of children under the age of five are vitamin A deficient.

Learn more about Dr. Buckler's work.

Watch video from the reception honoring Dr. Buckler.

Portrait of Dr. McNutt, Dr. Buckler, and Dr. Schaal

NAS President Dr. Marcia McNutt, NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences Recipient Dr. Ed Buckler, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and Chair of the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences Selection Committee Dr. Barbara Schaal. Photo: National Academy of Science