Buckler to Receive First-Ever National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences for Globally Significant Work in Food Security and Nutrition.
Edward Buckler, Ph.D., a research geneticist focused on nutrition and food security, is the first-ever recipient of the National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences. He is being honored for his contribution to global food security and nutrition.
The annual National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences was established in 2016 through support from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to recognize research by a mid-career scientist at a U.S. institution who has made an extraordinary contribution to agriculture.
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 varying physical traits exhibited by different strains of that crop.
One of the achievements that earned Buckler the Prize was the development of a solution to vitamin A deficiency, a life-threatening issue in the developing world. Buckler and his colleagues examined the genetic causes of natural variation in different strains of maize and 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.
“This award reflects how great teams of scientists have been able to tap natural diversity with powerful new tools to address the challenges facing society, agriculture and the environment today,” said Buckler.
In addition to nutrient deficiency, Buckler and his group have addressed other critical agricultural issues threatening world food security such as drought tolerance and disease resistance.
The specific research techniques pioneered by Buckler and his collaborators have been used to study thousands of different plant species and even influenced the study of the human genome. Committed to information sharing, Buckler and his group have also developed open-source software and databases, which thousands of research groups around the world use to analyze natural variation.