Since its inception in 2009, India, has achieved a milestone of producing the highest number of winners in the Monsanto Beachell – Borlaug International Scholarship Program (MBBISP). The country till date has 24 MBBISP scholars from of a total of 89 awardees from 30 nations. The MBBISP is a scholarship programme that encourages research in rice and wheat breeding.
India this year has seen three more students being added to the list who will receive the MBBISP research scholarships. The three students include Gurcharn Singh Brar working in the area of improving genetic resistance to Fusarium Head Blight in durum & brea wheat. Sreya Ghosh, whose PhD project focuses on developing and fine-tuning methods for unbiased gene cloning in wheat, and Karminderbir Kaur, who is working in the area of development of an in vivo haploid induction system in rice through distant hybridisation and manipulation of CenH3 gene.
MBBISP is a global programme that receives applications from young researchers in the field of agriculture. The programme encourages them and university students to develop new plant breeding research for rice and wheat production. It aims to enable and equip the scholars to apply modern breeding technologies.
MBBISP aims to ignite the minds of bright young researchers to innovate and share their vision of Indian agriculture and help farmers produce more from the same landholding. It honours the accomplishments of Dr. Henry Beachell and Dr. Norman Borlaug (Recipient of Nobel Prize in 1970), who pioneered plant breeding and research in rice and wheat, respectively. Under the programme, Monsanto pledged US$13 million, over a period of eight years, from 2009-2017, to improve yields in these crops as part of its commitment to sustainable agriculture.
Dr. Ed Runge, Director, MBBISP, said while distribution of the certificates to the awardess in New Delhi, “We are delighted with the outcome of the programme over the last eight years. The kind of talent that has been recognised from across the globe is commendable. We are confident that the aim of these students are aligned with the vision of Drs. Hank Beachell and Norman Borlaug in the area of food security.”
Apart from witnessing the highest representation of scholars, India can also take pride in the gender diversity of the Indian MBBIS scholars with an equal representation of 12 young men and 12 young women awardees. Thus, setting a model for how science and technology training should proceed in the future.
Arnab Das, Director – Corporate Engagement, Monsanto said, “We believe that increasing agricultural output to meet the needs of a growing population can be achieved through science and innovation. Through the MBBISP, we are encouraging students to undertake research and build solutions to tackle the challenges around hunger and food security. Indian academic talent has great potential and this has been amply showcased by these highly motivated researchers.”
MBBISP was launched in India in 2009 by eminent scientist Dr. MS Swaminathan. The awarding- winning work of the Indian students includes promising breeding research in enhancement of rice and wheat production. The programme has provided financial support of over US$3 million since 2009 to the 24 Indian students that has helped them in pursuing their PhD in plant breeding of wheat or rice at top agricultural universities in India and globally.
Dr. Kuldeep Singh, Director, ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, New Delhi said, “We are extremely happy that 8 students from Punjab Agricultural University have been awarded with the Monsanto Beachell – Borlaug International Scholars Program scholarship. This will go a long way in ensuring that the research being carried out by these students will help the nation and the world at large in its efforts towards food security. We would like to thank Monsanto for the support they have extended to our students and hope this will inspire many young scientists and researchers to take up crop sciences.”
The MBBISP fellowship provides recipients with the opportunity to develop advanced breeding techniques, conduct at least one season of field work in a developing country and a full package of support, including a generous stipend, tuition and fees, research fees, health insurance, travel and funds for the collaborating institution and advising professor. It calls for award recipients to conduct at least one season of field work and/or study in a developing country and one in a developed country. The dual country experience is to ensure that students gain a worldview early in their career. In addition to this, the students are provided with a leadership training, which is designed to make the students more effective in their careers, and are also provided with an opportunity to travel to the annual World Food Prize in Des Moines, Lowa.
Dr. PM Salimath, Vice Chancellor, University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, said, “This is an excellent opportunity for the 24 students who have been awarded with the MBBISP scholarships to make a difference towards their country and the world. Their research work in rice and wheat, two staple crops critical to food security of billions of people around the world will truly add value to the global efforts being undertaken in the field of sustainable agriculture.”