Prof. Edward Buckler, plant breeding and genetics, received the first-ever National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences in 2017.
Buckler, also a U.S. Department of Agriculture research geneticist, leads the Lab for Maize Genetics and Diversity, which primarily conducts research on maize due to its diverse genome. The Buckler Lab uses its research to identify genes that lead to favorable traits, such as freeze and drought tolerance, disease resistance and enhanced nutritional value.
Buckler’s research has given rise to developments such as biofortified maize with fifteen times more Vitamin A than standard varieties. This maize is used in Zambia to combat Vitamin A deficiency and food insecurity. The Buckler Lab has also developed software and databases, used by thousands of research groups internationally, in order to make genome sequencing more efficient.
“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,” Buckler said.
Sally Rockey, executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, congratulated Buckler, saying that what he does is exemplary of the kind of work they seek to distinguish.
“[Buckler’s] work in nutrition and food security demonstrates the high level of scientific excellence that we set out to recognize when we partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to endow this prize,” she said. “The FFAR congratulates Dr. Buckler for this well-deserved honor and we look forward to his future contributions.”
The Prize was established in 2016 to recognize developments in nutrition and food security and further food and agriculture research. It is endowed by the FFAR and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Endless discovery and innovation is essential in the quest to improve the quality of nutrition for all humans while recognizing inherent limitations in land, freshwater, and environmentally safe levels of fertilizer application,” said NAS President Marcia McNutt. “This new prize allows the National Academy of Sciences to recognize and support scientists whose research has the potential to improve our global food system.”