The CIMMYT research station and the city of Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, in northwestern Mexico, had reason to celebrate over the last week. Norman Borlaug paid a five-day visit to the city in the Yaqui Valley where he did his original wheat research work. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who celebrated his 93rd birthday just a few weeks ago, came to spend time with some of the farmers with whom he had worked in the early days when the Yaqui Valley was very poor.
He flew to Obregón directly from Texas, where he has been receiving medical treatment, and was both surprised and touched to see staff at the airport form a line to greet him as he stepped off the airplane. “It wasn’t quite a red carpet but it was the red carpet treatment,” said Chris Dowswell, Borlaug’s assistant.
In addition to attending social functions, Borlaug came to see and learn more about GreenSeeker, a technology that helps farmers fine-tune manage nitrogen fertilizer use. CIMMYT and Oklahoma State University (OSU) have actively participated in the development and promotion of the practice. More than 75 farmers, extension agents, and staff members of CIANO, the INIFAP research station in Obregón, attended a half-day symposium and field visit on the subject. In a 15- minute address in Spanish, Borlaug told participants about the difficulties of smallholder farmers in developing countries and how technologies like the GreenSeeker might help them to economize on fertilizer use, the most costly of production inputs. OSU engineer John Solie described the practice and its origins. The final speaker was Bill Raun, a prime developer of GreenSeeker, former CIMMYT agronomist, and currently OSU Regents Professor, who concluded his remarks with a poem he composed in Spanish for Borlaug. Both Raun and Borlaug received a standing ovation.
At a luncheon at the CIMMYT station, students from the Colegio Teresiano de la Vera Cruz in Ciudad Obregón presented Borlaug with a birthday cake. They had just completed a project for the school’s cultural week that focused on Borlaug and his work in the Yaqui Valley. Borlaug also met with the participants in the CIMMYT wheat improvement course.
Photo: Jorge Castro, a past president of El Patronato de Sonora, a key farmer association in the region that has benefited from and supported CIMMYT’s work, talks with Borlaug. Castro’s father and Borlaug contemporary, Óscar Castro Encino, looks on.