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Borlaug visits Obreg贸n; Patronato and Sonora give CIMMYT US$ 1 million

Dr. Norman Borlaug had a joyous reunion on 02 April 08 with CIMMYT and Mexican friends and former colleagues at the place鈥攖he research facilities near Ciudad Obreg贸n, Sonora state, owned by the farmers union ‘Patronato para la Investigaci贸n y Experimentaci贸n Agr铆cola del Estado de Sonora’ where he and his research team developed the Green Revolution wheats. His visit came on the occasion of the announcement there by Ronnie Coffman, director of international programs at Cornell University鈥檚 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, of a US$ 26.8 million grant to Cornell by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to launch a global partnership including CIMMYT to combat the rust diseases of wheat, particularly the virulent stem rust strain from eastern Africa, Ug99.

At the same event, the President of the Patronato, Jorge Artee El铆as Calles (in the photo), and the Sonora State Secretary of Agriculture, Alejandro El铆as Calles, announced that the Patronato and the state of Sonora would give respective donations to CIMMYT of 6 million pesos and 4 million pesos鈥攅quivalent to nearly US$ 1 million鈥攆or research on the rusts and on Karnal bunt disease, 鈥渋n honor of Borlaug, and to welcome the new DG, Tom Lumpkin.鈥 鈥淭he farmers of the region are aware of Ug99 and the problems it represents in other part of the world and could cause in the Yaqui Valley (the Ciudad Obreg贸n region) in the future,鈥 says Artee. Borlaug, who recently turned 94 and has suffered serious bouts of illness, looked full of vigor and enthusiasm as he spoke to the gathering in fluent Spanish and, like on countless past occasions throughout his life, went to the field to inspect experimental wheat lines鈥攖his time, new ones that carry resistance to Ug99. 鈥淭he rust pathogens recognize no political boundaries and their spores need no passport to travel thousands of miles in the jet streams,鈥 he says. 鈥淐ontaining these deadly enemies of the wheat crop requires alert and active scientists, strong international research networks, and effective seed supply programs.鈥 The new Cornell project essentially brings full circle work begun by Borlaug and Mexican associates 60 years ago in northwest Mexico, as part of the Rockefeller Foundation-funded Office of Special Studies, that resulted in the release of high-yielding, stem rust resistant wheats.

Among those accompanying Borlaug were his daughter, Jeanie Borlaug Laube, and granddaughter, Julie Borlaug. Members of the extended CIMMYT family who joined the event included Sanjaya Rajaram, former wheat breeder and program director; John Dodds, former deputy director general; Gregorio Mart铆nez, former public affairs officer; Evangelina Villegas, former cereal chemist; Richard Ward, former head of the Global Rust Initiative; Reynaldo Villareal, former wheat training coordinator; and Chris Dowswell and David Mowbray, former heads of corporate communications. Norm鈥檚 presence, together with stellar logistics by numerous CIMMYT global wheat program staff and consultants, including personnel of the Obreg贸n research station, together with the Cornell team, made the event a great success.