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Agropolis Foundation awards wheat scientist Ken Sayre

March 29, 2010


Contact: Mike Listman, of: +52 5804 7537; Cel: +52 155 3765 9065 (m.listman@cgiar.org)

Agropolis Foundation awards wheat scientist Ken Sayre the first Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize for Agriculture and Food

Sayre recognized for work to promote resource-conserving practices with developing country farmers

MONTPELLIER, FRANCE, 29 MARCH 2010 – This evening former CIMMYT wheat agronomist Ken Sayre became the first-ever recipient of the Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize, category of “Distinguished Scientist.” The prize was awarded by the Agropolis Foundation in a special ceremony held at the “Global Conferences on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD)” meetings.

The award came in recognition of more than two decades of work by Sayre, who traveled worldwide promoting bed planting, the diversification of traditional wheat cropping systems, and varied conservation agriculture principles. “I have worked nearly for 40 years in international agriculture research and development,” said Sayre. “Receiving this Prize not only honors my efforts to improve agriculture in developing countries but also honors the overall importance of this endeavor to bring equity and improved livelihoods to farmers everywhere.”

Sayre has organized dozens of hands-on training courses and hosted many visiting scientists, activities by which scores of developing country researchers have gained familiarity with and become emissaries of resource-conserving practices, according to Pat Wall, director of CIMMYT’s conservation agriculture program.

“As a direct result of this hard work over many years, of Sayre’s no-nonsense approach and vast knowledge, and of the virtues of the practices he studies and promotes, hundreds of thousands of wheat farmers in the Latin America, the Central Asian Republics, the Indo-Gangetic Plains, and China have improved their farming systems and livelihoods,” said Wall. “Formerly tradition-bound national agricultural research systems in those areas have adopted more farmer-centered approaches to research and extension and become more open to innovation.”

The Award, which includes a specially designed trophy and € 20 000, caps off an illustrious career in agricultural research and development. Born in 1945 in Delta, Colorado, USA, Sayre obtained a PhD in Plant Physiology and Pathology at Cornell University in 1971. He worked for various centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) until being hired as a wheat agronomist at CIMMYT in 1985. Sayre officially retired from CIMMYT in February 2010, but continues as a special consultant for the Center.

An Agropolis Foundation brochure on the 2010 Prize says: “Dr. Ken Sayre’s career has been driven by his determination to see science applied for the benefit to the poor and the hungry. This led him to seek his activities in farmers’ fields in developing countries.”

Although Sayre was not participating in GCARD deliberations, his acceptance speech for the Prize sounded like it was texted for the meeting, according to Hans Braun, director of CIMMYT’s global wheat program. “Interestingly, the entire afternoon discussion at GCARD was about involving farmers more,” said Braun. “Working with farmers was exactly what Ken stressed in his speech—he couldn’t have been more to the point on today’s talks.”

Organized by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) in collaboration with the CGIAR and taking place during 28-31 March 2010, GCARD aims to provide a global action plan and strategy for maximum impact on development, especially in benefit of the poor.

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CIMMYT is an internationally funded, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and training related to maize and wheat throughout the developing world. CIMMYT works to create, share, and use knowledge and technologies to increase food security, improve the productivity and profitability of farming systems, and sustain natural resources. For more information, please visit www.cimmyt.org