The U.S. Agency for International Development announced the creation of the Feed the Future Climate Resilient Cereals Innovational Lab, or CRCIL, to improve lives around the world by making cereal crops more readily available to those most at risk for hunger and malnutrition.
University of Florida researchers involved will focus on sorghum. Charlie Messina, UF/IFAS horticultural sciences professor — who is a leading expert in applying artificial intelligence to crop modeling and simulation techniques — will head the efforts from the Gainesville campus while utilizing the supercomputing powers of the UF HiPerGator.
In addition to sorghum, the $22 million project led by Kansas State University will investigate breeding advancements for the major world crops of millet, wheat and rice. Other collaborators include Clemson University, Cornell University, Delaware State University and Louisiana State University; and international partners in South Asia, Eastern and Western Africa, and Latin America.
“This project holds so much potential to improve the lives of the world’s poor, spurring social mobility and economic growth,” said Messina, who was just announced as director of the UF Crop Transformation Center. “It’s an honor to have the University of Florida and the HiPerGator as part of this collaborative effort to bring improved crops to those who most need it around the world.”
Jagger Harvey, CRCIL’s director and a research professor in K-State’s plant pathology department, said the lab will work toward helping to sustainably double food production by 2050, even under “a perfect storm of dwindling and degrading arable land, less water, and under worsening climatic conditions that are also accelerating pest and disease-associated crop losses.”
Additional support is being provided by RTI International, the African Women in Agricultural Research for Development program, and Seeds2B.
“Feed the Future Innovation Labs are driving novel solutions to tackle global hunger and poverty,” said Dina Esposito, Feed the Future deputy coordinator and USAID’s assistant to the administrator for resilience, environment and food security. “Advancing this work is critical to generate a pipeline of climate-adapted crops so we can strengthen the resilience of small-scale farmers and meet their current and future needs.”
UF/IFAS put a new spotlight on global food issues with the creation of the Global Food Systems Institute in 2022. Under this umbrella is UF’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, a USAID-funded center that recently announced the renewal of a $4 million project focused on improving capacity within Haiti and another $2 million to strengthen One Health research in East Africa.