Getting to the roots of global food security

Leon Kochian, the newly appointed University of Saskatchewan Canada Excellence Research Chair

Meet Leon Kochian, the University of Saskatchewan’s (U of S) newest Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Food Systems and Security.

Kochian is one of the world’s most highly cited scientific researchers, recently joining the U of S and from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In his new role, he will lead a $20-million initiative that uses cutting-edge plant and soil science to help feed a growing world. He will serve as associate director of the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) —founded in 2012 by PotashCorp, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the U of S and holds faculty appointments in plant sciences and soil science at the U of S College of Agriculture and Bioresources.

The seven-year funding for the $20-million research program comes from the federal government ($10 million), GIFS ($7 million), and the U of S ($3 million). A further $800,000 will be contributed by the Canada Foundation for Innovation towards the cost of a $2-million “Roots of Food Security” research facility to support the work of the CERC team in designing and breeding better crops with more efficient root systems.

Leon’s appointment was announced on Sept. 15, 2016 at the U of S. 

About Leon Kochian

  • Named to the 2015 Thomson Reuters list of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds”, Kochian has earned an international reputation for his work on crop adaptation to marginal soil environments. 
  • For the past decade, Kochian has led an international team of crop researchers using molecular breeding to produce cereal crop varieties with improved yields on highly acidic soils that limit crop production in tropical developing countries.
  • Kochian has published more than 210 peer-reviewed articles in high-profile journals including Nature, Nature Genetics, PLOS Genetics, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as more than 40 reviews, book chapters and proceedings.
  • Since 1997, he has been director of the Robert Holley Center for Agriculture and Health at Cornell University, an internationally respected centre of excellence for crop genomics research.
  • A Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society of Plant Biologists, he was elected to the Agricultural Research Service Hall of Fame “for internationally recognized pioneering work using molecular biology, genetics and plant breeding to improve crop yields on marginal soils in developing countries.”
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