In partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation has announced five grants totaling $5.9 million to researchers using innovative approaches to address agriculture challenges in the developing world.
Awarded as part of the second funding cycle of NSF's Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program, a five-year initiative jointly funded by the Gates Foundation, the grants will support international research projects at the proof-of-concept stage involving twenty-eight institutions in six states and international investigators from Angola, Benin, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Israel, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Funded projects include an effort to use new synthetic biology technologies to create strains of Mycoplasma bacteria that can be developed as live vaccine candidates for the prevention of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, a costly livestock disease in Africa; exploring a recently developed centromere engineering strategy to develop doubled haploid varieties of banana and cassava, which could boost breeding of those two slow cycling crops; and determining whether protein biomarkers can identify vector competent populations of aphids and other homopteran insect vectors of plant viruses affecting staple food crops in sub-Saharan Africa.
"The BREAD program continues to draw interest of scientists from around the world," said NSF assistant director for biological sciences John Wingfield. "More than one hundred and sixty U.S. institutions in forty-five states, partnering with more than two hundred and sixty institutions in seventy-six countries, submitted proposals in fields as diverse as the genetic improvement of crops and animals....The program and the awards made in 2011 epitomize how novel, transformative basic research in the biological sciences can contribute to major benefits to human society globally."