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New Feed the Future Innovation Lab to leverage top U.S. researchers and plant breeding technology to boost food security and alleviate poverty in developing countries

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Cornell University will lead a new global crop improvement research program to advance plant breeding tools, technologies and methods aimed at delivering staple crops that can increase yields, enhance nutrition and show greater resistance to pests and diseases.

The establishment of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement (ILCI) will create an integrated research and delivery program with multidisciplinary expertise at the cutting-edge of agricultural development, from plant breeding and machine learning to quantitative genetics and gender inclusion. Based in International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP-CALS), the project will support and empower national breeding programs in East and West Africa, South Asia and Latin America and serve as a model for introducing advanced agricultural technologies at scale to countries around the world. The five-year, $25 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as part of the U.S. government's Feed the Future initiative, was announced Oct. 16 at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa.

“We are in a critical point in history where booming population growth, climate change and other environmental factors are exposing threats of global food insecurity at an unprecedented scale,” said Innovation Lab director Stephen Kresovich, professor of plant and environmental sciences at Clemson University and a former vice provost for life sciences at Cornell. “Improved varieties of key food crops are one of the surest avenues to reducing risks from economic, environmental and climatic shocks for millions of people in vulnerable and resource-poor populations.”