These challenges are complex and difficult, but the consequences of inaction, as Borlaug often warned, are unacceptable. Meeting these challenges requires a significant level of interwoven commitment from public, private, and international entities. For one, developing the breakthroughs to sustainably feed 9.5 billion people will require a serious allocation of research and development resources from the U.S. government, as well as other developed nations.
U.S. land-grant universities have a central role to play, just as they did in educating Borlaug and facilitating his international research advancements. One of America’s great success stories has been agriculture. That success has been driven by investments in science and technology while the foundation has been the quality of research, education and extension at our land-grant institutions. Now our land-grant system — with the support of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities — is prepared to take on this next global challenge.
In addition to our work in the U.S., land-grant institutions have developed international partnerships that enable us to build both human and institutional capacity in places of need. By training new agricultural scientists in their own countries and developing higher education institutions there, we are empowering these nations to be part of the long-term, sustainable solution. Norman Borlaug would have turned 100 today. Let us honor his legacy by remembering the lives he saved and continues to save — even after his own passing — and by carrying forward a full commitment to the land-grant mission of learning, discovery and engagement in order to save billions more.
Steven Leath is the president of Iowa State University and a member of the World Food Prize Council of Advisors, Eric Kaler is the president of the University of Minnesota and Mark Hussey is the interim president of Texas A&M University.