MANHATTAN — Kansas State University’s Daljit Singh is the graduate student recipient of the Award for Scientific Excellence in a Feed the Future Innovation Lab from the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development.
The award was presented at the organization’s annual meeting Oct. 12 in Des Moines, Iowa, which is conducted during the World Food Prize conference, also in Des Moines. The Board for International Food and Agricultural Development is one of the country’s leading organizations on agriculture and higher education issues related to food security in developing countries.
Singh is a doctoral student in genetics at the university’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics. The lab’s mission is to develop heat-tolerant, high-yielding and farmer-accepted varieties for South Asia, while simultaneously increasing the research for development capacity of the global wheat improvement system.
Feed the Future labs, supported through the U.S. Agency for International Development, are the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. The labs are currently working in 19 countries to promote global prosperity and stability. Kansas State University is home to four Feed the Future labs.
“Having the opportunity to share my work at the World Food Prize meeting and to network and interact with major thought leaders and policymakers is an amazing opportunity for me,” Singh said. “After earning my doctorate at K-State, I would like to work for an international research center on food security research. This exposure, along with the training I have received at Kansas State University, will enable me to better serve these fragile communities.”
Singh was nominated for the award by Jesse Poland, an assistant professor of plant pathology and the director of Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics. Poland said that Singh is leading the lab’s effort to implement unmanned aerial vehicles for rapid assessment of wheat breeding nurseries. He said the work is at the cutting-edge in the discipline, while being directly applied to accelerating wheat breeding for improved production in the developing world.
Originally from a farming family in India, Singh said he understands well the progress that agricultural technologies provide to families in developing countries.
“In many of these places, the infrastructure is weak and farming is the only source of income for the communities,” he said. “Crops that cannot withstand the rising temperatures brought on by climate change could be completely devastated. New and improved crop varieties with better stress resilience can help mitigate the losses due to changing climate.”
Singh’s work at Kansas State University includes implementing the first-ever use of unmanned aerial vehicle data collection in India for the purpose of integrated high-throughput phenotyping into wheat breeding and breeding methodology.
“In this work, we have been able to measure important plant traits and vegetation indexes that give us accurate assessment of the performance of thousands of candidate wheat varieties,” Poland said.
Poland said that Singh’s work in developing digital elevation models to assess growth and development of wheat has been well-received and recognized by research groups all around the world.
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