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Prestigious award recognizes a lifetime's work for Bangor University Professor John Witcombe

Professor John Witcombe during a visit to Afghanistan.Professor John Witcombe during a visit to Afghanistan.Prof. John Witcombe, Professorial Fellow in the School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, has been selected as Development Agriculturalist of the Year for 2014 by the Tropical Agriculture Association

John’s award, the TAA’s most prestigious, recognised a lifetime’s work in agriculture for development, and particularly his contribution to participatory plant breeding.

John’s work has benefitted agriculture throughout the tropics and has had a genuine, positive impact upon society. His novel strategies to breed crop varieties, which include working directly with resource-poor farmers, resulted in the first modern varieties to be widely grown in poorer, marginal areas of South Asia.

John’s two Ashoka rice varieties have better yield, drought tolerance, and higher grain quality and market price than existing local varieties. By 2012 they were grown by more than a million households in Eastern India, providing vital food security in drought years and increasing household food self-sufficiency from six to nine months. Farmers also like the superior grain quality and yield of his GM-6 maize which has improved livelihoods for 300,000 of the poorest farm households in Gujarat, and has been grown on a cumulative area of 2 M ha.

Professor John Witcombe (2nd from left) during a visit to SenegalProfessor John Witcombe (2nd from left) during a visit to SenegalDr Phil Hollington, a colleague in SENRGy, said “John is a very worthy winner, and this is great recognition for the work carried out in and from Bangor over many years”.

The TAA is a professional association of individuals and corporate bodies concerned with the role of agriculture for development throughout the world, bringing together individuals and organisations from both developed and less developed countries to enable them to contribute to international policies and actions aimed at reducing poverty and improving livelihoods. Tropical and sub-tropical environments are home to billions of people and face many challenges with respect to supporting these populations through agriculture.

Publication date: 22 October 2014