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Sources: Bhanu Kalia, 785-532-2347, bkalia@k-state.edu; Bikram S. Gill, 785-532-1391, bsgill@k-state.edu
Photo available. Contact 785-532-6415 or media@k-state.edu
Pronouncers: Bhanu Kalia is bahnoo kuh-lee-uh; Bikram is bick-rum Gill rhymes with bill
News release prepared by: Cheryl May, 785-532-6415, may@k-state.edu

Friday, Oct. 23, 2009

PH.D. STUDENT IN K-STATE PLANT PATHOLOGY SELECTED FOR INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP

MANHATTAN -- Bhanu Kalia, a Kansas State University graduate student inspired by the work of Dr. Norman Borlaug is one of 12 people worldwide to receive a fellowship named for him. The Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program honors the accomplishments of Dr. Henry Beachell and Dr. Norman Borlaug, who pioneered plant breeding and research in rice and wheat, respectively.

The Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program fellowship will provide a full package of support for Kalia to pursue her Ph.D., which will include research on wheat breeding and enable her to find ways to increase food production in developing countries.

Kalia also is a graduate research assistant in plant pathology at K-State. Her research mentor is University Distinguished Professor Bikram S. Gill. She will collaborate with CIMMYT, a non profit organization that researches sustainable development of wheat and maize farming, and Punjab Agricultural University, which played a prominent role in ushering in the green revolution in India. A native of Ludhiana in Punjab and a citizen of India, she received an M.S. in genetics from Punjab Agricultural University.

"Norman Borlaug was the father of the green revolution in the 1960s, especially relating to the Indian subcontinent and Mexico where wheat production doubled and tripled. This work avoided famines that used to kill hundreds and thousands of people," Gill said. "It was Bhanu's wish to see Dr. Borlaug at the World Food Laureates meeting in Des Moines but he passed away a few weeks before. Attending the conference and meeting with world food laureates and other scientists was a deeply moving experience for Bhanu, a rare opportunity for a graduate student that will inspire her research."

"I thank my family and friends for their continuous support and encouragement," Kalia said. "I owe special thanks to my adviser, Dr. Bikram Gill, for having faith in me and always encouraging me.

"It was a great experience to be a part of the World Food Prize ceremony," she said. "It gave me an opportunity to meet present and previous world food laureates, eminent scientists and other highly important figures. The speakers, each with different issues and concerns, showed a clear picture of what we have achieved and what more needs to be done.

"This ceremony is a turning point in my life and Dr. Borlaug's achievements create the light that will show me the path. Dr. Borlaug is a great inspirational source and his works, his dedication, passion and empathy for the downtrodden will always inspire us to do our best," Kalia said.

Kalia's project is "Methodology for Efficient Mapping of Alien Introgression for Adult Plant Resistance to Leaf Rust and Other Agronomic Traits in Wheat Aegilops Tauschii Hybrids." She and the 11 other award recipients will conduct at least one season of field work in a developing country.

"The committee was extremely pleased at the quality of the submissions for the first year," said Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program Director Dr. Ed Runge. "It was great to see such a diverse group of candidates from all over the world submit their research projects for review. Dr. Beachell and Dr. Borlaug dedicated their lives to improving rice and wheat breeding in order to feed the world, and the committee is certain the 12 recipients -- and all of those who submitted projects -- will carry on their legacies."

Rice and wheat are considered by many to be the most important staple crops in developing countries, providing necessary calories to feed billions of people every day. Many of the world's poorest people rely on the two grains as a key source of food. Accelerating yield growth will help reduce hunger by helping to produce more food on the same number of acres.