U of S researcher receives award for global excellence in food innovation


Leon Kochian, faculty member of the plant and soil science departments of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, has won the 2019 Arrell Global Food Innovation Award for global excellence in food innovation.

The award from the Arrell Food Institute, housed at the University of Guelph, recognizes global research leaders who have made exceptionally significant contributions to scientific understanding that will improve food security for the planet. The award carries a $100,000 cash prize.

Kochian is also the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) at the U of S, and is associate director of the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS).

Dr. Leon Kochian (Supplied)

His work is internationally recognized for plant root systems research that aims to improve crop yields by understanding the interactions between roots, the soil they live in, and the micro-organisms in the soil. His goal is to breed crops, such as wheat, barley, lentils, and canola, with healthier, more efficient root systems that can grow successfully in less fertile soils.

“Leon’s expertise and leadership in roots and soil research is increasingly valuable in a world with a growing population threatened by critical issues of soil quality and fertility,” says Steven Webb, executive director and chief executive officer of GIFS. “This well-deserved award will help shine more light on the important work he does to help improve crop yields for developed and developing nations.”

Kochian’s team uses the Canadian Light Source, a national research facility of the U of S, and other imaging tools, along with the latest computer technology, to digitize desired crop traits and link them to specific genes in a searchable database.

The award ceremony will be held December 3rd at the Arrell Food Summit in Toronto. Kochian will be featured in a panel discussing strategies needed to develop food systems to feed the world’s growing population in a sustainable, healthy, and equitable way.

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