Thursday, July 18th, 2013
Olivia Wilkins, a post-doctoral fellow in the CGSB, was recently named as one of 13 winners of the National Science Foundation/Gates Foundation BREAD Challenge Prize. The challenge, which is part of the Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program and co-funded by the NSF and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, asked participants to describe in 100 words or less the most pressing, novel issues facing small-holder farms in developing countries. Hundreds of researchers from all academic levels across the globe submitted entries.
Wilkins, who works in the labs of Dr. Michael Purugganan and Dr. Rich Bonneau, proposed a challenge to “develop means to manipulate microbial soil populations, creating ‘tunable’ soil microbiomes that could enhance plant growth under poor edaphic conditions.” Wilkins noted that smallholder farmers are challenged by insufficient soil nutrients, and that the soil microbiome, which modulates plants access to and uptake of nutrients, could be an effective mechanism to optimize plant nutrient uptake and improve agricultural productivity.
Ideas were blindly judged by experts from the NSF and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who only had access to the applicants’ ideas and countries of origin. As a prize for being selected as a winner, Wilkins will receive a $10,000 award and will have her idea showcased on the Bread Ideas Challenge website.
For more information about the challenge and winners, please click here.