Retired UNL researcher reflects on Norman Borlaug

University of Nebraska Professor Emeritus Charlie Fenster

Today is National Agriculture Day. Today is also the 100th anniversary of Norman Borlaug's birthday. The Iowa native won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in plant genetics, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the two highest civilian awards in the US.

In a interview with KNEB/Rural Radio Network, University of Nebraska Professor Emeritus Charlie Fenster says Norman Borlaug was exceptional researcher.

"He developed the genetic materials that really increased the production of wheat worldwide and this was really necessary in order to feed the people through the world," Fenster said.

Borlaug was given the nickname "Father of the Green Revolution", a term that refers to changes in agricultural practices that increased food production from the 1950s forward. Borlaug believed in a systems approach where wheat genetics where only as good as the water, fertility, and cultural practices. A concept that increase wheat production locally as well as world wide.

"In western Nebraska, up until '56 the average yield of winter wheat was 11 bushes per acre," Fenster said. "From 56 to 82 that went up to 33 bushels and now it's above 40 (bushels an acre)".

Increasing food production for a growing population was an important topic when Fenster was a researcher at the UNL High Plains Ag Lab near Sidney. In 1974, he traveled to Turkey for a international conference, where Borlaug spoke and through the years Fenster developed a relationship with Borlaug.

"Real common person, but very knowledgeable of the wheats that were available worldwide, Fenster said. "He also played up the cultural practices were necessary to maximize genetics materials".

Borlaug develop disease-resistant wheat used to fight famine in poor countries. His work is often credited as saving over a billion lives. Today Norman Borlaug is being honored with statue in the capitol's national statuary hall, which marks the 100-year anniversary of his birth.

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