OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

World Food Prize winner to be honored at OSU

06/07/2002

CORVALLIS - Oregon State University will recognize the contributions of World Food Prize winner John Niederhauser with an honorary doctoral degree that will be awarded on Sunday, June 16, at one of the university's two commencement ceremonies.

Niederhauser has spent much of his professional life as a plant pathologist helping developing countries to produce more of their own basic foods, while preserving the quality of the environment. In 1990, he was awarded the World Food Prize for his work with international programs that have dramatically increased potato production worldwide.

"Dr. Niederhauser's steadfast pursuit of improvements for farmers in developing countries has been a constant of his career," said Stella Coakley, head of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at OSU.

During the 1960s, Niederhauser worked in India and Pakistan with Norman Borlaug, helping farmers increase wheat crop yields. Their work helped save millions of people from starving, and eventually led to the Green Revolution and the Nobel Peace Prize for Borlaug.

During that time, Niederhauser began his life's work with potatoes. In central Mexico, he and colleagues discovered the origins of the fungus that causes potato late blight, the disease that touched off the Irish famine during the 1840s. He began searching for potato varieties with a durable resistance to the disease.

Niederhauser's efforts expanded to include several international cooperative projects to improve potato production and productivity in many countries. He has worked extensively with plant breeders and pathologists at OSU, where potato research has been a major focus for several decades, and with researchers and farmers around the world.

"Still, today, more chemicals are applied to the potato than to any other food crop. It will take all of us working together to develop better varieties and safer methods to control diseases and pests in potatoes and all food crops," said Niederhauser.