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Featured Profile: Perry Gustafson

Perry Gustafson

“There is no greater human concern than alleviating hunger and want in this world.” So says Dr. Perry Gustafson, a plant scientist at the University of Missouri specializing in food insecurity.

With a projected population of 9 billion by the year 2050, the world will need sixty percent more food just to maintain current supply levels… to say nothing of the one billion people who do not get enough to eat. Luckily Gustafson is on the case, with six decades of experience in plant genetics.

Following an undergraduate degree in crop science, Gustafson earned a Master’s Degree in agronomy and a Ph.D. in genetics. Consultant work for the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency led him to the food-disadvantaged Peruvian highlands. He noticed a supply of inedible barley with husks. Because of the weight of the husks, this barley often fell over in the field, ruining the crop. Working with Peruvian scientists, he developed shorter, huskless barley.

Now Gustafson has turned his focus to wheat, one of the largest natural food sources for humans. A large portion of the world’s land that is suitable for growing crops is too acidic for wheat. Gustafson has found a way to add rye plant genes to wheat to make it far more tolerant.

Growing enough food for nine billion people will be a challenge. “We all have a role in attempting to make changes,” Gustafson says. “I think my personal role is to keep teaching farmers in developing countries how to produce more.”

Dr. Perry Gustafson is an adjunct professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

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Related Initiative(s):
Food for the Future