The Ronald Laboratory

Crop Genetics Innovation & Scientific Literacy

Developing a new generation of staple food crops through genetic innovations, education, and partnerships

Photo Credits: Gene Hettel, IRRI

One of the greatest challenges of our time is to feed the growing population without further destroying the environment. Because most of the world’s farmland is already under cultivation and fresh water is scarce, increased food production must largely take place more efficiently. To produce a successful crop each year, farmers must employ strategies to combat pests, diseases and environmental stresses, which reduce global yields by 30-60% each year.

The Ronald lab studies genes that control resistance to disease and tolerance of environmental stress with the goal of improving food security for the world’s poorest farmers. Ronald also directs the UC Davis Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy which cultivates a community of researchers dedicated to making scientific research accessible, relevant, and interesting to everyone.

“When I was in India in March I met with about 20 rice farmers who had recently switched to a new rice seed called Swarna-Sub1, which is both very productive and can survive in flooded fields. Their rice fields get flooded every three to four years, and in past flood years they ended up with almost no food to eat. Now, these farmers can feed their families no matter the weather. Currently, 4 million tons of rice is lost to flooding every year in Bangladesh and India. But as farmers in the region adopt Swarna-Sub1, they will grow enough extra rice to feed 30 million people.”
Bill Gates, Annual Letter 2012