Today HarvestPlus celebrates National Ag Day-a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. We all know the extraordinary role American agriculture plays in feeding the world. What is less known is the role American agriculture plays in developing innovative agricultural technology to help farmers and consumers around the world. Ross Welch, working out of one of the U.S.’s most prestigious land grant colleges, was a USDA scientist who, along with World Food Prize laureate and HarvestPlus founder Howdy Bouis, was a pioneer in biofortification.

Welch’s contribution to the field of agricultural research has had widespread impact. He worked for almost 40 years at the Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health at Cornell University. Welch says: “Getting recognized for doing what you love to do is wonderful and very rewarding.” His contributions to biofortification are immense.

Director of HarvestPlus, Howarth Bouis, says: “It is impossible to overstate Ross’ role in getting biofortification started in the 1990s and his contributions to HarvestPlus since our inception in 2003. It was Ross who first explained to me that loading more zinc in a seed is as important for plant nutrition as for human nutrition – thus breeding for agricultural productivity and human nutrition could be complementary, a WIN-WIN. If Ross had not attended a seminar I gave at the USDA-ARS’ Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Laboratory at Cornell University in 1993, which is now the Robert Holley Center, HarvestPlus likely would not be in existence today. Ross has been a constant source of inspiration and scientific knowledge to me since that seminar.”

At the ceremony Ross Welch paid rich tribute to his colleagues. He said: “I must give thanks and credit to the many wonderful mentors and collaborators I have had during my long career within the ARS, during my graduate training at the University of California at Davis, at various universities and institutions globally and among the many friends and colleagues I interacted with within the HarvestPlus program. Without the advice, collaboration and support I received from these people, it would not have been possible for me to achieve this great honor.”

Click below to watch a conversation between Ross Welch and Robin Graham of Flinders University (both pioneers of biofortification) on the role of HarvestPlus in developing and disseminating more nutritious seeds worldwide.