PhD Student, Brian Pace, wins Borlaug Fellowship Grant

June 11, 2014

Brian Pace has been awarded a grant from the US Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security

Graduate Research Fellowship Grant Program for his proposal entitled, Adaptation of highland Mexican landraces: climate change and global food security.  He has been conducting PhD research with Dr. Kristin Mercer in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science on the evolution and ecophysiology of maize grown by subsistence farmers in Southern Mexico. 

Brian has already worked for two field season in Chiapas, Mexico on the physiological basis of local adaptation in maize landraces.  This work contributes to the broader question of how climate change could influence the productivity of smallholder farmers who produce landraces in crop centers of diversity.  Brian has conducted experiments to test the growth and ecophysiological responses of maize plants to elevational gradients.  In particular, he has identified differences in biomass production, photosynthesis, and stomatal conductance among landraces from highland and lowland areas, which may play some role in local adaptation to temperature.  He currently is investigating adaptation of landraces to gradients of ultraviolet light.

With the Borlaug Fellowship Grant, Brian has developed plans to return to southern Mexico to conduct a year-long investigation of how highland landraces, potentially most at risk with climate change, may respond to environmental variation at a scale relevant to near-term climate change.  Brian will also be engaging with local farmers in Mexico to assess how climate change might affect the diversity they manage.  This latter emphasis complements Brian’s desire to better understand the social contexts for his research.  Brian has participated in many opportunities to broaden his awareness of current issues in agricultural development, including the Future Leaders Forum of the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development in DC and the Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security at Purdue University.

In addition to Brian’s OSU-based advisory committee (Drs. Jim Metzger, Joe Scheerens, and Peter Curtis), he has assembled a strong team of collaborating mentors in Mexico, including Drs. Hugo Perales at ECOSUR (The College of the Southern Border) and Denise Costich at CIMMYT (The International Center for Maize and Wheat Breeding).

More information on the Borlaug Graduate Research Fellowship Grant Program can be found at: 

In the Photo: Kristin Mercer and Brian Pace