CORVALLIS, Ore. — An Oregon State University researcher is in the international spotlight for his work on plant diseases.
The Chinese government awarded a National Friendship Award to Brett Tyler, the Director at the Center of Genome Research and Biocomputing at OSU last month.
Tyler specializes in the study of oomycetes, the same pathogen that caused the Irish Potato Famine in the nineteenth century. He says this pathogen is still causing problems globally, especially in China.
“The world’s population is continuing to increase at a dramatic rate,” he said. “And it’s actually outstripping our ability to feed those people. We need to do everything we can to improve our food growing capabilities. Not only in the United States and in China, but our ability to export to poorer parts of the world is extremely important.”
Last month, Tyler visited China to receive the award for his research. The Chinese government honored Tyler with a National Friendship award, an honor that is presented to foreigners who have made important contributions to the country. It was a two-day event with an award ceremony and a banquet where Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made a speech.
“It was definitely exciting, and also I felt very honored,” Tyler said.
Tyler says he is humbled, but his work continues to motivate him to do what he can to prevent worldwide hunger.
“What is important is to improve the ability of the Chinese to manage important plant diseases, which are impacting the ability for them to grow food for themselves,” he said. “In terms of global food security, the more that we can improve the ability of China to feed itself and export food to the rest of the world, I think that will help.”
Tyler says China is not the only place where diseases are hurting important crops. His research not only looks at how to prevent plant diseases, but also at how to help grow better genetic varieties that will resist diseases.