Schaal named to national Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research board​

Newly created foundation seeks to create public-private partnerships to boost technological innovation in agriculture


Barbara Schaal, PhD, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor, is one of 15 distinguished scientists from academia and industry named to the newly formed Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the appointment and new foundation July 23. The group will leverage public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation and partnerships critical to boosting America’s agricultural economy. For more details about the foundation’s board members, visit here.

Schaal currently is chair of the Division on Earth and Life Studies at the National Research Council and is on President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

She is a plant evolutionary biologist who uses DNA sequences and genomics to understand evolutionary processes such as gene flow, geographical differentiation and the domestication of crop species. Her research focuses on the evolutionary genomics of rice including domestication and adaptation.

“Although the board hasn’t met yet to set precise goals, a clear role for the foundation would be to provide flexible and dynamic support for research,” Schaal said. “Such potential activities could be in various forms, such as the support of innovative but risky research; support of new partnerships among government agencies, universities, not-for- profit institutions and industry; and support for traineeships.”

Authorized by Congress as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the foundation will operate as a nonprofit corporation seeking and accepting private donations in order to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress also provided $200 million for the foundation, which must be matched by non-federal funds as the foundation identifies and approves projects.

“Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research creates $20 in economic activity,” Vilsack said. “Investments in innovation made over the past several decades have developed new products and new procedures that have been critical to the continued growth of American agriculture. We must continue to make strategic investments in research and technology if we are to remain leaders in the global economy.”

The research funded by the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research will address issues including plant and animal health; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agricultural and food security; and agriculture systems and technology.