Health & Environment

Borlaug Institute Continues Life’s Work Of Agricultural Legend

On what would have been his 110th birthday, Nobel Peace Prize winner and crop science pioneer Norman Borlaug continues to inspire those fighting world hunger.
By Darren Benson, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing and Communications March 25, 2024

A photo of a man's hands holding a coffee bean.
Coffee fruit is inspected at a farm in Yepocapa, Guatemala, in January 2023. The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and Development continues the work of Dr. Norman Borlaug to address poverty and hunger through science.

Sam Craft/Texas A&M AgriLife Marketing and Communications


The legacy of Dr. Norman Borlaug, an agricultural scientist credited with sparking the Green Revolution, lives on at Texas A&M University through an institute dedicated to continuing his mission of fighting international hunger and poverty.

The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and Development was established in 2006, and has since worked in more than 50 countries, applying science-based solutions focusing on crop and animal production, agricultural sustainability, food safety, nutrition and education.

Dr. Elsa Murano, who has served as the director of the Borlaug Institute since 2012, said Borlaug’s vision and work ethic continue to inspire her and others following in his path.

undated photo of Norman borlaug, taking notes in a field
Dr. Norman Borlaug was a distinguished professor of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Texas A&M AgriLife photo

Borlaug, who taught at Texas A&M from 1984 to 2009, perfected a new variety of dwarf wheat, which was high-yielding and disease resistant. Through its introduction in India, Pakistan and Mexico in the 1960s, it is estimated to have saved more than a billion lives of people who may have otherwise died of starvation. The Green Revolution that followed incorporated even more new ideas based on science, resulting in higher agricultural productivity than ever before.

Borlaug, who died in 2009 at the age of 95, received the Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Science, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and numerous other recognitions for his work.

Today, on what would have been his 110th birthday — he was born March 25, 1914, in Iowa — Borlaug’s efforts to make a difference by educating impoverished farmers continues unabated at the institute that bears his name.

Murano said the institute’s work is more important than ever, as challenges contributing to food insecurity — economic instability, population growth, climate extremes and limited resources of water, land and infrastructure — are on the rise. That work, she said, is driven by seven principles that defined Borlaug’s passion:

  • prevent conflict by addressing poverty and hunger through science;
  • apply agriculture science;
  • take it to the farmer;
  • engage in an interdisciplinary approach;
  • encourage effective governance and sound policies;
  • youth development; and
  • act more and talk less.

Reaching Farmers, Inspiring Students

The institute’s strategy, Murano said, is to elevate small-scale farmers out of poverty through projects using smart agriculture techniques and the expertise of Texas A&M’s faculty, “from an applied research point of view, not deep in the lab.”

“We have such a diversity of ecosystems here in Texas that, chances are, some crop or livestock that has been developed or worked on here by our scientists will fit in one of the countries in Africa or Asia or Latin America where we work,” she said. “So that’s a huge advantage. Not only do we have a tremendous breadth of expertise, but it’s expertise that has worked on things that are relevant in those parts of the world.”

A photo of Dr. Elsa Murano pointing to the crowd during a presentation.
Dr. Elsa Murano has served as the director of the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and Development at Texas A&M University since 2012.

Michael Miller/Texas A&M AgriLife Marketing and Communications

Since 2012, the institute has secured more than $120 million for its program. Its most recent projects include equipping farmers in remote areas of several African countries with irrigation systems; introducing a fungus-resistant variety of coffee tree in Central America; and providing college scholarships for women in Afghanistan to pursue an education in STEM fields.

“That’s what we do. That’s Dr. Borlaug’s impact — changing lives,” Murano said. “His legacy is very much alive and well.”

Murano said she is encouraged by the enthusiasm of current Texas A&M students in embracing the mission Borlaug championed.  “They want to save the world. They want to do something important with their lives. That’s this next generation of hunger fighters,” she said.

Meeting The Man Himself

Murano recalled meeting Borlaug when she came to Texas A&M in 1995. “We were sitting next to each other at a luncheon, and he said, ‘Dr. Murano, what do you do here?’”

Murano said she explained that she was a food microbiologist. “But what do you do that helps people directly?” he asked. Murano said she told him that her research was focused on pathogenic organisms and food safety, that she presented her work at scientific meetings and taught courses.

But Borlaug was insistent, she said. “But what do you do that helps people directly?” he said.

“He told me that it’s up to you that whatever you do in life helps people directly,” Murano said. “I had no idea at that time that my career was going to take all kinds of turns and eventually I was going to be doing this, but that’s what drives me and certainly all of our staff here. We know he’s looking at us from up there saying ‘Hey, get to work, people. We’ve got things to do, lives to change!’”

Media contact: Darren Benson,

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