An Indian-born researcher whose work fueled a huge increase in wheat production has won the 2014 World Food Prize.
Sanjaya Rajaram was announced as the winner of the annual prize at the U.S. State Department in Washington on Wednesday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in his keynote address, spoke about the difference Rajaram's research has made.
"We're grateful for the hundreds of new species of wheat Dr. Rajaram has developed," Kerry said. “These will deliver more than 200 million more tons of grain to global markets each year."
Rajaram, 71, is a citizen of Mexico, where he worked with other scientists to cross-breed wheat varieties and make them more adaptable to different soil types and climates. He also developed wheat types with increased resistance to disease.
According to the World Food Prize Foundation, Rajaram's wheat varieties are grown on 58 million hectares of land around the world.
Wheat is the leading source of vegetable protein for human consumption, the foundation’s website
The U.S.-based foundation, started in 1986 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman E. Borlaug, awards the $250,000 prize each year to individuals who have "advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world."
Rajaram began conducting hands-on field research with Borlaug in 1969 at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico.