Bikram S. Gill can add another international award to his resume.
Gill, university distinguished professor of plant pathology at Kansas State University and director of the university’s Wheat Genetic and Genomic Resources Center, received the National Friendship Award from the Chinese government on Sept. 29. The award is China’s highest recognition for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country’s economic and social progress.
An international expert in wheat research, Gill has headed wheat germplasm enhancement projects that have allowed wheat breeders to create new varieties of wheat with specific desirable characteristics —such as resistance to disease and insects. China is the world’s largest wheat producer, having grown an estimated 120 million tons in 2012.
Gill was presented with a medal and certificate by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in the Great Hall of the Peoples Congress in Tiananmen Square. The medal is decorated with a picture of the Great Wall of China along with the inscription “Friendship Award” in Chinese.
“I am blown away by this honor,” Gill said.
Gill said he remembers the day when the president of China’s Nanjing Agricultural University traveled to K-State in 1981 to initiate scientific exchanges between the two universities. The first scientist, Chen Peidu, arrived in Manhattan in 1982.
Gill returned the visit to China in 1987 when the country was opened to the outside world.
Since then, researchers from the schools have teamed up to tackle the fungal disease Fusarium Head Blight, or FHB, which threatens the wheat industry.
The researchers are working to develop wheat strains that are resistant to the disease.
Funding for Gill’s project, called 111, with Nanjing Agricultural University was also renewed for five years. The project sponsors visits of top-tier foreign scientists for collaborative research with scientists from the Chinese University.