By: Kay Ledbetter

Sarah Marsh, a senior in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University, is one of 12 students recognized by the National Association of Plant Breeders, or NAPB, in the 2019 class of NAPB Borlaug Scholars.

“The NAPB Borlaug Scholarship awards are given to exceptional students aspiring to a careers in plant breeding and genetics and who have a strong desire to contribute to the improvement of the plants that we all depend upon for our daily needs,” according to NAPB.

smiling young lady
Sarah Marsh - senior Plant and Environmental Soil Science major.

This is especially critical in this age of continually increasing populations, climate change and uncertain global food security – issues Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution and also a plant breeder, cared about deeply. Plant breeding uniquely addresses these challenges through applied research and improving technologies, according to the association.

“To receive this award is an honor, and it is encouragement to continue striving towards a career in plant breeding,” Marsh said. “It is my belief that plant breeding holds an ever-important space in agriculture, and to be able to be a part of that through this program is humbling.

“I have been fortunate this far to have met professors who have encouraged me in this subject. It is my hope that this award allows me to connect with more people in order to further my knowledge of this necessary subject.”

These awards include a travel grant valued up to $1,500 to attend the 2019 NAPB annual meeting at Calloway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, Aug. 25-29, plus participation in a professional development mentoring program that connects these scholars with experienced NAPB professional members. Awards come with a free new student membership in NAPB and complimentary registration for the conference.

The students were selected from an impressive field of nominees with strong recommendations from professors and advisers through a rigorous national competition, according to NAPD.

In his nomination of Marsh, Dr. Steve Hague, Texas A&M cotton breeder, said she enrolled in his Plant Breeding and Genetics course in 2017 and later took two other courses he taught, making ‘As’ in all three courses.

“In my courses, her work was creative and went beyond what most students were submitting,” Hague said. “She grasped complex systems quickly and was capable of providing original answers.
Sarah grew up on a family farm in northern California, where they produced vegetable crops and almonds. I have no doubt that is where she acquired her dogged work ethic.”

Marsh’s career objective is to become a plant breeder. She has a particular interest in rice. Hague said this award will allow her to become familiar with plant breeders from around the country.

“She is one of the most capable students I have had the opportunity to encounter,” he said.

Marsh has been active in the Texas A&M soil and crop sciences department as a member of the undergraduate Agronomy Society, along with participating in a study abroad program to Brazil. She has been recognized for academic acumen as the recipient of the Texas A&M President’s Endowed Scholarship, as well as numerous departmental-level scholarships.

The NAPB Borlaug Scholarship awards were initiated in 2018 with an inaugural class of eight students, who attended the first internationally held NAPB annual meeting in Guelph, Canada. Due to the success and interest in the program, a 25% increase in nominations were submitted for 2019, according to NAPB.

The selection committee increased the number of awards by 50%, exceeding the original goal, according to NAPB. This was made possible by continual gifts to the NAPB/ASF Borlaug Scholars Fund by individuals and institutional donations.