Purdue bee expert awarded major grant
An up-and-coming entomology professor at Purdue University has received a 2022 New Innovator Food & Agriculture Award for his research in bee pollination. The annual award from Washington D.C-based Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) is presented to early-career scientists whose work addresses significant food and agriculture challenges.
Brock Harpur, an assistant professor of entomology, is one of 10 recipients of the award. His research focuses on genomic technologies to help advance bee breeding capabilities around the nation.
“U.S. beekeepers lose about 30% of their colonies annually,” said Harpur, who adds most bee colony losses are due to pests, such as the Varroa mite.
“This will be among the first times genomics has been used for bee breeding efforts in the United States,” Harpur said. “We pitched this for Varroa mite and disease resistance, but the principles and practices we are developing can be used anywhere.
The FFAR says to qualify for the award, faculty members must be in the first three years of their scientific career and within eight years of receiving their PhD. The organization says the award allows researchers to focus on their work and reduce some of the pressure of securing additional funding for their work.
FFAR did not disclose the amount of Harpur’s grant. However, cumulatively, the ten recipients are receiving nearly $9 million over three years.
“We are very excited by the work that Brock is leading at Purdue,” said Catherine Hill, Purdue professor of entomology and department head. “He is an early-career scientist applying genomic technologies to help advance bee breeding capabilities around the nation. The FFAR award will help him deliver leading-edge solutions to strengthen and better protect U.S. pollinator services and agricultural production.”
Purdue says Harpur plans to use the funding to work with his stakeholders and help them incorporate genomics into their practice. The goal is to make bee breeding more effective and fuel basic science along the way.
“Between 5% and 8% of global crops by weight are pollinated by honey bees. In the United States, honey bees contribute around $18 billion a year to the economy through pollination and honey production,” said Harpur. “People are interested in applying these technologies but either don’t know how or need some ground truthing. This award and its funding allow us to do that.”