All achievers

Norman E. Borlaug, Ph.D.

Nobel Prize for Peace

The only way that the world can keep up with food production is by the improvement of science and technology.

Norman Ernest Borlaug was born in Saude, Iowa, on the farm of his grandfather, Nels Olson Borlaug, who was the son of Norwegian immigrants. From the age of seven, young Norman worked on the family farm, where he learned the basics of agriculture, and enjoyed an active outdoor life. School for the young farmboy meant a one-room country schoolhouse until he was old enough to attend the high school in nearby Cresco. In high school, Borlaug was an outstanding athlete, playing football and baseball and achieving statewide renown as a competitive wrestler. He credits his high school wrestling coach, Dave Bartelma, with inspiring him to excel at whatever he attempted.

Norman Borlaug, an All-American wrestler at the University of Minnesota in the 1930s. More than 50 years later, Borlaug was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)
Norman E. Borlaug was an All-American wrestler at the University of Minnesota in the 1930s. Borlaug was later inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Although his family was spared the worst effects of the Great Depression, Borlaug saw many of his neighbors lose their farms and homes. Across rural America, the dispossessed threatened violence against bank agents and local law enforcement. Borlaug’s grandfather, who had taught him so much about farming, encouraged him to leave the countryside and pursue higher education. A newly created federal program, the National Youth Administration, made it possible for Norman Borlaug to attend the University of Minnesota, even though his test scores did not qualify him for immediate admission. Immersed in the academic environment of the Minneapolis campus, Borlaug made rapid progress and soon joined the forestry program of the university’s College of Agriculture. He also recruited Dave Bartelma to coach the University of Minnesota wrestling team, and assisted Bartelma in introducing the sport to the state’s high schools. Although Borlaug’s wrestling career ended after college, he would eventually be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

To support himself at school, Borlaug worked a number of jobs, including waiting on tables at a local coffee shop, where he met Margaret Gibson, whom he would later marry. Between terms at the university, Borlaug led a unit of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal program designed to put unemployed youth to work during the Depression. Many of the young men assigned to Borlaug’s team were visibly malnourished. Seeing the change in his men’s health and morale as they began to eat regularly — many for the first time in their lives — made an indelible impression on Borlaug.

Norman Borlaug at the coffee shop where he worked, and met his wife Margaret, while studying at the University of Minnesota. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)
Norman Borlaug at the coffee shop where he worked, and met his wife Margaret, while studying at the University of Minnesota. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)

Before and after his senior year, Borlaug worked for the United States Forestry Service at research stations in Massachusetts and Idaho. He had planned on a career with the Forestry Service when he first heard a lecture by the plant pathologist Elvin Stakman. Stakman proposed that crossbreeding of wheat, and of other grains, could produce varieties that would resist the parasitic fungus known as rust, a pest that devastated crops throughout the United States and around the world. Borlaug was fascinated by this research, and when an expected Forestry Service appointment fell through, he decided to remain at the University of Minnesota and pursue graduate studies in plant pathology with Dr. Stakman. Norman and Margaret Borlaug married and settled in Minneapolis while Borlaug pursued his studies, completing his doctorate in plant pathology and genetics in 1942. He was immediately hired by the chemical firm Du Pont de Nemours in Wilmington, Delaware. Although he attempted to enlist in the Army during World War II, the government regarded his work at Du Pont as essential to the war effort and he was refused for military service. At Du Pont, Borlaug’s war work included new developments in camouflage, disinfectants, malaria prevention and insulation for electronic devices. His most significant achievement at the time was the creation of a waterproof adhesive for sealing seaborne supply packages. With the Marines pinned down on Guadalcanal, Borlaug and his team developed the new adhesive in a matter of weeks, enabling the Marines to hold out until the Japanese were driven from the island.

While Borlaug was engaged in war work, his Minnesota mentor, Dr. Stakman, had taken on a different scientific challenge south of the border. The outgoing President of Mexico, Lázaro Cárdenas, had carried out a revolutionary land reform, breaking up the giant estates of the old ruling class and dividing the land into small holdings, know as ejidos. In the following years, Mexican agriculture was devastated by rust, the parasitic fungus Borlaug and Stakman had studied in Minnesota. Recurring crop failures forced the country to import most of its wheat. The Vice President of the United States, Henry Wallace, persuaded the U.S.-based Rockefeller Foundation to collaborate with the Mexican government in introducing rust-resistant wheat to Mexico. Elvin Stakman led the project; his project director, George Harrar, invited Borlaug to join them. Despite a lucrative offer to remain at Du Pont, Borlaug headed for Mexico in 1944 to lead the International Wheat Improvement Program at El Batátan, Texcoco, outside of Mexico City.

Norman Borlaug with U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace and Mexican Minister of Agriculture Marte R. Gómez in 1944. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)
1944: Norman Borlaug with Vice President Henry Wallace and Mexican Minister of Agriculture Marte R. Gómez.

Borlaug encountered many obstacles and setbacks in his first years in Mexico. A lack of trained personnel, and the resistance of farmers and local bureaucrats frustrated his early efforts, but Borlaug would not relent. Tirelessly, he crossed one strain of wheat with another, trying thousands of variations to find those that would flourish in Mexican soil and resist rust and other parasites. In time, he hit on an unprecedented idea. The wheat-growing season in the central highlands, where Borlaug was working, took place slightly earlier than the season in the Yaqui Valley of Sonora, farther north. If he planted the same seeds at the highland research station during the summer and in the Yaqui Valley station immediately afterward, he could see his crops through two growing seasons in a single year.

Norman Borlaug (center) in India, with the sacks of wheat he grew in the 1960s, when the country was faced with a devastating grain shortage. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)
1960s:  Dr. Borlaug in India, with the sacks of wheat he grew, when the country was faced with a grain shortage.

Borlaug’s superior, Harrar, strenuously opposed the idea, not only because of its expense, but because of a widely-held belief that wheat seeds required a rest period after harvest before they could be planted. Only Elvin Stakman’s intervention prevented Borlaug from resigning over the disagreement. Stakman gave Borlaug the go-ahead for this “shuttle breeding” project. Planting the same seeds at different altitudes, where they were exposed to different temperatures, sunlight and rainfall, yielded a wealth of information and enabled Borlaug to create wheat varieties that flourished under very different conditions.

Borlaug moved his family to Mexico City and made a long-term commitment to Mexican agriculture. He became active in his local community as well, coaching Mexico’s first Little League team. As his breeding techniques grew more and more sophisticated, he realized the tall thin stalks of wheat he had been growing too frequently collapsed under the weight of their own grain. In the early ’50s, Borlaug acquired a variety of dwarf wheat from Japan and cross-bred it with North American strains to produce a semi-dwarf strain with a thicker, stronger stalk, capable of supporting a heavier load of grain. Crossing these with his rust-resistant strains produced ideal wheat for Mexico’s needs.

Norman Borlaug examines wheat stocks at the Rockefeller Agricultural Institute in Atizapan, Mexico, 1970. He had just won the Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts to promote peace through improved agriculture. (AP Images)
Norman Borlaug examines wheat stocks at the Rockefeller Agricultural Institute in Atizapan, Mexico, 1970. He had just won the Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts to promote peace through improved agriculture. (AP Images)

By 1963, more than 95 percent of the wheat harvested in Mexico was grown from seed developed by Borlaug. The country was now producing more than enough wheat for its needs and was exporting wheat to the rest of the world, while Borlaug’s techniques were being applied to other grains. The project first proposed by Henry Wallace had grown into the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), a training institute funded jointly by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the Mexican government. Borlaug directed CIMMYT for over 30 years. The scientists he trained, and the strains of wheat and corn he developed, spread around the world, and other governments sought Borlaug’s services to address their food shortages.

Dr. Norman Borlaug in Toluca, Mexico in 1970, the year in which he received the Nobel Prize for Peace, standing amidst the wheat he developed during the Green Revolution. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)
Dr. Norman Borlaug in Toluca, Mexico in 1970, the year in which he received the Nobel Prize for Peace, standing amidst the wheat he developed during the Green Revolution. Borlaug has been awarded innumerable honors, including the Nobel Prize for Peace, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He is credited with saving more than a billion people around the world from starvation. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)

In the 1960s, Pakistan and India were on the brink of war, and the entire subcontinent of South Asia was beset with famine and starvation. The United States was sending more than a fifth of its wheat crop to the subcontinent as emergency aid, but uncounted thousands of men, women and children were starving to death. Scientists in both countries, familiar with Borlaug’s work in Mexico, urged him to visit the region. Borlaug’s first trip to South Asia was unsuccessful, as agricultural communities in both India and Pakistan resisted his proposals to increase their crop yield. By 1965, the situation had grown so desperate that the governments of both countries insisted he return and apply his expertise to the crisis.

President Richard Nixon welcomes Norman Borlaug to the White House after he received the Nobel Peace Prize. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)
President Nixon welcomed Norman Borlaug to the White House after Borlaug received the Nobel Prize for Peace.

In the West, popular books predicted catastrophic famine in Asia and the rest of the world, with deaths in the hundreds of millions. No improvements in food production could possibly keep pace with the growth in population, they claimed, but Borlaug set to work with his characteristic fervor, despite formidable obstacles. Seed shipments were delayed and contaminated, bureaucrats and farmers resisted change to their accustomed routines. With Pakistan and India at war, Borlaug’s teams often operated within sound of artillery fire, but he succeeded in importing and planting his Mexican seeds, and within a single season was producing crops on a scale South Asia had never seen before. As the threat of famine receded, war fever diminished and a fragile peace returned to the region.

Pakistan became self-sufficient in wheat production by 1968; India was self-sufficient in all cereal crops by 1974. Since then, grain production in both countries has consistently outpaced population growth. Borlaug’s achievements in Mexico, India and Pakistan were hailed as a Green Revolution. The scientists Borlaug had trained in Mexico and Asia spread his techniques and grains to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Indonesia, to continental South America and to Africa. Around the world, infant mortality rates fell and life expectancy rose. In many countries, the rising standard of living reduced social tensions and political violence.

Norman and Margaret Borlaug met in college and enjoyed 69 years of marriage. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)
Norman and Margaret Borlaug met in college and enjoyed 69 years of marriage. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)

By 1970, Borlaug had returned to Mexico, and was busy at work in the fields an hour’s drive from his home, when his wife brought word that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. He is the only agriculturalist ever to have been so honored. A descendant of Norwegian immigrants — men and women who had come to America to escape a food shortage in their homeland — Borlaug traveled to his ancestral homeland to be honored for securing the food supply for countless millions around the world. Shortly after receiving the Nobel Prize, Borlaug established a World Food Prize, to honor others who have made outstanding contributions to improving the world’s food supply. Every year, the World Food Prize helps focus the world’s attention on issues of food production.

In 2001, Norman Borlaug, age 87, revisits Green Revolution farms in India. (© Pallava Bagla/Corbis)
In 2001, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, at age 87, revisits his Green Revolution farms in India. (© Pallava Bagla/Corbis)

In the 1980s, Borlaug’s methods were criticized by some environmentalists for their reliance on chemical pesticides and fertilizers, but Borlaug was quick to point out that by increasing the productivity of existing farmland, his followers removed the necessity for destroying standing forests to clear additional farmland. In India alone, wooded areas the size of California were spared because of his work. Lobbying by Western activists blocked Borlaug’s first efforts in Africa, but when a devastating famine struck Ethiopia in 1984, the Japanese industrialist Roichi Sasakawa approached Borlaug about starting a new program there. In his 70s, Borlaug agreed to head the Sasakawa Africa Association, and was soon doubling grain production in half a dozen African countries. Through a joint venture with the Carter Center, founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the program trained over eight million farmers in 15 countries. While much of the continent lacks the roads and other infrastructure to modernize its agriculture, former President Carter took up the cause, and agricultural progress in Africa continues.

Dr. Norman Borlaug gives President George W. Bush a "thumbs-up" after receiving the National Medal of Science at the White House, 2006. The medal is the nation's highest scientific honor. (AP Images/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Dr. Norman Borlaug gives President George W. Bush a “thumbs-up” after receiving the National Medal of Science at the White House, 2006. The medal is the nation’s highest scientific honor. (AP Images/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

While crop failure and hunger persist in many parts of the world, the mass starvation predicted by many experts in the ’60s and ’70s was avoided by the efforts of Borlaug and his followers. As the years pass, it has become apparent that roughly a billion of the earth’s inhabitants owe their lives to the Green Revolution. Although famine was averted by his past efforts, Borlaug insisted that a concerted campaign to build roads and infrastructure in underdeveloped countries will be necessary to avoid mass starvation in the decades ahead.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Dr. Norman Borlaug, President George W. Bush, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as Borlaug is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. (© Matthew Cavanaugh/epa/Corbis)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Dr. Norman Borlaug, President George W. Bush, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as Borlaug is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. (© Matthew Cavanaugh/EPA/Corbis)

While Norman Borlaug’s accomplishments are largely unknown to much of the public in his own country, he received numerous honors for his achievements, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Streets and institutions are named for him in his native Iowa, in Minnesota, in Mexico and in India. Margaret Borlaug, Norman’s wife of 69 years, died in 2007. The couple had two children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. In his tenth decade, Dr. Borlaug continued to consult with CIMMYT in Mexico, to teach at Texas A&M University, and to travel, promoting his ideas to end world hunger. He spent his last years in Dallas, Texas, where he died at the age of 95.

Inducted Badge
Inducted in 1971

Growing up on a farm in Iowa, Norman Borlaug learned firsthand the importance of a healthy agricultural economy. In the depths of the Great Depression, he saw crop failures ruin small farmers, while food shortages and farm foreclosures drove ordinary people to violence.

An expert in plant pathology and genetics, Borlaug turned his back on a lucrative career in industry to work with small farmers in rural Mexico, developing new strains of highly productive, pest-resistant wheat and maize. When Mexico became self-sufficient in grain production, he traveled to India and Pakistan, war-torn countries teetering on the brink of famine and mass starvation. Introducing crops and techniques he had developed in Mexico, he multiplied the grain output in these South Asian countries many times over. In a few years, they were producing enough grain to provide for their growing populations without dependency on foreign aid or imports.

Seeds and techniques developed by Dr. Borlaug have since been implemented around the world by scientists he trained. The increased productivity of existing farmland has saved millions of acres of woodlands from deforestation. This milestone in human history, called “the Green Revolution,” saved the lives of a billion human beings who would otherwise have starved to death. In 1970, Norman Borlaug was honored with the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of the contribution he made to world peace by increasing the planet’s food supply.

Watch full interview

Dr. Borlaug, in the 1940s, you traveled to Mexico to work with the Rockefeller Foundation, improving the yield of the country’s wheat crop. You encountered many obstacles, from lack of equipment, fertilizer and seeds, to over-farmed soil, and worst of all, the plant diseases. When did you first realize how desperate the situation was?

Norman Borlaug: Well, I guess it really came home to me when I tried to organize the first Farmer’s Field Day at the Yaqui Valley, where I spent a good share of my life in research and development. I didn’t speak much Spanish at that time, and had great difficulty expressing myself.

Norman Borlaug: The first field day was in 1948.  By then, I had a new variety based on this Marquis that was always the lowest producer crossed to a Minnesota variety, Newthatch.  And it was still tall, but resistant to the main rust, and high-yielding in the tall wheats.  So I had a friend in a radio propaganda thing, and through him — who just recently passed away — he was my public contact. He was trained in communications.  And so he had a lot of propaganda where we were going to have this Farmer’s Field Day for lunch.  We would have barbecue ribs and beer — free.  Well, the day came and the only people that came were these young agronomists that were putting in the tests and two farmers.  And the two farmers, they were old pioneers, but I figured they were the poorest farmers in the valley.  But in the days following that — and I explained, showed them the new varieties that were being developed, including small plots that we were increasing for seed production — and told them that this was an ongoing program.  And later that week, one or two of the best farmers in the valley came out and they essentially said, “We heard there’s some interesting things going on here.”  And with my broken Spanish, I was trying to explain to them, “But you show them,” and they picked it up.  And so the second year, there was a big increase in numbers, and by the third year there were hundreds of farmers.

Was there a specific event that convinced you that advanced wheat farming would be critical to combating world starvation? Was it a gradual realization based on your research, or just the timing of it all coming together?

Norman Borlaug: The timing.  But also taking advantage of that timing.

When I saw how the farmers were reacting when they got the seed that we had developed, there was no problem with the farmer.  The problem was with the government policy maker because they controlled pricing, availability or non-availability of fertilizer and a whole series of things that didn’t permit us to be big commercial until those defects were corrected.  So I was very early aware — not in one country, but I saw it in Mexico, in Guatemala, in Peru, in Argentina.

So you saw this in other countries, the economic bureaucracy?

Norman Borlaug: It encouraged me to not wait for years and years and years to try to provoke personal change. You had to have the guts — if you’d permit me to use that gutter term — to make a decision and say, “We’re going to go for it.”

There was a strongly held principle of agronomy that seeds need a rest period after harvesting to store energy for germination before being planted. Everyone believed this principle. What made you believe otherwise?

George Harrar, Norman Borlaug's supervisor in Mexico. They clashed strenuously over Borlaug's proposal for the "shuttle breeding" of wheat in Mexico. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)
Borlaug and his supervisor, George Harrar, clashed over his proposal for the “shuttle breeding” of wheat in Mexico.

Norman Borlaug: This photoperiodism opened a whole new idea. Nobody knew why the Minnesota, Montana and University of Manitoba wheats didn’t fit in Mexico. We found out why. We had some of those new wheats planted in many places through the young people that we had trained that came from many countries. Not just the countries I’ve mentioned, but all of Latin America and the Middle East. They were tested, and you could see these differences.

Your boss, George Harrar, was against your experiment to expand into the Yaqui Valley Research Station. This was a region with substantial difference in altitude and temperatures, but you insisted on this double wheat season. Is that right?

Norman Borlaug: Well, we couldn’t have the time to produce a new variety, and this was in this whole area of photoperiodism. When it happened, we weren’t sure, because everybody said, “This guy Borlaug is a nut! Trying to adapt the northern wheat varieties to Mexico!” But here we had a Yaqui 48, which was the Marquis — the lowest yielding variety — and the Minnesota wheat, and we had selected out the early types, and they were happy in Minnesota and in Canada and in India.

Why did you think that the seeds from one region, which were supposed to need a dormancy period, could go to this different altitude and this different region? Why did you think that it was going to work?

Norman Borlaug: Because if it worked, we would cut in half the time to produce new varieties with two generations a year. First, we did it in Sonora, but later we did it in many other places.

Did you actually threaten to resign when George Harrar said you couldn’t take this equipment and go harvesting up in the Yaqui Valley?

Keys to success — Courage

Norman Borlaug: I stood up and I said, “We can’t produce the wheat that Mexico needs just in the Yaqui Valley or in Sinaloa.  We’ve got to work in all the areas where wheat wasn’t an important crop,  especially the Bajillo, and if I’m not permitted to do that, I’ll leave.”  I stood and I said, “If Joe Rupert wants to accept it, I’ll leave tomorrow.  Otherwise, I’ll wait until you have a satisfactory replacement.”  Before I got to the door, Joe Rupert stood up and walked out with me.  And when I got to my office and Dorothy Parker — who was our librarian — she handed me the mail.  And in this mail was a letter written to (George) Harrar by a very practical farmer in the Yaqui Valley who had his farm right adjacent to us.  He used to loan us machinery because originally in 1933 or 4 when Rodolfo Calles was governor, he set up that station where I worked.  It must’ve been a model for all of Latin America — good machinery far before its time, all kinds of the best strains of animals, both dairy animals and beef, chickens, goats, sheep.  When I arrived, this was all ruined.  The poor guy who was the director, Leon Manzo, he didn’t have any budget.  He wanted to do something, but that’s the way it was. ‘Til I figured if we could get two generations a year, we could overcome this faster.

Norman Borlaug addresses workers at the wheat research station in Mexico. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)
Dr. Norman E. Borlaug addresses workers at the wheat research station in Mexico. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)

But of course, this put me in difficulty with all of the ultraconservatives, including my professor, H.K. Hayes, when he came to Mexico the first time. I’m sure he knew what I’d been doing, because he was invited there by Sterling Workman, who was the head of the maize program at that time. We were looking at wheat that high, but in the background was some wheat that we were still just harvesting. And he said, “Where was this wheat grown last season?” And I said, “Well, this particular thing we’re looking at here came from Sonora.” He said, “Hell, I don’t know anything about the geography of Sonora.” I said, “Okay, it came and it was planted at 28 degrees latitude north, and we’re approximately 18 here, so that we are 700 miles south of the place where we shouldn’t have planted it. Look at it.” My professor said, “You take one step forward and one step backward.”

This revolutionized agriculture, not only in Mexico. What did this tell the world about planting?

Norman Borlaug: Yeah. This photoperiodism is sensitivity to hours of daylight and not just total daylight. It’s when you break the cycle. If you start those plants and let them grow through a short period of time and move them, they don’t act the way they acted before. It opens a whole series of new things that didn’t seem possible before.

How important was shuttle breeding to the success of what you were trying to do in Mexico?

Norman Borlaug spent over 30 years working with Mexican farmers to develop new strains of wheat and corn. (Courtesy of Norman Borlaug)
Dr. Norman Borlaug spent over 30 years working with Mexican farmers to develop new strains of wheat and corn.

Norman Borlaug: Well, in Mexico we had a change in rust, that made us create those first single crosses of Marquis times Newthatch — we called them Yaquis. We had four of them — they had different maturity — that were in these international tests, growing it maybe in the beginning at 20 to 30 locations. Later we had more than 100, including India and Pakistan. So the data confirmed our hypothesis: that you could cut the timing in half by planting early — taking a risk in Sonora on frost — harvesting, drying it, replanting and getting a second harvest by middle of June.

Keys to success — Vision

Norman Borlaug: Well, in my mind, I always said, why is it that — by then we’d done testing with the old Minnesota, Montana and Canadian spring wheats —  Why is it that those things you can’t bring down? Because we had the yield test with them included, comparing to the new ones.  You can’t bring them where the day length is 38 degrees or less, because they’re the lowest yielding wheats when that happens, and yet here are the crosses that came from this. I had been forced by rust to make a second group to avoid a rust epidemic in Mexico.  The first ones were Yaqui times — or I should say Marquis times — Newthatch from Minnesota.  The second one was Mentana, an Italian wheat crossed to Kenya that had rust resistance.  And combining those, this new rust didn’t cause us any trouble.

Do you believe there were any mistakes made in the Green Revolution? If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently?

Norman Borlaug: Well, if we had gotten these things into commercial production earlier, it would’ve made a hell of a lot of difference for millions of people in India and Pakistan and China.

There was criticism of the Green Revolution. Did you find any of it valid? How do you respond to criticism?

Norman Borlaug: Oh, there was an abundance of criticism. I used to tell our team, “Just don’t listen. Keep working.” I figured, from what we saw pretty early, that Pakistan and India had this big potential. We could prove those doomsayers wrong.

What first brought you to India and Pakistan?

Keys to success — Vision

Norman Borlaug: At that time the criticism of Pakistan and India, especially, they said, “With this amount of people, there’s no hope.  They’ve got to die off to a fraction of the population of today.”  And I had seen enough on these tests that my trainees had run in many countries. Do not accept that.  But there’s behind the scene, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, both of them together had decided that the breakthrough in production should come in India.  The need was the greatest and it was to be built on not wheat, but on sorghum and millet and cassava.  But then the Mexican wheats got into the picture and screwed all of that up.