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The Work in Mexico Begins

The 1940s was a time of transition for Norm. In 1942 he received his PHD from the University of Minnesota. He went to work as a microbiologist for DuPont as part of the war effort. In 1944, he began working for the Rockefeller Foundation and started his wheat research in Mexico.

Research Work Begins

1937 - Norm marries Margaret, gets his BS in forestry and attends an Elvin Charles Stakman lecture on wheat rust, his first introduction to wheat pathology. It was a seminal year in Norm's life.

1938 - Norm start graduate school as an assistant to Stakman. Learn more about Stakman

1940 - Norm receives his Masters

1941 - Pearl Harbor is bombed and the U.S. enters WWII. Learn more about Pearl Harbor

1941 - Vice President Henry Wallace initiates a plan to help increase wheat production in Mexico so that Mexico becomes capable of feeding itself.

1942 - Norm receives his doctorate and begins work with DuPont. Because of his scientific skills, he is given an "Essential to the War Effort" classification.

1943 -   Dr. Elvin Stakman and Dr. George Harrar begin recruiting Borlaug for the Rockefeller Foundation wheat research program in Mexico. Video - The Norman Borlaug Legacy (ISAAA Videos)

1944 - In October Norm heads to Mexico. Harrar hands over the Mexico wheat program to Norm and Margaret and daughter Jeanie arrive. Norm establishes a wheat research station in the Yaqui Valley.

1945 - First wheat test plots are planted in the Yaqui Valley. "That summer of '45 four plants showed good resistance to stem rust. So I decided to start with them." (Vietmeyer) 

1947 - Son William "Billy" Borlaug is born.

1948 - Borlaug's first four made-from-scratch-wheats are released.  They were named the Follow-Up Foursome and consisted of: Kentana 48, Yaqui 48, Nazas 48 and Chapingo 48.

1949 - Mexican farmers are beginning to change their attitude towards Borlaug's wheat research. In April almost 200 farmers show up for the second Farmer Field Day.                          


Vietmeyer, Noel. Our Daily Bread: The Essential Norman Borlaug, Bracing Books., Lorton, VA, 2011.


Research Expands

1950 - The Toluca research farm is added. Along with the Sonora work station, these are his two primary work sites.

1951 - Mexican farmers in Central Mexico begin planting Borlaug seeds on a broad basis. Finally, Norm was having an effect on Hunger. (Vietmeyer)

1952 - Mexico's wheat production jumps from 400,00 tons to 700,000 tons. Mexico's food supply now relied on the four wheats Borlaug had recommended. (Vietmeyer)

1952 - Polio epidemic in the U.S. reaches it greatest height. Learn More about Polio and its eradication

1953 - A new wheat rust, 15B, threatens Borlaug's varieties. Soutions were sought in Winnepeg, Canada, where Norm put his seeds into the hands of American and Canadian researchers he nicknamed the "International Stem Rust Nursery"

1953 - To help "Billy" overcome some health problems, Norm writes the Little League headquarters for permission to start Little Leage Baseball in Mexico.  The Aztec Little League is formed.

1953 -  Norm acquires a dwarf strain of wheat from Orvil Vogel. From this strain he developed a semi-dwarf wheat that ultimately changed Mexican wheat production. By the early 1960s, Mexican wheat production was six times larger than in 1944.          

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