Colorado State University Professor to Work with State Department on International Food Policy

A Colorado State University professor has earned an influential national fellowship that will allow him to work with the U.S. Department of State to shape federal policy on global food security.

Rajiv Khosla, a professor in CSU’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, will work as a Jefferson Science Fellow in Washington, D.C., for one year beginning in August.

Khosla is an international expert in precision agriculture, an emergent field that uses global positioning and other remote sensing technologies to increase food production while protecting the environment. The approach significantly boosts crop yields by tailoring inputs, such as water and fertilizer, to precise and variable needs within a farm field.

“We are delighted that Dr. Khosla has been selected for the prestigious Jefferson Science Fellowship program,” said Rick Miranda, CSU provost and executive vice president. “Not only will he be very valuable to the effort, but following the appointment Colorado State will benefit for years to come from his experience.”

Khosla is among only 13 university professors nationwide to gain new appointments through the unique program, which draws upon some of the country’s best minds in science, engineering and medicine to hone federal policies on a wide range of complex issues.

Fellows return to their home campuses after a year of service, allowing them to deliver knowledge gained to students, university colleagues, local policymakers and citizens as they continue to serve as federal consultants for five additional years.

“You and the other 12 Jefferson Science Fellows in your cohort were chosen from a large number of professors nationwide who are highly accomplished in their fields of science and engineering,” William Colglazier, science and technology adviser to the Secretary of State, wrote to Khosla in a letter confirming his selection. “We are confident that you will make significant contributions to the missions of the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development during your fellowship year and in the years beyond when you return to your campuses as Jefferson alumni.”

Jefferson Science Fellows are assigned to a variety of bureaus within the U.S. Department of State to contribute scientific understanding to federal policies and diplomatic initiatives that advance security, democracy and prosperity for the benefit of the United States and the international community. The program, established in 2003, is named for President Thomas Jefferson and is coordinated by the National Academies.

During a rigorous selection process, program officials discussed with Khosla a need for improved federal policies on food security, widely considered a grand challenge of the 21st century as the global population is expected to top 9 billion people by 2050. Global food production must double in the next 40 years to meet international food needs.

Yet this dramatic increase in food production must be accomplished with limited land and water, while preserving critical environmental resources. That demands vast improvements and innovations throughout the global food system.

“Food security is among the most urgent issues of our times, and we’re proud that Dr. Khosla will contribute his knowledge of this complex problem in a way that will have tremendous impact in addressing global food needs,” said Craig Beyrouty, dean of CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “Dr. Khosla’s work exemplifies the use of contemporary agricultural sciences to improve food-production systems and environmental sustainability.”

Khosla, president of the International Society of Precision Agriculture, has developed an extensive program at CSU to understand and show how advanced positioning technologies, including GPS, can be better used to enhance agricultural productivity, profitability and resource conservation. He also serves on a federal panel, called the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board, that is sponsored by NASA and helps develop national policy on the use of space-based technologies.

“We have been farming for thousands of years, but working on precision agriculture for about 20 years. It’s a different mindset that focuses on input efficiency to achieve improved productivity and environmental sustainability,” said Khosla, who also is a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America.

In discussions with past and present Jefferson Fellows, Khosla has learned to expect extensive travel, complicated questions and voluminous policy work during his appointment.

“I cannot think of a better opportunity to contribute to the lives of others on a global scale,” he said. “We are international leaders in agriculture, and our food policies affect the rest of the world.”

CSU has had one previous Jefferson Fellow, Marvin Paule, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, who served in 2007-08.