International Professor of Global Development, Department of Global Development
Director of International Programs, Department of Global Development
International Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics, School of Integrative Plant Science Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
Ronnie Coffman serves as director of International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. For over 40 years, Dr. Coffman has indefatigably empowered remarkable cadres of people in the pursuit of better lives for people in some of the world’s most populous countries. He has dedicated himself to helping smallholder farmers with scarce resources whose lives are frequently bypassed by agricultural science and innovation.
Dr. Coffman is the vice-chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, an international consortium of more than 1,000 scientists from hundreds of institutions working together to protect the world's wheat supplies. The global effort was launched in 2005 in partnership with CIMMYT, ICARDA, FAO and the late Norman E. Borlaug. He is currently principal investigator for a wide-range of international projects focused on food security and global development, including: Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat and NextGen Cassava. In 2013, he won the inaugural World Agriculture Prize for his achievements guiding scientific and social change across continents and generations. In 2019 he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his distinguished contributions to food security, including innovative research programs, support for women throughout science, and development of worldwide science communication programs.
Dr. Coffman strongly supports gender initiatives that promote professional development for young women scientists. In 2011, he was honored with the Mentoring Award from the Women in Agronomy, Crops, Soil and Environmental Sciences. In 2013, when he won the inaugural World Agriculture Prize, he donated the $50K award to Advancing Women in Agriculture through Research and Education (AWARE), an initiative at Cornell whose members believe that empowering women as an underserved group holds the greatest potential to make significant impacts in agricultural development.
He was also integral in establishing the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) program in Ghana, a program that educates and trains the next generation of plant breeders for Africa, in Africa. WACCI celebrated its 13th anniversary in 2020.
Previous positions include Associate Dean for Research (1993-2001); Director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (1993-2001); Chair of the Department of Plant Breeding and Biometry (1987-1993); and Plant Breeder at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Coffman's work has been important to the development of improved rice varieties grown on several million hectares throughout the world. He has collaborated extensively with institutions in the developing world and has served as a board member for several international institutes.
Dr. Coffman grew up on a farm in Kentucky, and completed his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Kentucky. His Ph.D. is from Cornell, for which Norman E. Borlaug served on his thesis committee and oversaw his research, and with whom Coffman had a lifelong association.
- Doctorate, Cornell University, 1971
- Master of Science, University of Kentucky, 1967
- Bachelor of Science, University of Kentucky, 1965
International agriculture & development
Dr. Coffman's research has focused on a wide range of problems in crop improvement and applied plant genetics. As an International Professor of Plant Breeding, he helped expand and enhance the international research, teaching and extension activities of the college and the Department of Plant Breeding and Biometry. In collaboration with several faculty members in the department, he secured funding and established teams to develop and utilize genomic maps in major crop plants including rice, wheat, barley, oats, and potato. Coffman supervised 15 graduate students and taught a number of undergraduate courses. He helped establish the Cornell Genomics Initiative, the Institute for Genomic Diversity, and the college’s student organic farm at Dilmun Hill.
Awards & Honors
- American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow (2019)
- Outstanding Career Accomplishment Award (2019), Cornell CALS
- Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished Cornell University Professor (2016), Cornell University
- Yaqui Award (2016), CIMMYT
- World Agriculture Prize (2013), Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations
- Women in Agronomy, Crops, Soils, and Environmental Sciences Mentoring Award (2011), American Society of Agronomy / Crop Science Society of America / Soil Science Society of America
- Chancellor’s Award for Faculty Service (2006), State University of New York
- International Agronomy Award (2005), American Society of Agronomy
- Fellow, American Society of Agronomy (1993)
Grant portfolio of $270 million since 2002
- Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement. Funded by USAID 2019-2024. $29,000,000.
- Next Generation Cassava Breeding. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department of International Development (U.K.)2018-2023. $35,000,000.
- Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat. Funded by the Department of International Development (U.K.) 2016-2019. $10,500,000.
- Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2016-2020. $24,000,000.
- Next Generation Cassava Breeding. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2012-2017. $25,000,000.
- Banana Improvement in Uganda. Funded by USAID 2011-2016. $7,074,806.
- Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat II. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department of International Development (U.K.) 2011-2016. $40,000,000.
- Agricultural Education & Innovation Systems. Funded by USAID/India 2010-2015. $9,629,756.
- Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2008-2012. $26,830,848.
- Participatory Curriculum Development in India. Funded by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges 2006-2008. $120,255.
- Biotechnology Assessment for Mali. Funded by USAID/Mali 2004-2008. $810,935.
- Banana Improvement in Uganda. Funded by USAID/UG 2004-2008. $2,649,462.
- Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II. Funded by USAID 2002-2012. $26,855,517.
- Support of headquarters activities, ISAAA. 1992-present. $2,621,902.
Ronnie in the news
- Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture
- Cornell AgriTech
- School of Integrative Plant Science
- Department of Global Development
- School of Integrative Plant Science
- Plant Breeding and Genetics Section