EAST LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Michigan State University researchers will get $24.5 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of a long-term effort to help developing nations find sustainable and secure food sources, officials said.

The East Lansing school announced earlier this week that funding for the USAID’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes aims to increase productivity of smaller farmers and enhance diets of the poor in the U.S., Africa and Central America.

The Future Innovation Lab is led by Michigan State University and the funding extends a more than 30-year partnership with USAID on international research. The effort involves a number of researchers, agriculture research institutions and development organizations.

“Beans and related legumes are critical crops in developing countries,” said Irvin Widders, Michigan State University horticulture professor and director of the lab, said in a statement. “They are nutrient dense staple foods that help ensure household food and nutritional security.”

Key areas of study include genetics, plant breeding, soil health, integrated pest management, human nutrition and marketing.

“The lab will continue the incredible legacy of MSU’s commitment and scientific leadership,” Widders said. “We will tackle new changes resulting from population growth, climate change and persistent malnutrition, especially among young children and women around the world.”

The USAID renewed its support for the effort in part due to past efforts involving Michigan State University. In Central America, for example, the introduction of improved high-yielding bean varieties and the creation of community seed banks have boosted farmers.

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