Blog In Memoriam: Prof. Dr. Rainer Schultze-Kraft, A Trailblazer in Agricultural Science

Rainer Schultze-Kraft

With heavy hearts, we mourn the passing of Prof. Dr. Rainer Schultze-Kraft, whose indelible legacy will forever enrich the fabric of our research in tropical forages germplasm. Dr. Schultze-Kraft dedicated over five decades of his life to advancing agricultural knowledge and safeguarding forages germplasm worldwide. 

Arriving at CIAT (now the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT) in 1973, Dr. Schultze-Kraft embarked on a remarkable journey of exploration and discovery. His pioneering spirit led him on 39 germplasm collection missions across Latin America, Asia, and Africa. In remote corners of the globe, he tirelessly traversed rugged terrain, driven by an unwavering commitment to preserving biodiversity and securing the future of our planet's forage resources. 

Rainer Schultze-Kraft visiting field trials in Caquetá, Colombia. (Credit: Belisario Hincapié)

During these expeditions, Dr. Schultze-Kraft exhibited unparalleled dedication and expertise, amassing a staggering 9,680 seed samples from 14 countries spanning 99 taxonomic genera and countless species. His tireless efforts not only enriched our understanding of forage taxonomy, agronomy, and genetic resources but also laid the groundwork for future generations of agricultural scientists. 

One of his most enduring contributions was his participation in the international team of forage specialists organizing the development of the Tropical Forages interactive selection tool in 2005 and updated in 2020. Recognizing the invaluable wisdom held by forage specialists across the globe, he pioneered a revolutionary approach to capture and codify their expertise. This innovative tool has since become an indispensable resource, empowering farmers and researchers alike to make informed decisions and optimize forage management practices for the benefit of agriculture and the environment. 

Rainer Schultze-Kraft received in 2016 the Friendship Award from the Chinese government, for his long-term work with tropical forage scientists in the country.

In addition to his groundbreaking fieldwork on forage germplasm evaluation and characterization, Dr. Schultze-Kraft was a visionary leader in academia. Recognizing the importance of disseminating research findings and providing high-quality tropical forage knowledge to a wide group of stakeholders in the tropics and making it accessible to the less developed countries, he was instrumental in the development of the online journal Tropical Grasslands-Forrajes Tropicales, in collaboration with long-time editor of Tropical Grasslands, Mr Lyle Winks of Australia. The journal provides a platform for tropical forages scholars worldwide to share their results, insights and innovations.

Beyond his professional achievements, Dr. Schultze-Kraft was beloved by colleagues and mentees alike for his warmth, humility, and unwavering dedication to mentorship. His passion for cultivating the next generation of scientists ensured that his influence would continue to shape the future of agricultural research for years to come.

A visit to research trials in Cauca (Colombia) with colleagues from Agrosavia (former Corpoica) and Universidad del Cauca (Credit: Belisario Hincapié)

As we bid farewell to a true titan in the field of forage genetic resources, let us honor his memory by carrying forward his legacy of excellence, curiosity, and consistency. Though he may no longer walk among us, his spirit lives on in the countless lives he touched and the enduring impact of his work. Dr. Schultze-Kraft will be deeply missed but never forgotten. 

In gratitude for his profound contributions to our community, we extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues during this time of mourning. May his legacy continue to inspire and guide us in the noble pursuit of scientific discovery and service to humanity.