The needs to feed and power a growing, changing world, while also preserving the environment and vital natural resources, are among our greatest global challenges of the 21st century. Sustainably providing for nearly 10 billion healthy people by 2050 will require that we increase available food by at least 50%, and achieve a major shift toward clean, renewable sources of energy.

The Danforth Center employs nearly 250 individuals from 24 countries. Scientific teams focus research at the nexus of food, energy and the environment to improve the productivity and sustainability of agriculture.  Interactive teams of scientists develop unique platforms to discover underlying principles about how plants work. We then convert that knowledge into useful crops and products, and partner with organizations that are best positioned to solve problems where they exist around the world.

This means more productive staple crops that provide better nutrition, more sustainable crops that have a smaller environmental footprint, creation of leading-edge companies to bring innovation to market, and well-trained plant scientists who will guide the next generation.

Danforth Center at a Glance

  • Employees: 267 total from more than 20 countries; 193 scientists (22 Principal Investigators)
  • Major research areas: basic plant science discovery and technology development; food security crop improvement and sustainability; next-generation/sustainable bioenergy
  • 2017 Peer-reviewed scientific publications: 100 for a total of 1113 since inception
  • Institutes and organized programs:  Institute for International Crop Improvement; Enterprise Rent-a-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels; Science Education and Outreach
  • Faculty and graduate student affiliations: Washington University, University of Missouri Columbia, University of Missouri St. Louis and Saint Louis University
  • 2017 Operating Budget:  $30M – 44.4% research grants and contracts; 40% draw from endowment appropriated for spending; 6.7% donor gifts; 4.7% core facility fees; 4.2% other income
  • Top funding agencies/foundations:  U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. National Science Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Located in St. Louis, Missouri, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center was founded in 1998. The independent, nonprofit research center was the result of Dr. William H. Danforth, Founding Chairman, and his vision that scientific knowledge, when applied to solving critical challenges, has the potential to lift families, communities and nations from poverty and empower people everywhere to enjoy better health and a higher quality of life. The Center was named after Dr. Danforth’s late father, Donald Danforth, the onetime leader of the Ralston Purina Company. Ralston Purina grew rapidly under his leadership and was a pillar of American agriculture as a major producer of breakfast cereals and feed for farm animals and pets.

The original Danforth Center building was constructed in 2001. On April 15, 2016 the William H. Danforth Wing was dedicated in honor of the Founding Chairman. The Danforth Center is committed to enhancing the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science and creating new jobs for future generations. The most visible result of this commitment is the Bio Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park located on the north eight acres of the Center's campus. In 2008, the BRDG Park building was constructed on the north end of the Danforth Center campus, and houses approximately 15 companies and organizations that contribute to the growing bioscience and ag tech ecosystem in the region.

Learn More About the Danforth Center