Latinos in Agriculture Leaders Conference 2014

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feature imageLatino college students interested agricultural careers are invited to attend the fourth annual Latino’s in Agriculture Leaders Conference Oct. 17-19, 2014 in Grapevine, Texas.

Click here for the conference’s official website.

The conference’s objective is to provide a forum where industry, government and education
converges to discuss building a Latino agricultural workforce for the future.

The Conference provides a venue for sharing information and ideas for the best and most promising practices in outreach to Hispanics for
Agriculture.

Click for PDF information packet

Click for PDF information packet

Secretary of State stresses Borlaug influence at Africa Leaders Summit

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john kerry borlaugAugust 4, 2014 WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in remarks he made Monday as part of a working session on resilience and food security in a changing climate, discussed the work of Dr. Norman Borlaug as it relates to fighting hunger and poverty today.

The session was part of the Africa Leaders Summit.

Kerry pointed out that in 2014, the centennial birth year of the late Father of the Green Revolution, “the statistics around hunger today are nowhere near what (Borlaug) hoped for.”

Kerry stressed the number of hungry people on Earth, connecting growing hunger trends to changes in climate and pollution. He stressed the need for action and discussed some of the initiatives taking place now to fight hunger and poverty across the globe.

Read the full transcript of Secretary Kerry’s remarks here. 

Borlaug Institute seeks experts of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Extension

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By GABRIEL SALDANA | The Borlaug Institute Dr. Juan Landivar (second from right) and his team of scientists from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in Weslaco, TX lead a team from the Borlaug Institute around the Center's aquaponics experimental greenhouse. The lettuce seen here is grown in water, not soil, fertilized by koi fish housed in a container adjoining the water-floating bed where the plants are embedded.

By GABRIEL SALDANA | The Borlaug Institute
Dr. Juan Landivar (second from right) and his team of scientists from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in Weslaco, TX lead a team from the Borlaug Institute around the Center’s aquaponics experimental greenhouse. The lettuce seen here is grown in water, not soil, and is fertilized by koi fish, which are housed in a container adjoining the water-floating bed where the plants are embedded.

Dr. Tim Davis, the Borlaug Institute's regional director for Asia, lifts a floating bed of lettuce for the Institute's Interim Director Dr. Elsa Murano, who inspects the experimental aquaponic rig in a greenhouse of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center, Weslaco, TX.

Dr. Tim Davis, the Borlaug Institute’s regional director for Asia, lifts a floating bed of lettuce for the Institute’s Interim Director Dr. Elsa Murano, who inspects the experimental aquaponic rig in a greenhouse of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center, Weslaco, TX.

A strong tie to the comprehensive system of expertise across Texas A&M AgriLife is paramount in the Borlaug Institute’s mission to fight global hunger and poverty through agricultural science. That is the message the Institute continues to deliver in a series of visits to nine strategically located AgriLife Extension and Research centers across the state.

“These visits are a measure to engage expertise from across Texas A&M’s expansive system of agriculture scientists,” said Borlaug Institute Interim Director, Dr. Elsa Murano.

The visits, which run from June through September, 2014, have been geared toward locating expert scientists and learning how their expertise can contribute to specific agricultural development projects around the world in coming months. To that end, Murano has traveled with agricultural development experts of the Institute to engage AgriLife Center scientists in an exchange of ideas on where specific expertise can fit into the larger scope of the organization’s international work.

At the AgriLife Research Center in Beaumont, for example, Borlaug Institute staff converged with Center Director Dr. Ted Wilson and his team, which is comprised of the world’s preeminent rice scientists. The meeting fostered an in-depth review of the Center’s work and how it might gel with opportunities for developing the rice sector in Myanmar.

Borlaug Institute Interim Director Dr. Elsa Murano talks rice opportunities in Myanmar with Beaumont AgriLife Research Center Director Dr. Ted Wilson.

Borlaug Institute Interim Director Dr. Elsa Murano talks rice opportunities in Myanmar with Beaumont AgriLife Research Center Director Dr. Ted Wilson.

In Weslaco meanwhile, Research Center Director, Dr. Juan Landivar, alongside his team of research scientists, led the Borlaug Institute on a tour of the Center’s aquaponics experimental greenhouse. The Institute and Center teams discussed how the developing technology might be applicable in regions of the world where water scarcity is a challenge.

In Corpus Christi, AgriLife Research Center and Borlaug Institute teams converged to review how an array of the Center’s capabilities in aqua culture might fit with projects in Asia that deal with sustainable water ecosystems.

A team of scientists at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in Weslaco TX takes in a lecture on the mission and organization of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University.

A team of scientists at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in Weslaco TX takes in a lecture on the mission and organization of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University.

All projects of the Borlaug Institute require a scientific approach to building – and in some cases rebuilding – the agricultural industries of developing countries across the globe. Collaboration with scientists of varied agricultural backgrounds, such as those existing at Texas A&M AgriLife’s Research and Extension Centers, is essential for building well-rounded programs for success.

“Their participation is integral to continuing the Institute’s global battle against hunger and poverty,” Murano said.

The Borlaug Institute by the end of its tour will have visited AgriLife Centers in Beaumont, Weslaco, Corpus Christi, Overton, Dallas, Amarillo, Lubbock, San Angelo and El Paso.

Any scientists of the Texas A&M system interested to participate in the series of discussions is welcome to contact Kasey Verboom of the Borlaug Institute for information.

Dr. Norman Borlaug’s Granddaughter Reacts to World Food Prize Laureate Announcement

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Julie Borlaug

Julie Borlaug

WASHINGTON D.C. — Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of the late Dr. Norman Borlaug and external relations director of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, called this year’s World Food Prize Laureate “one of the greatest assets in fighting hunger and poverty today.”

Borlaug’s remarks come after the June 18 announcement of 2014’s only World Food Prize laureate, Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, one of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s “most esteemed colleagues,” she said.

“I’d like to congratulate Dr. Rajaram on behalf of the Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M University for his hard work in carrying on my grandfather’s legacy while building his own,” Borlaug said. “Sanjaya Rajaram was one of my grandfather’s most esteemed colleagues. I know he would have been proud to see the World Food Prize awarded to someone he held in such high regard and who has contributed so much to the fight against world hunger and poverty.”

Dr. Rajaram worked with Dr. Borlaug in Mexico and has continued his own life’s work by developing 480 wheat varieties and contributing to a world wheat production increase of roughly 200 million tons across 51 countries, said U.S. Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn during the announcement ceremony.

2014 marks the first year since the award’s creation by Dr. Borlaug in 1986 that The World Food Prize has been presented to someone working in wheat, the crop for which Dr. Borlaug is venerated and globally renowned as the Father of the Green Revolution.

“This is an especially momentous award in the light of my grandfather’s centennial year,” Julie Borlaug said recognizing 2014 as the year that would have marked her grandfather’s 100th birthday.

The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University designs and implements projects of agricultural development in many countries. The Institute works with governments, NGOs and private partners in boosting agricultural economies to benefit smallholder farmers and agricultural practitioners of the developing world.

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing — without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs — the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

Project closes, continues to build agricultural expertise, livelihoods in Indonesia

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An Indonesian farmer harvests sap for making palm sugar, a product whose market has been strengthened through formation of cooperatives via the TPC project.

Hendrik Adrian Ngala harvests sap for making palm sugar, a product whose market has been strengthened through formation of cooperatives via the TPC project.

By GABRIEL SALDANA | The Borlaug Institute

INDONESIA — Universities and smallholder farmers of Indonesia continue to fight hunger and poverty together by building stronger industry around the country’s tropical plants – the culmination of a four-year project led by the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University.

The Indonesia Tropical Plant Curriculum Project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, paired the Institute with three partner universities of Indonesia: Bogor Agricultural University, Bogor; Udayana University, Denpasar; Sam Ratulangi University, Manado.

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Together, the partners revamped university curricula to seek unknown health benefits and innovative commercial uses for underutilized plants abundant across Indonesia. The project’s in-country collaborators continue to deliver beneficial, science-based information to farming communities across the country of islands, empowering smallholder farmers and youth to build strong agricultural livelihoods on bolstered university curricula, good agricultural practices, innovative new food products and more comprehensive food labeling practices.

Davis

Davis

“Training is done in individual villages to educate the members of those villages and communities about the value of tropical plants, how they might be utilized and how they might be conserved,” said Dr. Tim Davis, the Borlaug Institute’s regional director for Asia.

By the TPC project’s March 2014 closure, 17 Indonesian university courses had been enriched with new instruction on tropical plants – teachings that now reach a student enrollment of about 1,100. Graduate students transfer their lessons on tropical plants to smallholder communities and vocational students.

Hariyadi

Hariyadi

“Response from the (graduate) students has been very good,” said Dr. Pur Hariyadi, director of Bogor Agricultural University’s Southeast Asia Food and Agriculture Science and Technology Center. “We work very closely with the student association here; they have a lot of ideas on how to work with the community.”

Grade school students, through the TPC Project, also receive instruction on the benefits of tropical plants – a measure to cultivate the next generation of agricultural leaders. For example, students at SDN Cihideung Ilir 03 Elementary School in Bogor have begun learning about the properties and benefits of specific medicinal plants.

Nurfadillah

Nurfadillah

Wulida Nurfadillah, a 6th grade student there, claimed top laurels in the TPC project’s writing contest on medicinal plants. She “wrote about ginger because ginger is one of the rhizomes, which has many benefits,” she said. “My parents were so happy and said I have to keep studying to reach my goals.”

Meanwhile, the TPC Project trained 1,000 community members on the importance of conservation and utilization of tropical plants. Nine documents outlining good agricultural practices are now available to farmers across the country through the project. About 40 entrepreneurs received training related to tropical plant product development and 12 products were created or revamped through TPC efforts.

“We look at developing tropical plant-based products that can be sold here in Indonesia and maybe even elsewhere, eventually, that allow for economic development in the communities,” Davis said.

In several regions, cooperatives have also been formed by the TPC project to give producers greater market bargaining power. Before the Sun Rises Forestry Cooperative near Manado, for example, has banded together to train new producers of palm sugar and to more effectively dictate a fair price for the product. A secondary effect has been to move some co-op members away from distilling and selling illegal liquor made from palm sap.

Lasut

Lasut

“After I introduced the TPC program (in this community,) now they know how to make palm sugar,” said Dr. T. Lasut, forestry lecturer and palm sugar expert of Sam Ratulangi University. “We still have problems (with the liquor) but now we’re trying to have standardization to get the product to sell in supermarkets… we’re supported by the government because they know this product can decrease the production of the alcohol.”

In Padangan Village near Bali, the Tunas Bamboo Cooperative has been organized as an effort of the TPC project to boost the market for a type of savory bamboo shoot exclusive to the region.

Lakir

Lakir

“Since formalizing the cooperative… the production and the price of bamboo shoots are increasing and it is automatically increasing the welfare of the community,” said Made Lakir, the cooperative’s leader.  “As the leader, I also feel happy and am so motivated because the market is very promising.”

Meanwhile, other TPC research has looked at previously ambiguous health benefits of some tropical plants. The widely used kenari nut, for example, was found to contain high levels of antioxidants and shown to reduce cholesterol in lab rats, said Dr. Robert Molenaar, an agricultural engineer at Sam Ratulangi Unversity.

New findings about the health benefits and nutritional content of foods are now being used to improve food labeling practices, which food processors, like those at the Airmadidi Village Kenari Nut Bakery near Manado, hope will add to their products’ consumer appeal.

Nurali

Nurali

“This is how research goes back to the community,” said Erny Nurali, an agricultural scientist with Sam Ratulangi University.

By the TPC project’s closure in March, in-country university partners had already begun to draft proposals for funding to continue developing industry and education around tropical plants. The country’s directorate of higher education had already allocated funds for continuing food processing and labeling education near Manado, Nurali said.

Visit http://borlaug.tamu.edu/projects-by-region/asia/indonesia-tropical-plant-curriculum-program/ or http://seafast.ipb.ac.id/tpc-project/ to read more about the Indonesia Tropical Plant Curriculum Project.

The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University is a part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. The Institute designs and implements agriculture development projects to assist smallholder farmers and food producers across the globe in building their own food security and livelihoods through agricultural science. 

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NEWS RELEASE: Borlaug Institute Leads Effort to Rebuild Central American Coffee Industry

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May 19, 2014 | COLLEGE STATION, TX — The largest project of its type for Texas A&M AgriLife aims to reconstruct a Central American coffee industry still recovering from the coffee rust disease epidemic that devastated the region to the tune of $1 billion in the harvest season of late 2012 alone.

The research project, an almost $5 million Global Development Alliance (GDA) with principal partners at Texas A&M University, will focus research efforts in coffee-producing regions of Central America, the Caribbean, and Peru.

A coffee leaf displays rust disease

A coffee leaf displays rust disease

The GDA is led by the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and co-funded by the Institute’s World Coffee Research (WCR) program.  Project partners include coffee research and development institutions from Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Dominican Republic and Jamaica (PROMECAFE), the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), the Feed the Future initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), and the Federal University of Viçosa.

The United States Agency for International Development’s Administrator Rajiv Shah said, “By partnering with innovators from College Station to Colombia, we can promote broad-based economic growth for the world’s most vulnerable people. Fighting epidemics like coffee rust empower entrepreneurs and create sustainable livelihoods for families – helping entire communities become self-sufficient.”

The project seeks primarily to rebuild livelihoods and food security for smallholder farmers whose income was ravaged by the rust epidemic. As such, research will focus on establishing a higher quality Central American coffee sector through plantation renovation with high quality, disease resistant coffee varieties and a constant pipeline of newer, higher performing varieties.

“The Borlaug Institute is confident in the team we’ve assembled to rebuild the Central American coffee industry through rebuilding its producers’ livelihoods and food security,” said Dr. Elsa Murano, interim director of the Borlaug Institute.

“PROMECAFE and WCR are confident in this GDA’s ability to turn things around for the Central American coffee producer who has been hit hard with a double whammy of Leaf Rust and Low Prices,” said Dr. Tim Schilling, Executive Director of World Coffee Research. “Central America must shoot for the higher end of the market and this GDA will allow that to happen by providing high quality, rust resistant varieties tailored for specific eco-geographic zones.”

A coffee farmer picks some of the last healthy coffee beans of the 2013 season.

A coffee farmer picks some of the last healthy coffee beans of the 2013 season.

Although much of the work will be done in Central America, two coffee biotechnologists will work as post-doctorates at the Texas A&M Institute for Biotechnology and Genomics under direction of Dr. Martin Dickman, in the department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. An innovative rust bio-control approach will also be executed with the Federal University of Viçosa in Brazil and Kew Gardens in London.

The Central American coffee leaf rust crisis of 2012 was caused by climatic and pathological interactions further aggravated by the unpreparedness of the sector due to low coffee prices and underscored by the use of older, rust-susceptible varieties. Estimates by PROMECAFE, the regional coffee organization, reveal that overall coffee production is down by 20% compared to 2011. Roughly half of the approximate 1M hectares of coffee acreage were significantly affected by coffee leaf rust resulting in lower production and less farmer income.

Current rust mitigation actions through fungicide spraying are essential to keep coffee production viable for 2014 and 2015. However, they do not provide the producer with a sustainable means of preventing future crises and corresponding production and profit losses without constant use of expensive fungicides.

“This multi-stakeholder initiative creates essential linkages between industry, research institutions and NGOs to provide coffee farming families with more tools and greater capacity to confront a growing number of threats to their coffee and their livelihoods,” said Lindsey Bolger, WCR Chairperson and VP of Coffee Sourcing and Excellence at Keurig Green Mountain. “By engaging with WCR, coffee roasting companies like Keurig Green Mountain can leverage their interest in ensuring a long-term supply of high quality coffee while helping to address the immediate needs of coffee producing families and communities in Central and South America.”

Because Central America can grow in the specialty coffee sector as a major supplier of top drawer coffees for the most discriminating and lucrative markets, there are five priorities for the project.

The first priority is to assist producers in making the best investment decisions in choosing varietals for plantation renovation. The second is to provide assistance to the private and public sectors in how to multiply the best varieties and make them available to producers.

While this is being done, coffee production trend data will be collected, including socio-economic variables that would be paramount in preventing future biological disasters such as the rust epidemic. This third effort will allow a comprehensive analysis of the viability of smallholder coffee in Central America for use by industry and government planning.

The final two priorities involve safeguarding coffee by creating a pipeline of readily available, high-quality, pest-resistant genetic material to advance the best varieties to farmer evaluation and eventual commercialization, and supporting a multi-stakeholder effort to create a high-tech breeding program to provide the highest level of quality-tailored, adapted, climate resilient, and pest resistant ‘breeding’ blocks.

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Texas A&M Master Student Talks Soil Research in Ghana

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Carrying on the Borlaug Legacy: Benjamin Davies

In the above video, Benjamin Davies, a master student of Soil & Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University, discusses his ongoing research on soil tilling and amendment in Ghana.

Davies’ research seeks to find which soil practices and technologies most efficiently establish fertile soil and better crop production for small holder farmers in Ghana.

McWhorter Receives Distinguished Service Award

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Dr. G. Michael McWhorter (center) receives AIARD's Distinguished Service Award at the organization's annual conference June 2 in Washington D.C.

Dr. G. Michael McWhorter (center) receives AIARD’s Distinguished Service Award at the organization’s annual conference June 2 in Washington D.C.

AIARD Honors Borlaug Institute Associate Director

June 3, 2014 | WASHINGTON D.C. — Dr. G. Michael McWhorter was presented this week with the Association for International Agriculture & Rural Development’s Distinguished Service Award. He was honored Monday as part of AIARD’s 50th annual conference in Washington D.C.

The Borlaug Institute’s associate director and international training coordinator was awarded specifically for his role in proposing and implementing AIARD’s Future Leaders Forum, which, since its inception in 2005, has fulfilled its mission by funding trips for 121 finishing graduate students to AIARD’s annual conference to meet with perspective employers in agricultural development.

McWhorter reacted to the nod by stressing that implementation of the Future Leaders Forum was a team effort.

“We want to focus on what we were able to do as a team of people,” he said. “I certainly didn’t do this by myself and I’m proud of the team it took to get this put together.”

He continued to point out that the mission of the Future Leaders Forum overshadows the successes of individual contributors.

“What I’m most proud of is that it’s succeeded to connect young people coming out of school to the international development career track,” McWhorter said. “We’re infusing new blood into international development; that’s what I’m most proud of.”

AIARD’s annual Distinguished Service Award is presented to persons who make innovative contributions to AIARD programs, advance AIARD’s purpose through public service and serve AIARD and the international arena at large for significant periods of time.

The annual Future Leaders Forum, part of the AIARD annual conference, is funded by the United States Agency for International Development. It has previously been funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Ph.D student talks ag and nutrition research, photos for data collection

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In the above video, Christopher Bielecki, a Ph.D student of agricultural leadership, education and communication at Texas A&M University, reviews the research he’s conducted in Guatemala on agricultural production, nutrition and poverty. Bielecki discusses how photos might present a new approach to collecting data compared with traditional survey methods. He reviews his research from the perspective of affecting stronger connections between agricultural production and nutrition.

Ph.D student to represent Texas A&M at Chicago Council Symposium

silvano assanga

Silvano Assanga, a Ph.D student of plant breeding at Texas A&M University and recipient of the prestigious Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholarship, was chosen as a 2014 Next Generation Delegate for The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual Global Food Security Symposium. He represents Texas A&M at the Washington D.C. event May 21-22, 2014.

Assanga’s research at Texas A&M focuses on wheat breeding and genetics, specifically drought tolerance, rust and a complementary study on wheat streak mosaic virus. He plans to graduate early 2016.

In the video above, he reacts to being selected as a Symposium delegate and reflects on the honor of receiving his scholarship.