Student awardees exemplify collaborative nature of international agricultural research

Bell-TestenCapacity building doesn’t occur spontaneously. Nor is it achieved through individuals and organizations acting independently. Two Ohio State graduate students in CFAES exemplified these notions with their recent selection as U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security, a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Patrick Bell, pictured, left, a Ph.D. student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), and Anna Testen, right, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Plant Pathology, each were awarded a graduate research grant on Dec. 23, 2013, to fund research that the students have been involved in through ongoing projects with other International Agricultural Research Centers (IARC) or National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS).

The Borlaug Fellows program seeks to foster leadership and scientific expertise among U.S. graduate students to effectively study and promote sustainable food systems in developing countries.

In Tanzania, boosting soil quality …

Bell, who interned in summer 2013 at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania, will continue his research on sustainable intensification for improving soil quality in that country. His research mission to Tanzania last year was supported by CFAES’s Office of International Programs in Agriculture (IPA), which currently administers a five-year, USAID-funded food security initiative at SUA called iAGRI.

Bell’s faculty adviser, Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science in SENR and director of the school’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, also has participated in the iAGRI project.

The integration of Bell’s research into the existing organization of the iAGRI project provided an ideal opportunity for both CFAES and SUA to mutually build their capacities.

“Through these arrangements, American graduate students are gaining valuable exposure to international research, while at the same time collaborating with Tanzanian scientists to develop technical capacity that builds long-term sustainability, thereby enhancing food security,” said Mark Erbaugh, IPA director.

… and battling vegetable diseases

Testen, a student under the advisement of Sally Miller, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, not only conducts research in Miller’s Vegetable Pathology Laboratory but has worked with the iAGRI project in Tanzania as well. She traveled to Tanzania in August 2013 to conduct a survey of tomato diseases in the region and to work with local farmers in developing soil quality indicators.

With Miller serving as lead principal investigator of the International Plant Diagnostics Network (IPDN), a global project within the USAID-funded Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPM-CRSP), Testen has studied plant diseases that pose critical threats to vegetable crops in developing countries, providing her with the opportunity to be involved in the type of international collaborative research that the Borlaug Fellows program seeks to foster.

Growing CFAES’s worldwide impact

Erbaugh emphasized that these awards are both a means and an end for building sustainable international agricultural research networks. “These institutional relationships are not shaped overnight, but often result from many years of researchers working collaboratively on different projects at various IARCs and NARSs.”

He said that IPA is proud to contribute to this exchange of knowledge through its own iAGRI program, as well as through a number of other international research and training programs funded by USAID and other organizations.

As U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security, Bell and Testen will undoubtedly further CFAES’s effort to internationalize its research, and ultimately to improve agriculture worldwide.

For more information, contact Dr. Erbaugh at erbaugh.1@osu.edu or 614-292-6479. Contact the writer, Beau Ingle, IPA program manager, at ingle.16@osu.edu, 614-292-4221.

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