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Hana Khanh's picture

New strategies and models in Central Asia

Even though the first poster session of Tropentag 2017 began late in the afternoon in the AULA, the audience was still excited and enthusiastic for the 11 presentations on Central Asia. Honestly, one hour and a half is not enough time for all the researchers to present their work in the depth their passion showed they deserved.

And that was exactly the case for Welcome Zimuto from the Czech university of Life Sciences. He brought to the session a poster describing his work on modeling alternative profit maximisation and crop-land allocation strategies for two cooperative herb farms in Georgia. Although the limitation of the model he used was when the price of inputs fluctuates, his results are applicable and should interest further development.

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Meanwhile, Elena Kan presented her research on communication strategies for preservation of the flood-plain forest in the Amudarya River Basin in Uzberkistan. Her efforts to work with a variety of different stake holders for her research was both interesting and valuable.

Late start. Inaudible. THE NEW DIRECTION OF AG!

One audible theme carried across the session: a need for distinctly long-term thinking when seeking solutions for food system transformation. Despite the challenging circumstances, the fourteen presenters of Poster Session 1 "Institutions and Livelihoods" on Wednesday afternoon brought innovative research into discussions of gender and rural sociology.

From whether childhood experiences influenced the decision to migrate or not from rural areas in Ethiopia, to considerations of gender and social hierarchy in forward-looking decisions within Tanzanian vegetable production, these posters were representative of the direction future agricultural research is moving in.

While not complaining about the additional 60 seconds added to her presentation time due to the late-start and missing presenters, Mst. Tania Parvin from the University of Hohenheim explained, "I think next time we should start on time... the last person might be presenting in front of no audience."Speaking from an air of frustration with the volume of the presentations Parvin's colleague Mary added the suggestion, "Maybe next time they should provide a mic?"

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Soil Matter(s) - More Attention Please!

In the AULA, the poster session started with only a handful of patient Tropentag participants as the plenary session dragged on without end. After a few posters were presented, it got more and more crowded, to the point that standing two meters away from the speaker made it impossible to hear, much less understand. Conversations among the gaggle watching made it even harder. Camera and t-shirt made it clear I was there on business, and people made way so I could capture the the main content.

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Based on the presented posters during the first session, soil and its components (it's a 4-dimensional object!) play a vital role in sustainable food production and therefore our future. The young researchers tried to find ways to use the many qualities of soil. Vitalij from the Juelich Institute had researched the effects of recycling sugarcane bagasse, a byproduct of industrial processing, when applied in soybean cultivation to increase nutrient availability and uptake.

Young scientist fights hunger

The Hans Hartwig Ruthenberg Graduate Award is usually given to promising young scientists working towards improving farming systems and alleviating hunger. This year Ulrike and Sarah were honored.

Ulrike Beckert is presenting her rewarded Master thesis

Ulrike Beukert

How will we meet the rising demand of rice in future owing to the growing population? For a long time, plant breeding has been the popular answer to this question. However in most cases, the yield remains stagnant. The high expense incurred by the current current approach is a huge challenge. Ulrike Beukert, Plant Breeding student from Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg has a new approach on rice breeding. Her reserach on “Genome-based identification of heterotic patterns in rice,” used only a small selection of hybrid to predict the entire parent-line. Biostatistic analysis of yield and gene marker data helped her increase the prediction acurracy and improve yield.

Hans H. Ruthenberg Award for Graduates

The Hans Hartwig Ruthenberg Graduate Award is given to the promising young scientist who work for improving the farming system and constantly fight for hunger. This year Ulrike and Sarah were honored.

Ulrike Beckert is presenting her rewarded Master thesis

Ulrike Beukert

How will we feed the growing population and high demand of rice in the future? For a long time, plant breeding has been popular answer to this question. However, flat results and high use of resources is a growing challenge. Ulrike Beukert, Plant Breeding student from Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg has a new approach to rice breeding. Her research on “Genome-based identification of heterotic patterns in rice,” used only small selection of hybrid to predict the entire parent-line. Applying bio-statistic analysis of yield and gene marker data, she can increase the prediction accuracy and improve yield.

Hana Khanh's picture

Future Agriculture in Africa: Challenging but Hopeful

With an interesting background as both a plant breeder and politician, minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security of Sierra Leone, Monty Jones talked about challenges in African agriculture but with great belief in the next generation of researchers.

Keynote Speaker Monty Jones

He shared with the audience his memory of witnessing riots over rice shortages when he was in secondary school. This experience was what pushed him to become a researcher, and ultimately creator of ‘"the New Rice for Africa (NERICA)’’. It is used all across Africa currently, and Monty Jones won the World Food Price in 2004. He is now a minister of Sierra Leone. Using himself as an example, he encouraged the young researchers in agriculture, "HOPE and DETERMINATION will take you very far’’.

In his speech, he gave a brief picture of the existing obstacles that Africa is facing in agriculture, such as underutilization of arable lands, roughly 40% of it is uncultivated, low use of technology, climate change, poor market infrastructure, and the challenges of urbanization. However, with an optimistic perspective on African agriculture, he mentioned many ways to overcome these challenges.

The Future (of Ag) is female (Cooperation)

Following a series of male speakers, leading expert Professor Agarwal guided her audience in considering alternative pathways forward in the future of agriculture. "We cannot wait for technological fixes… we need institutions based and built upon farmer cooperation," emphasized Professor Agarwal in her keynote address.

Referring to group farming cooperatives and joint liability groups as solutions, this poet and policy advocate highlighted some of the widely-discussed topics within the field of agroecology: the feminization of agriculture as a global phenomenon, the changes it will bring, and ways to increase productivity without sacrificing social inclusion.

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I had a personal desire for Professor Agarwal to have gone one step further in her talk. Integrating group farming cooperatives drastically enhance productivity along with equity in smallholder agroecosystems in the Global South. However, what we need now are clear and developed movement towards implementation. She played it safe, when her speech could have been a fire starter, to spark discussion.

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Food for Thought: The Welcome Addresses

It’s the 19th international conference since 1999, and over 1,000 registered participants from over 68 countries assembled to discuss our vision of a new path for agriculture, while still providing for the growing world population.

The inaugural speaker, Professor Mathias Becker from University of Bonn, emphasized the crucial role of young scientists and journalists, giving special thanks to us student reporters, who” link the world outside with the Tropentag conference”.

In accordance with the representative of the German Minister of Economic cooperation and Development, both acknowledged the massive deprivation of natural resources from intensive agriculture, e. g. deforestation, big monocultures and pesticide use. They also both mentioned that feeding the soaring demand for food, even while arable land was limited, would require intensification.

Can intensification be the only answer and solution? No, nor can CRISPR/Cas9 be, said Michael Hoch, Rector of the University of Bonn. He had further questions, what role does modern biotechnology play? How can small-scale farmers in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa be considered as a key factor to considerably change agricultural output? In contrast to keynote speaker Monty Jones, the minister of agriculture of Sierra Leone, the welcome speakers were less certain about how to feed the world in the future.

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