Tag Archives: international

Galbraith coaches Croatia-Serbia to fifth place at international soil contest

John Galbraith, associate professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, coached the team of Croatia and Serbia to fifth place in the group judging event at the First International Field Course and Soil Judging Contest in Gödöllő, Hungary. Seventy students and young professionals from 28 countries and six continents attended the training and competed in the soil judging contest, held to commemorate 2015 as the International Year of the Soil.

Croatia-Serbia team at the International Field Course and Soil Judging Contest in Gödöllő, Hungary. Left to right: Natasa Nikolic (Serbia), Marko Runjic (Croatia), John Galbraith (USA), Mario Mesarić (Croatia), Natasa Bacanovic (Serbia)

Croatia-Serbia team at the International Field Course and Soil Judging Contest in Gödöllő, Hungary. Left to right: Natasa Nikolic (Serbia), Marko Runjic (Croatia), John Galbraith (U.S.), Mario Mesarić (Croatia), Natasa Bacanovic (Serbia)

Sixteen teams were formed, and Galbraith was asked to coach the team of two men from Croatia and two women from Serbia. That team finished behind fourth place Spain, third place Hungary, second place U.S., and first place the Uganda, Sudan, and South Africa team. The Croatia-Serbia team finished in eighth place overall. “I am extremely proud of the young people who competed for Croatia and Serbia. They had never been in a contest before, and had not even met each other (or their coach) until the night before the training. Like the other teams, they met other potential colleagues, enjoyed the event and learned a great deal. This proves the value of soil training and soil judging contests in improving the field skills of young soil scientists.”

The U.S. team won the overall trophy and had the high individual (Kristen Pegues of Auburn). The contest followed four days of lectures and field training of soil description and classification. Galbraith presented two lectures on soil profile property assessment and classification after helping to organize the contest handbook and develop training materials. He represented Virginia Tech and the International Union of Soil Science, where he is Chair of Commission 1.4 Soil Classification.

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Positive youth development in Senegal

Students from the primary school gardening with students from Virginia Tech, ENSA, and ISFAR; 4-H school garden project.

Students from the primary school gardening with students from Virginia Tech, ENSA, and ISFAR.

By Ozzie Abaye, Bineta Guesse, Kathleen Jamison, and Tom Archibald in collaboration with ENSA, ISFAR, ANCAR, and Peace Corps-Senegal

About 4-H

4-H, the youth development branch of U.S.D.A. and Cooperative Extension, provides programming that invests in young people to evolve as independent, contributing and caring members of society. 4-H provides a positive foundation for youth by cultivating the essential elements of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity. Most of the 4-H programs are designed to engage, excite and integrate young people in the field of agriculture while offering opportunities for them to address larger global issues related to food security and environmental, social, and political needs. The 4-H curriculum and supporting programs fuse the social, cultural, and agricultural aspects of a community through hands-on experiential learning activities. Continue reading

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Westwood leads workshop on plant genomics and bioinformatics in Morocco

Group of Morocco workshop participants.

Participants of the workshop in Morocco.

A group of US researchers with expertise in parasitic plant genomics recently travelled to Morocco to exchange information and coordinate research with Moroccan colleagues. Over 10 days of discussions and field visits, the group sought to connect the fundamental biology of plant genomes with the goal of improving faba bean production in Morocco.

The parasitic plant Orobanche crenata (crenate broomrape) is a devastating weed in North Africa. It primarily attacks faba bean in Morocco, attaching to the roots of the crop and growing unseen in the soil until eventually producing a large floral shoot that emerges above ground. The effect of parasitism on this important crop is devastating, with yields reduced to zero under conditions of heavy parasite infestation. Despite decades of plant breeding effort, few cultivars of faba bean have resistance to the parasite and has led to a precipitous decline in acreage under faba bean cultivation. Into this grim situation the new technologies of genomics brings hope of understanding plant parasitism and breeding improved faba bean varieties that can withstand Orobanche attack. The Moroccan government recently began to invest in “next-generation” sequencing technology with the goal of improving faba bean and other crops of national importance. However, although next generation sequencing is powerful, it generates massive quantities of data that pose new challenges for analysis and interpretation. Continue reading

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Students study in Ecuador over winter break

Over “wintermester“, four faculty and sixteen students were involved in a two-week study abroad to Ecuador.

The purpose of the course was to expose students to Ecuador’s diverse ecosystems and examine the connection between culture, agriculture, and the environment. Excursions included the Galapagos Islands, Tiputini Biodiversity Station deep in the heart of the amazon Rainforest, and visits to indigenous cultures in the Andes Mountains.

What makes this study abroad so unique is the diversity of the places that we visited and working with University of San Francisco (Quito) faculty that gave lectures on topics such as plastics pollution of marine environments and the history of Ecuador. Students had the opportunity to snorkel with sea turtles, marine iguanas, and sea lions in the Galapagos, observe the incredible biodiversity of the Amazon at the top of a canopy tower, and examine indigenous cultures and agriculture in the Andes mountains.

In each region students were able to observe how population growth, resource extraction, climate change, and tourism are degrading the environment and the natural resources that people depend upon.

“It was a life-changing experience that let me discover a completely new culture and climate that I have always wanted to see,” said Rebecca Jones, a senior majoring in environmental science.

“It was incredibly fun, but also forced me to face my fears and open my eyes to the world around me,” said Carrie Ortel, a junior majoring in crop and soil environmental sciences.

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Arlington Extension recently hosted delegation from Russia

At the end of January, VCE Arlington had the pleasure of hosting a delegation from Russia and showing them the valuable work that Extension does in our community. The visit was sponsored by the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Program and funded through a grant that Extension was jointly awarded from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The two-day visit focused on sharing information with the Russian professionals on Extension’s successful Master Volunteer model.

Russian delegation

The visit began with a volunteer showcase where Extension volunteers talked about their programs and volunteer experiences. Presentations were given by volunteers and leaders from Master Gardeners, Master Food Volunteers, Master Financial Education Volunteers, Energy Masters, Master Naturalists and 4-H.

After a lunch prepared by our own Master Food Volunteers, our guests visited officials from an important Extension partner, Arlington County, and continued to see Extension in action with a visit to the Save the Earth 4-H Club at Barrett Elementary School.
Continue reading

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Niki McMaster and Nina Wilson attend mycotoxin workshop in Italy

The U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative supported two Virginia Tech scientists, Niki McMaster and Nina Wilson, to attend a training course in Italy focused on detection techniques for mycotoxins in food and feed.

Niki McMaster is a research associate in David Schmale’s lab and Nina Wilson is a Ph.D. student in Schmale’s and Ryan Senger’s labs. The workshop was held Oct. 6-10, 2014, and was hosted by the Institute of Sciences of Food Production of the National Research Council of Italy, and the International Society for Mycotoxicology in Bari, Italy.

McMaster and Wilson attended lectures and participated in hands-on laboratory training for cutting-edge technologies for mycotoxin detection and quantification. Participants and instructors at the workshop included people from Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. The group was comprised of students and researchers from academia along with government regulatory agencies and extension officers.

Research at organizations is mainly focused on developing new methodologies for the detection of mycotoxins, toxigenic fungi, microbial pathogens and allergens in food and feed. The International Society for Mycotoxicology is focused on promoting research on mycotoxins and toxigenic fungi leading to reduced exposure to mycotoxins, enhanced food safety, and an increased public awareness of mycotoxins and toxigenic fungi.

Italy workshop

During the workshop, a number of key points were discussed in order to mitigate mycotoxin contamination in food. These included:

  • Good agricultural practices such as planting, preharvest, harvest, and transport;
  • Good manufacturing practices such as sorting, milling, and processing;
  • Good storage practices such as correct silo operation, and the control of temperature, moisture, and insects; and
  • Good hygienic practices such as washing hands and wearing protective clothing.

Continue reading

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Program teaches students from Virginia Tech and Senegal about sustainable agriculture

“Nit, nittay garabame” is a proverb in Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal that loosely translated means, “People are medicine for people.”

That’s true of the cultural exchange between Virginia Tech and the West African nation of Senegal.

In 2014, 12 Senegalese graduate students call Virginia Tech home while 13 students from the Hokie Nation visited the country during a break through a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences-led exchange.

Since 2009, the Senegalese government has invested heavily in agricultural initiatives. The country has the potential to increase its agriculture-based income with its abundant arable land, an agriculture industry with an entrepreneurial spirit, and access to international markets through its port.

But developing countries such as Senegal also face challenges in their efforts to achieve food security from the value chain — the way food is distributed and marketed — to the way crops are grown. Climate change and erosion have degraded soil in many developing countries to the point that the land yields much less due to drought or undernourished soils that lack the appropriate moisture or climate to support crop growth.

Senegalese graduate students such as Sekouna Diatta learn to grow crops in poor soil through conservation agriculture techniques taught at Virginia Tech. Continue reading

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Students experience Feed the Future mission in Senegal

During winter term, 13 students and four faculty from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences traveled to Senegal to work on several projects, ranging from vegetable and tree planting to silage making and water purification.

Students were able to understand the mission to “Feed the Future” from a variety of perspectives, developing an appreciation for the complexities of global issues. This video shows some highlights from the trip, including the students and community in action and the impact of these projects. Looks like a great experience!


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Students explore animal care in Britain

A. Ozzie Abaye, professor of crop and soil environmental sciences, and Samantha McCarter, a junior majoring in dairy science and animal and poultry sciences, arrive in London.

This past summer, a group of animal and poultry sciences students traveled to England, Scotland, and Ireland to compare animal behavior and management between the United States and United Kingdom. During a two-week study abroad program, the group interacted with community members, farmers, researchers, and policymakers to learn how animal care differs in the United Kingdom.

Cynthia Wood, associate professor in animal and poultry sciences, led the program which focuses on research and applications of applied animal behavior and management.

The group stopped at the Roslin Institute in Scotland to attend several applied animal behavior research presentations. The Roslin Institute is where Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned, was born.

The group stopped at the Roslin Institute in Scotland to attend several applied animal behavior research presentations. The Roslin Institute is where Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned, was born.Students toured London’s Writtle College, one of the largest land-based institutions, including its companion animals program that houses peacocks. The program also included visits to beef cattle farms in Scotland, a livestock auction farm and homestay with a farmer in Ireland, dairy farms where they sampled fresh goat cheese, and some close encounters with a prized stallion and foals in Dublin.


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Virginia Tech students interview farmers in Ecuador on conservation agriculture

Michael Barrowclough, Casey Gresham, Frankie Dowd, Stephanie Myrick, Amy Hubbard, and Catherine Goggins

From left: Michael Barrowclough, Casey Gresham, Frankie Dowd, Stephanie Myrick, Amy Hubbard, and Catherine Goggins

Six undergraduate students from Virginia Tech traveled to Ecuador in May and June to conduct research on conservation agriculture. Their research was part of a collaborative program among agricultural scientists and students from Ecuador and the United States. The program is led by Virginia Tech and is part of a sustainable agriculture project supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The purpose of project is to design and test conservation agriculture practices on limited-resource farms. These practices include minimum tillage systems, cover crops, and crop-residue retention. The students spent two weeks in Quito fine-tuning their language skills before traveling to Guaranda in Bolivar province where they conducted a survey of farmers in the Chimbo watershed.

The survey obtained farmers’ views on various factors affected by conservation agriculture such as yields, costs, labor use, erosion, soil organic matter, and risk. The purpose of the survey was to assess the importance that farmers place on these factors. The data will be used by graduate student Michael Barrowclough in his Ph.D. dissertation. The students interviewed more than 200 farmers under the guidance of Barrowclough and professors from the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. At the end of the program, the students presented their results to the farmers in the upper part of the watershed. Catherine Goggins, a junior in AAEC, said, “Getting to meet many individuals and families was a clear highlight. Even though the interviews were short, I feel privileged to have met and worked with so many nice people. And the whole experience put students in a great position to learn a lot first hand, through the development of the survey, Spanish lessons, survey distribution, and discussions.”

The trip was not all work. On weekends, the students visited other parts of the country such as the coast, Baños, Otavalo, and the equator. They also climbed the Chimborazo volcano. Student Frances Dowd said, “I really liked how we were not babysat. I enjoyed being able to work collaboratively on different aspects of the project and to travel to other areas. The trip was an amazing experience.”

Students said they gained insights from the experience about farming in Ecuador and their future as well. Casey Gresham, a student from Urban and Regional Planning, said, “As someone studying international development who had never been to a developing country, this experience was a must for me. It really allowed me to discover my strengths and weaknesses when working on a project abroad, and it assured me that I chose the right degree path and interest. I absolutely loved the experience.”

AAEC senior Stephanie Myrick said, “I really feel a great connection and understanding of farming in Ecuador and the troubles they face. I enjoyed talking to the farmers every day. It gave me a great perspective on global issues and the similarity of farmers in Ecuador and America.”

“I enjoyed being able to use both majors, Spanish and Ag Econ, every day. I thought the Spanish lessons to prepare students for the survey aspect of the trip was key in understanding and getting adjusted to the culture, accents and new surroundings. Another positive aspect was working with the local scientists; they were very helpful and fun to be around. It was a great experience to get a sense of the true non-tourist side of Ecuador,” said Catherine O’Donnell, a junior studying Spanish and agricultural and applied economics.

The program was funded by Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (SANREM) program at Virginia Tech with Funds from USAID, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, AAEC, and the University Honors program. Faculty members on the trip were Jeff Alwang, Darrell Bosch, and George Norton.

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