BIFAD meeting focuses on agriculture research in Missouri and abroad

Mar 19, 2013

The Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) heard about University of Missouri (MU) research on Friday on subjects such as genetically-modified cassava, food contamination in the global supply chain and root biology in relation to drought. About three dozen professors, economists, students and scientists attended the public meeting at the university's Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute in Columbia, Mo.

During the first part of Friday’s summit, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) representatives and agronomy professors from Purdue University and the University of Maryland discussed strategies for global integrated pest management and sustainable intensification, which is the practice of ramping up agricultural production without increasing the amount of water or land used. MU faculty presented their agriculture research in the second part of the meeting. They talked about projects they were working on in Missouri that could be applied abroad or that they were working on with agriculture departments at international campuses.

Jill Findeis, who teaches Agricultural and Applied Economics at MU, talked about how her unit’s work in Mozambique on increasing bean productivity through the use of phosphorus-efficient seeds could inform policy.

“I think it’s a crime when people say … ‘We can’t get the seed,’” Findeis said. “And we know about that and we’ve heard about that over and over again. How do we get those systems? And how do we get that policy right? How do we get the regulatory framework right?”

MU Agronomy professor Bob Sharp highlighted the research his team was doing on root biology in relation to drought and why it was critical to keep funding it.

“Drought is the most important factor limiting crop productivity world-wide,” Sharp said. “It has huge economic effects both in the U.S. and globally. Obviously, it therefore also has major effects on global food security. And the situation is only going to get worse because of the growing world population.”

Nearly 100 people also watched a video of the meeting online in real time and posed questions to the board like “Does the BIFAD have a clear policy strategy for sustainably transforming and engaging young people in considering farming as a career choice?”

The board didn’t have an answer for that question, but said it would look into it going forward.

“There were several different comments from different speakers during the course of this morning which talked about the importance of youth in agriculture,” said board member Catherine Bertini. “And so perhaps we should pay more attention to that issue. And it would be a natural to try to connect to some of the agriculture-related youth groups that do exist.”

Friday’s meeting marked the first time that the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development had held one of its meetings at a land-grant university. BIFAD is a group of policy and agriculture experts appointed by President Obama that advises the United States Agency for International Development on global food security issues.  MU Chancellor Brady Deaton is the chairman of the board.