International agricultural scholars visit Iowa State

Maggie Curry

Scholars from around the world visited Iowa State University on Monday as part of a week-long visit to learn about Iowa agriculture.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said the group was composed of 10 farmers and industry leaders from Australia, Brazil, England, Ireland, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Nuffield International, an international nonprofit organization that supports people who want to make a difference in the world of agriculture, is behind the visit.

“We don’t usually seek out student scholars, they usually contact us,” said Director of Global Programs Denise Bjelland.

Bjelland said the visiting scholars were agriculture professionals in their home countries and had already been to multiple countries, including Singapore, India, parts of Europe and the United States, to learn about different agricultural practices. Bjelland said it emphasized Iowa State’s global reputation as a leader in agricultural research and education.

“It’s unusual to host a group like that,” Bjelland said. “Their experience was different than groups before.”

During their day at Iowa State, the visiting scholars learned about Iowa State’s programs, agriculture and economics and visited the horticulture farm to see research. They also visited men who were establishing a tilapia fish farm in the middle of Central Iowa. Iowa State had done a feasibility study for the farm in its initial stages.

“We really enjoy showcasing the college of agriculture and life sciences,” Bjelland said. “We’re proud of what we do. Global agriculture and food issues are so important.”

Bjelland said part of the program’s benefit to Iowa State is the trade of information. Iowa State teaches the visiting scholars about current research, and the scholars share some of the issues and things they see in their home country.

Some of the scholars are interested in the use of the internet to spread farming knowledge and agricultural information, some in the use of robotics to address lack of labour. Another developed the first gluten-free barley. Some were interested in sustainability or soil use, others in dairy farming and the wool industry.

Bjelland is part of the Global Programs office in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The office helps faculty with global initiatives, including the study abroad program, facilitating student scholar visits and matching them with professors in their area of interest and drafting grant proposals to bring long-term scholars to campus.

One program the college has a strong relationship with is the Borlaug Fellowship. A current Borlaug Fellow, Madjaliwa Nzamwita from Rwanda, is on campus until July 22. The Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program promotes food security and economic growth by providing training and collaborative research opportunities to fellows from developing and middle-income countries, according to the program website.

Through a competitive grants process, ISU-CALS has been selected by USDA-FAS to host 73 Borlaug Fellows from over 20 countries beginning in 2002.  Borlaug fellows are generally scientists, researchers or policymakers who are in the early or middle stages of their careers, according to the Global Program’s website.