IANR hosts USDA Cochran Fellows from Indonesia

Cochran Fellows
IANR faculty with seven Indonesian fellows participating in the Cochran Fellowship Program. (Credit: Jenny Gravely I ALEC)

August 9, 2016

Lincoln, Neb. — The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the Unviersity of Nebraska–Lincoln hosted seven fellows from Indonesia Aug. 1 - 12. The fellows were here as part of the Cochran Fellowship Program through the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service. IANR faculty trained the fellows on a number of topics related to agricultural biotechnology.

The Cochran Fellowship Program provides short-term training opportunities to agricultural professionals from middle-income countries, emerging markets and emerging democracies. Fellows come to the United States generally for two to three weeks to work with U.S. universities, government agencies and private companies. The hands-on trainings help fellows increase their technical skills in areas such as biotechnology.

IANR was successful in its bid to host the fellows in large part due to its ability to involve faculty from a number of different fields of study. Faculty leading the training represent the departments of food science and technology; plant pathology; agricultural leadership, education and communication; entomology; agronomy and horticulture; and agricultural economics.

“Focusing this training on agricultural biotechnology is perfect for IANR, because it’s such a broad field,” said Liana Calegare, coordinator in the IANR Office of Global Engagement. “We were able to get a large team of expert faculty involved from several departments, which has created a transdisciplinary learning opportunity for the fellows and the faculty themselves.” The IANR Office of Global Engagement coordinated the fellowship experience.

U.S. biotechnology regulations, international biotechnology policies, possible effects of biotechnology on small farms, use of biotech crops in the U.S., and best practices for sharing genetically modified organism (GMO) knowledge with the public are just a few of the areas that the Indonesian fellows received training on. In addition, the fellows made visits to Pioneer Hi-Bred, Nebraska Innovation Campus and UNL’s South Central Agricultural Laboratory near Clay Center where they learned about extension education efforts in the areas of insect resistance and environmental impacts of genetic engineering (GE).

“I have a scientific understanding of agricultural biotechnology, but this training has been very helpful in understanding how I can actually apply my research in Indonesia,” said fellow Wien Kusharyoto, a researcher at the Research Center for Biotechnology within the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

For fellow Sri Hendrastuti Hidayat, a faculty member in the Department of Plant Protection at Bogor Agricultural University in Bogor, Indonesia, the training will assist her in creating more awareness of agricultural biotechnology in her home country.

“Scientists in Indonesia have the knowledge and skills to develop biotech crops,” Hidayat said. “Our biggest challenge is educating both producers and consumers about biotechnology.”

To help the fellows overcome this challenge, they participated in training sessions focused on science literacy, science communication and public engagement of critical biotechnology issues. These sessions were led by faculty from the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication.

Rick Goodman, research professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, coordinated the training program for the Indonesian fellows. Goodman detailed genetic engineered crop safety as well as regulations and evaluations of GE crops during the training. Goodman then traveled with the fellows to Washington D.C. where they met with regulatory agency representatives.

Indonesia has become a country of focus for IANR in recent years. IANR strengths in sustainable agricultural practices, natural resources preservation and early childhood education align with current needs for improvement in the Southeast Asian country. In addition, Indonesia recently joined the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas project, a joint effort led by researchers at UNL and Wageningen University in the Netherlands. The project provides robust estimates of untapped crop production potential on existing farmland based on current climate and available soil and water resources. With this in mind, IANR hopes the new connections made during the Cochran Fellowship Program will foster additional collaborations in education, research and extension.

Other faculty involved with the Cochran Fellowship Program include Jeff Bradshaw, research and extension entomologist in the Department of Entomology; Mary Garbacz, assistant professor of practice in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication; Mark Lagrimini, professor in the Deparment of Agronomy and Horticulture; Jamie Loizzo, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication; Amit Mitra, associate professor in the Department of Plant Pathology; and Wes Peterson, professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics. 

Liana Calegare
Coordinator of Global Engagement