Perspectives Online

CEFS team shares agroecology research at Mexican agricultural university forum

The seminar at Mexico's leading undergraduate agricultural university provided opportunities for international scientists — including representatives from CALS — to share agroecological and sustainable agricultural research strategies.
Photo by Art Latham

Four N.C. State University Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) research agriculturalists presented exceptionally well-received lectures last fall at an international symposium at Mexico's leading undergraduate agricultural university.

CEFS develops environmentally, economically and socially sustainable farming systems through long-term interdisciplinary research.

The Fourth International Agroecology Seminar at the Autonomous University of Chapingo (in Texcoco, Mexico) provided a forum for CEFS researchers and those from agricultural universities in Mexico, Brazil, Germany and Cuba to discuss interdisciplinary agroecological and sustainable agriculture research design and strategies. More than 200 Mexican students and educators participated in the mid-October week of marathon information exchange sessions at UACh.

Agroecology is the interdisciplinary study of ecological interactions within agricultural ecosystems.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences presenters included Dr. Paul Mueller and Dr. Michelle Schroeder, both of the Department of Crop Science; Dr. Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, Animal Science and Crop Science; and Bryan Green, CEFS small farm unit manager. All delivered their talks in Spanish.

Mueller, who led the group, is coordinator of the CEFS Farming Systems Research Unit; Schroeder directs the agroecology minor program; and Luginbuhl develops sustainable meat goat forage/browse-based feeding and management systems.

Mueller and Dr. Mike Linker developed the College's initial agroecology course, first offered in 1999. In 2004-2005, the Crop Science Department hired Schroeder and added several courses as part of a newly established agroecology concentration within the crop science major, as well as a new agroecology minor.

Schroeder notes that while few agroecology programs exist at U.S. universities, the University of Chapingo's program houses more than 300 students. "We were privileged to interact with the dedicated faculty and students and help them celebrate their 15th anniversary as an agroecology program," she says.

The CEFS-UACh partnership is growing.

"During the last few years," says Green, "we have hosted five interns from Chapingo's agroecology department, with Mexican students living, working and studying with U.S. students from all over the country. All students deepened their understanding of sustainable agriculture from a more profound international perspective, learning about its political, economic and social aspects."

Chapingo students, who work with community-based development programs throughout Mexico and at two on-campus field research sites - in agroecology and organic production - also experienced such activities as the management of organic production of vegetables and small fruits and small animal husbandry, and outreach programs into immigrant communities and nearby Goldsboro, Green says.

"As a result," says Mueller, "these students impressed our faculty with their knowledge of sustainable agriculture principles and practices, their strong work ethic and their interest and commitment to working with local communities."

-Art Latham