International visit begins to pay dividends

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News Release Distributed 07/25/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – When a group of LSU and LSU AgCenter professors visited Brazil universities last spring, it was more of a fact-finding mission. But recent developments have proven the trip was well worth the effort, according to Lawrence Datnoff, head of the AgCenter Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology.

“The plan was to get more information about the Brazilian government’s Science Without Borders program and to see how we could partner with their universities,” Datnoff said.

The program is designed to exchange scientific information and provide American and Brazilian students the opportunity to increase their knowledge of global agriculture.

Datnoff said he learned about the program in 2012 and began looking for ways to get the LSU AgCenter involved.

The process began when Gary Byerly, dean of the LSU Graduate School, got LSU on the list of universities to be considered as a participant in the program, he said.

“From there, Hecta Zaparta, executive director of International Programs at LSU, contacted the Brazilian Embassy in Houston. Both of us travelled to the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C., to make our pitch with a formal presentation,” Datnoff said.

Following that meeting, Datnoff and the LSU group visited Brazil. And in November, Brazilian faculty members visited LSU.

“Now we have a number of students coming or are already here to pursue their Ph.D. in our departments of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology and entomology and the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences,” Datnoff said.

The LSU AgCenter School of Animal Sciences also is involved in the program, said school director Gary Hay.

“At this point, we have sent one of our professors down there to teach a few classes,” Hay said. “And we have a Ph.D. student down there this summer. So it can go both ways.”

Hay said Brazil's government is offering full scholarships for their undergraduate and graduate students to study abroad to increase their knowledge of global agriculture.

Datnoff said the goal of the Brazilians is to provide their graduate students with diverse educational experiences.

“We have three students coming this fall,” Datnoff said. “That’s almost $200,000 over four years that they are funding.”

Datnoff said the goal is to bring these bright students here for their studies and to open up more collaboration on research. “It’s always better to have more than one scientist working to solve a problem.”

The Brazilians are dealing with a lot of the same problems as Americans when it comes to issues like disease in plants, he said.

“This is a great benefit for us because their students will come here to learn,” Datnoff said. “And basically, they’re bringing their own resources with them.”

Brazil is a huge beef-producing country, and they also have problems with a number of the same diseases in animals, Hay said.

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