Last Thursday, 26 August 2010, CIMMYT said farewell to a group of 21 visitors from Texas A&M University, USA, that spent two weeks in Mexico learning about CIMMYT’s history, current projects, and its world-wide contributions to the advancement of wheat and maize. The group included 18 students (ranging from undergraduate to doctorate students) and three professors—one of which was Ronald Cantrell, former head of the CIMMYT maize program and former director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). During their time at CIMMYT, the group saw laboratories, equipment, fields, and had the opportunity to meet many of the members that make CIMMYT’s work possible.
The group divided their time between the El Batán,Toluca, Tlaltizapán, and Agua Fría stations, which provided a diverse glimpse at the various environments and ecologies with which CIMMYT works. Because all of the visiting students are, in some capacity, studying agriculture and/or plant breeding, the group was very inquisitive and engaged throughout their many lectures and workshops. Seth Murray, assistant professor in the Department of Soil & Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University, was grateful to CIMMYT for this opportunity to expose young students to the international aspects of plant breeding. “Hopefully everybody gained insight into the problems of agricultural growth in developing countries. It isn’t just about having the technology to grow crops. Lack of infrastructure, unreliable market access, and other variables play a large role in agricultural development,” said Murray. “Experience like this, they couldn’t get in a Texas classroom.”
The students will take the knowledge they have gained on this trip and apply it to their studies at Texas A&M University, as well as present it at a university fair. Prior to arriving in Mexico, each student was given a topic to explore throughout their time at CIMMYT; these assignments range from pre-Columbian agriculture to modern sciences, such as the breeding of quality protein maize (QPM), which the students saw up-close at Agua Fría. Another topic of interest was marker-assisted selection (MAS), which is what Juliana Osorio Marín, a 28-year-old doctorate student, is studying. Marín is happy to explore MAS further because it is such a “hot topic” in the field. Marín has expressed an interested in returning to her home in Bogotá, Colombia, after receiving her degree in order to work for fellow CGIAR organization the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
But the visit wasn’t all work. The students were also able to soak up Mexican culture and history through various day trips to places like Teotihuacán, Taxco, El Tajín, and the historic center of Mexico City. “My favorite day trip was seeing Taxco,” Marín said. “It‘s a beautiful city to explore, built up in the hills like that… and the silver!”
This was the fourth year a group from Texas A&M has visited CIMMYT, and it won’t be the last. Educational exchanges such as these are an integral part of CIMMYT’s work. “The importance of exposing future generations to CIMMYT’s harmonized cooperation among physiology, breeding, pathology, quality, and agronomy research, and its application in lesser developed countries is invaluable,” said Petr Kosina, CIMMYT knowledge, information and training manager. “In order to secure our future, we must keep the youth educated and engaged.”
The week before the Texas A&M students arrived, CIMMYT played host to another group of students. During the first week of August, 12 students from University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, spent a week learning about CIMMYT’s work and collaboration. Led by William Tracy, the group visited El Batán, Tlaltizapán, and Agua Fría. Many thanks to everyone who helped welcome, accommodate, and educate these eager and important visitors!