Between 26 May and 27 June 2008 CIMMYT El Batán hosted a five-week course in conservation agriculture (CA) for visiting scientists, entitled “Laying the ground for sustainable and productive cropping systems.” The eight participants came from China, Ethiopia, and Romania for intensive training in CA and resource conserving technologies in irrigated and rainfed wheat and maize production systems, including reduced tillage and crop residue management strategies.
Many CIMMYT specialists contributed to the course: “It was a very holistic approach, with diverse content from a number of disciplines—from breeders, soil specialists, agronomists, crop protection people, and so on,” said Tesfay Araya, from Ethiopia. He will be the first conservation agriculture specialist in northern Ethiopia, and is keen to introduce this interdisciplinary way of working. “I saw people here working together with good communication,” he said. “That’s the most important thing, and it’s very unique. It’s one lesson I learned.”
Another important element of the course was hands-on learning: the trainees participated in the ongoing activities of CIMMYT’s Cropping Systems Management team at El Batán and at the Toluca research station, and in nearby farmers’ fields, developing the skills for trial planning, management, and monitoring. Each participant also had to define a clear research objective and draft a paper during the course, and the results will be combined in a special publication. “We learned skills in publishing, writing, reviewing data…we didn’t miss anything,” said Tesfay Araya.
For Zhang Bin, from China, seeing the way CIMMYT researchers communicated with farmers was food for thought: “maybe we can do more to transfer conservation agriculture,” he said. “When I go back I will do research on conservation agriculture, and if I have good results I will demonstrate it to farmers and try to transfer the technology to them.”Between 1996 and 2008 over 30 visiting scientists and 86 trainees from 26 countries participated in long-term courses and research on zero-tillage and bed planting conducted at CIMMYT’s El Batán and Obregón research stations in Mexico.