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International conservation agriculture training course: perfection, organization, and team work

curso-ACThis is how Vivak Kumar, from India, described the advanced course on conservation agriculture (CA) 2012, which ended two weeks ago. Kumar, an assistant professor at Meerat University, was one of seven scientists from five countries (Argentina, India, Iran, Mexico, and Nepal) who attended the course from 21 May – 22 June 2012, at CIMMYT’s experiment stations at El Batán and Toluca.

Most trainees agreed with Kumar that one of the course’s strengths was the unity within the group and that the classroom lectures, field days, and their interactions with CIMMYT scientists were extremely interesting and enriching. As an example, they cited the field visits to the maize and small grain cereal hub for highland valleys in the states of Hidalgo and Tlaxcala, where they were able to observe first-hand the work being done on the platforms of the “Take It to the Farmer” project, one of four components of the MasAgro initiative.

They visited the farm of Raymundo Ruiz, a farmer in Benito Juárez, Tlaxcala, who is a member of the CA network; he recounted the range of difficulties he had to endure the previous year due to the drought that parched the region. However, he pointed out that thanks to the advice of CA experts and other CIMMYT staff, the yields in his fields were better than those of his neighbors.

This year there was a change in the course, which was designed as an interactive exercise among all participants. This allowed trainees to share their bibliographies, documents, and experiences on a range of topics: the use of the GreenSeeker sensor, soil quality, harvest protocols, cropping system management, wheat and maize breeding, geographic information systems, experiment design, physiology, and the use of specialized machinery. The latter was one of the most popular subjects.

“The course was very enlightening, but above all, very informative, with many practice sessions and a lot of real life experiences,” said course participant Shankar Lal Jat. “I’m really grateful I had the opportunity to be here.”

During the graduation ceremony, CIMMYT Director General Thomas Lumpkin told the graduates that they were now a part of CIMMYT’s network of cooperators and that they should share their newly acquired knowledge with other people in their home countries. Lumpkin, Bram Govaerts, leader of “Take It to the Farmer,” and Nele Verhulst, strategic research coordinator, presented course certificates to all the graduates.