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Training course in Colombia: application of ecophysiology to crop improvement

From July 21 to 25, 18 crop researchers attended Colombia’s Agricultural and Livestock Research Corporation (CORPOICA) for a 40-hour training course on the application of ecophysiology to crop improvement under stress conditions at the facilities in Villavicencia, Meta Province, Colombia.

The course was coordinated by Luis Narro and Alba Lucía Arcos, CIMMYT researchers based in Colombia, and José Luis Araus, CIMMYT researcher based in Mexico, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Barcelona (Spain), CORPOICA, and the National University of Colombia. In addition to staff from the organizing institutions, participants from other Colombian organizations, such as Federation of Cereal and Legume Producers (FENALCE) and Federation of Coffee Growers (FEDERECAFE), also attended.

The science of ecophysiology focuses on the physiological processes that take place during interactions between organisms at the community and ecosystem levels, as well as the interrelationships between live and inert systems (for example, the study of bio-geochemical cycles and biospheric-atmospheric exchanges), Therefore, the course focused on demonstrating, from a theoretical and practical standpoint, how physiology can contribute to crop improvement under stress conditions, with special emphasis on maize production in acid or low fertility soils and drought.

Meta Province is located within Colombia’s eastern Plains, a region where the farming sector has a bright future, but where problems such as acid soils, aluminum toxicity, and poor fertility have constrained productivity of maize and other crops. For this reason, the course was divided into the theoretical and practical aspects, and discussion; as an example, during field work using portable equipment, the participants learned to assess parameters that are important to crop development (for example, biomass, chlorophyll content, and plant moisture status).

The course was a great success thanks to the coordinators’ logistical efficiency, the participants’ enthusiasm, and the diversity of subjects covered. The course also gave us the opportunity to make contact with people who could help us establish agricultural research partnerships/networks in the future.