UD’s Kung teaches silage to Brazilian professors, students

June 24, 2013 under CANR News

Limin Kung, an expert on silage, spreads that expertise to Universities throughout BrazilFor the past 14 years, Limin Kung has served as a bridge between the University of Delaware and various universities in Brazil, linking with more than 20 students and professors from the South American nation through his expertise in the agricultural practice known as silage.

Kung, the S. Hallock du Pont Professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, has had students and faculty members come to UD from three Brazilian universities: Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz (ESALQ), which is a unit of the University of São Paulo; the Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho (UNESP)-São Paulo State University; and the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (UFV).

The professors and students all came to UD as part of sabbaticals, undergraduate internships or through the Brazilian “sandwich” program, established between universities in the United States and Brazil in which Brazilian Ph.D. students spend one year studying at an American institution sandwiched between their studies at home.

Two students, Renato Schmidt and Mateus Santos, obtained their doctorates while working with Kung through UD-funded grants.

Kung is one of the leading experts on silage in the U.S. and internationally and because of the considerable interest in silage fermentation around the world, he said it made sense to have Brazilian students study with him to learn more about the topic.

Silage is plant material that has undergone anaerobic fermentation, a process similar to the one used when making pickles or sauerkraut, in order to store it properly.

According to Kung, “silage-making started off in temperate climates where people didn’t have the ability to graze during cold weather or they didn’t have the ability to harvest crops all year-round. They wanted to find some way to say, ‘At certain times of the year, I have really high quality stuff here — how can I preserve that and store it when it is at its best and use it as feed year-round?’”

The students who studied with Kung in his laboratory were able to get experience learning about silage on the UD farm in Newark, where they helped Kung with various research studies.

“The type of work that we do with silage, you need lots of people,” Kung said. “There is lots of hands-on activity and it is very labor intensive in the field and in the lab.”

Kung explained that they study silage both before and after they put it in the silo in order to make sure that everything is OK.

“We know what goes in and we try to control what comes out,” he said. “The way that we try to control what comes out is basically to have good management first, which means we have the right moisture and the right packing density. Also, we work on trying to find new types of additives — whether they be chemical or enzymatic or microbial — to improve the process. A huge area of worldwide research is trying to develop different types of additives to make the process better.”

Still, Kung said that silage is not the only reason that the Brazilian students come to UD. “They basically all want to learn more about silage but they’re here for a number of reasons,” he said. “For one, the internships are important for them to experience a different culture, so that they can improve their English speaking skills and then also to do some research. They’re here for the cultural and the scientific experience.”

Kung is also part of a recent grant with Odilon Pereira, a professor at UFV who spent a one-year sabbatical in Kung’s lab at UD. Pereira is linked to the Science Without Borders program and the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), the Brazilian Federal Agency for the Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education, which will involve him teaching silage classes to graduate students as well as conducting seminars and meeting with project coordinators in Brazil.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Professors, students travel to UFLA; interns selected for collaborative work

April 24, 2012 under CANR News

Three professors and two graduate students from the University of Delaware spent spring break in Brazil, visiting the University Federal de Lavras (UFLA) campus, strengthening the academic and cultural bonds between the two universities and taking in the sites and sounds of the South American nation.

In addition, four UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) undergraduate students have been selected for an opportunity to develop international teaching modules in conjunction with professors and students at UFLA and UD, and to visit this University in 2013.

About the UFLA trip

During the spring break trip, the UD delegation spent its time meeting with faculty from UFLA, touring the facilities, teaching classes and taking trips to remote locations ranging from waterfalls to biodiesel factories. They were escorted by Eduardo Alves and Antonia dos Reis Figueira, both professors of plant pathology at UFLA.

Greg Shriver, assistant professor in CANR’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, said he found it to be a very informative trip and found that much of the research being conducted by entomologists at UFLA is similar to research under way at UD.

Talking with Jùlio Louzada, the head of UFLA’s applied ecology department, Shriver said, “They actually have a forest fragmentation study going on in and around Lavras, which is a lot like the study we have going on in and around Newark.”

Shriver and Zach Ladin, a CANR doctoral student, were able to visit part of the Cerrado, a vast tropical savannah ecoregion near the UFLA campus where the study is taking place, and said that the two universities hope to collaborate on their studies regarding dung beetles.

Nicole Donofrio, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said she was impressed by the campus, noting that “the academic buildings are gorgeous and equipped with an impressive array of new research equipment,” and added that the trip was crucial in providing strong connections between the two universities for the coming years.

“One of the goals was to make more connections and try to find additional links for people to have ‘sandwich students’ here in the next two years,” Donofrio said. Sandwich students refers to a program established between the universities in which UFLA doctoral students spend one year studying at UD that is “sandwiched” between their studies at UFLA.

Donofrio and Emily Alff, a CANR master’s student, taught a class on fungal transformation for the UFLA students. Alff said that being on the UFLA campus was a tremendous experience. “All the research they do is so applied,” she said. “It really makes you think about the bigger picture of research as a whole.” She added that the food and climate were perfect, saying, “Brazil is just a gorgeous country.”

Tom Powers, assistant professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and director of UD’s Center for Science, Ethics and Public Policy, said he was impressed by a UFLA practice in which they try to “leave nothing behind.”

Powers joined Donofrio and Alff on a visit to UFLA’s model biodiesel and bioethanol plant, located on the campus. “They use the water from the roof and the parking lot to run a lot of the processes,” he said, adding, “They use everything from, or have the potential to use everything from, fish guts to waste from sugar cane and castor beans. So, in terms of using all of these materials for the production of biofuels, it’s really astounding. And then what they don’t make into biodiesel they make into soap and everything else. They’re really trying to find some use for every byproduct in the production process.”

About the Brazil internships

Four CANR student interns have been chosen for an opportunity to conduct research and teach courses at UFLA.

The four interns who have been chosen for the project are:

  • Sarah Thorne, a junior;
  • Sara Laskowski, a junior;
  • Jacqueline Hoban, a freshman; and
  • Melanie Allen, a junior.

The internship will run from April 2012 through June 2013, with the interns supervised by UD faculty teams.

Hoban said she is looking forward to getting to travel to Brazil, and “excited about getting to work with a lot of interesting people and learning about a wide variety of research topics.” Hoban said that the internship “appealed to me not only because of the exciting travel opportunity, but also because it seemed like a really interesting way to apply the material that I have been studying in class.  The project gives me a different perspective on the subjects that I am interested in learning about. It also opens my mind to the educational aspect of my fields of study.”

Hoban added, “Everyone on the team seems like they have a lot of passion for their research and I cannot wait to work with them.”

The project is led by a faculty team from CANR and CAS and is intended to help build longstanding academic programs and research partnerships with UFLA that will enhance the international nature of curricula in areas of common interest, such as food security, bioenergy animal agriculture and biodiversity.

The project will also aim to stimulate creative thinking in the students who participate about how to develop innovative solutions to complex global agricultural and environmental problems.

There will be a curriculum enhancement portion of the internship, where students will assist faculty on both a part time and eventually a full time basis, and an experiential learning aspect, where the students will travel to Brazil for up to four weeks with UD faculty.

The interns will be responsible for developing a minimum of two teaching modules per course, and the modules will consist of PowerPoint presentations or other innovative learning methods that provide detailed information on the course topics developed by the interns and their faculty advisers.

This new research and teaching project is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s International Science and Education Program.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UFLA’s Sugano speaks to UD community about Brazilian agriculture

March 19, 2012 under CANR News

Continuing a strong partnership with the University Federal de Lavras (UFLA) in Brazil, the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Department of Food and Resource Economics hosted a special guest speaker last week.

Joel Sugano, a UFLA professor, gave a talk in Townsend Hall on Thursday, March 15, focusing on “Developing Business in Brazil through Innovation: The Case of Brazilian Business Platform in Ethanol, Coffee and Seed Industries.”

Sugano discussed problems that face global agriculture as population and affluence increases. As affluence rises, Sugano noted that there will be more people looking to buy more products and he asked the question, “Can you say to consumers, ‘You cannot consume?’ To tell someone, ‘You cannot buy a new car,’ that’s impossible.”

Sugano said that a rising world population has increased the need for food and renewable energies, and countries are being faced with a tough decision regarding whether to use their land for fuel or for food.

Sugano noted that in 2000, 1 percent of the world’s grain consumption was used for biofuels, as opposed to 2010 when that number jumped up to 6 percent.

He used Brazil as an example of this, noting that land that was once allocated for growing food has now been used to grow sugar cane in order to meet the world’s growing ethanol demands.

Sugano also noted that Brazil will play a key role in the global food crisis, as the nation is among the leading global exporters of goods such as coffee, orange juice, poultry and sugar cane.

Although there could be cause for alarm due to the potential gap in the world’s growing population and scarcer and more expensive food products, Sugano said that there is reason to be optimistic. He said that the world’s food crisis presents great challenges but also great opportunities for new innovations in agricultural business, which could help mitigate higher global food demand.

Time at UD

This is the second time that Sugano has visited UD. His first visit came in fall 2010 and he said he has fond memories from his time at UD.

Sugano also said he believes the partnership between UD and UFLA “is a door that will open to new possibilities to research, business, the exchange of knowledge and the exchange of ideas.”

Continuing, Sugano said, “the most important research is knowledge and the knowledge can come from any part of the world. If we build such a platform that we can exchange knowledge through this kind of collaboration between universities, we can create the platform to exchange ideas. That is more important than goods and so forth. Without this collaboration, I never would have been able to meet Titus (Awokuse) or other faculty here to exchange ideas and to show what we are doing and then to see what is going on here.”

Sugano said the experience for UD students to study at UFLA and vice versa is one that will benefit both universities, as well. “The important thing about study abroad is that it’s not only about knowledge but it’s about the experience itself. This kind of experience will last for their entire life.”

As the need to come up with solutions on a global basis increases, so too does the importance of studying abroad, according to Sugano. “The effects of one change in one thing will be sensed in another totally different area of the world because of the relationship that has been created through the Internet and through communication.”

To solve global problems, Sugano said, “we need expertise and knowledge and this will be done and exchanged through several different points of view. Not only in one country, but in another country that has another perspective, I think that will be the next way to solve problems.”

While at UD, Sugano also gave guest lectures in two undergraduate classes and visited with other faculty and state officials. He met with David Weir, director of UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships; Matt Robinson, director of UD’s Institute for Global Studies; and David Mathe, deputy director of international trade and development for the state of Delaware.

About the partnership between UD and UFLA

In 2011, CANR and the College of Arts and Sciences received a $150,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and International Science and Education program (USDA-NIFA-ISE) to continue on a three-year partnership with UFLA.

The hope of this partnership is to establish both long-standing academic programs and research partnerships, with both institutions helping each other in those areas in which their research overlaps.

Ranked fourth overall among universities in Brazil in a recent poll, UFLA is equipped with state of the art facilities, 160 laboratories and two experimental farms.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Christy Mannering

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UD, Federal University of Lavras conduct agricultural research

July 14, 2011 under CANR News

To expand its global curriculum and stay atop leading international agricultural practices, the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), along with the College of Arts and Sciences, has received a $150,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and International Science and Education program (USDA-NIFA-ISE) to continue on a three-year partnership with the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA) in Brazil.

Lead investigators on the grant are Nicole Donofrio, assistant professor, and Tom Sims, T.A. Baker Professor, both from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Kirk Czymmek, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. The project team, however, is much larger, including 14 UD faculty from seven departments in the two colleges.

Adding another USDA-ISE grant — along with one established to develop coursework regarding sustainable watershed management practices with India in 2008 — means that CANR now has strong connections with two countries that are considered agricultural leaders in the world. And while the new grant will benefit CANR, it also will be valuable to other sections of the University.

Donofrio explained the far-reaching implications of the grant, saying, “Our USDA-NIFA-ISE grant will support undergraduate internships to work with our visiting scientists from Brazil as well as to visit our collaborating university in Lavras, Brazil, to help build teaching modules for incorporation into UD courses.

“The goal here is to recruit undergraduates from across the University, and for them to get ‘real-world’ experience by interacting with Brazilian colleagues both here and in Brazil, in order to make meaningful course modules. The grant will also provide opportunities for as many as 12 Ph.D. students from UFLA to visit UD and spend up to a year working with our faculty on collaborative research projects.”

In the future, the hope is to establish both long-standing academic programs and research partnerships, with both institutions helping each other in those areas in which their research overlaps.

Sims, who is deputy dean of the CANR, spoke positively about the emerging UD and UFLA partnership, saying, “UFLA is an outstanding university, engaged in research and teaching programs that are highly relevant to major contemporary global issues. The grant will provide our faculty with wonderful opportunities to enhance our teaching and research programs related to food security, bioenergy, ecology and environmental quality.

“It will also allow teams of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students to make extended visits to Brazil to broaden their understanding of the complex nature of these critically important areas.”

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