Thursday, March 30, 2017

Kenya on the GMO Brink

GMO's have always been controversial around the globe. The controversy in Kenya is as strong as ever. The linked article below from AgWeb highlights the "Global Farmer Network" blog and features a piece by a farmer from Kenya. We encourage you to read over the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations around the globe.

Is it Time for Kenya to Move Off the Brink and Lead with Agricultural Technology

Discussion Points

  • What is the current status of GMO's in Kenya?
  • What case does this farmer make for the need for GMO's in Kenya?
  • What was the most surprising fact or thought you took from this article? Explain.
  • Do some additional research: 
    • How are GMO's perceived around the world in different continents and countries?
    • What does science say about GMO's?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Brazilian Meat

Even though we have returned from Brazil we will keep our focus on Brazil for this weeks post and discussion points. About a week ago the meat industry in Brazil took a hit domestically and globally. Below I have linked two articles regarding the recent issues facing the meat industry in Brazil. One includes a video and the other is strictly text. I encourage you to check out both and then utilize the discussion points provided to guide conversations around the globe. 

Discussion Points
  • What is the meat industry in Brazil facing at this time?
  • What are other countries doing in reaction to the current situation? What has been the impact on Brazilian exports?
  • What are the possible impacts that this could have on the global meat markets? Explain your reasoning.
  • If you were a high ranking official in Brazil how would you deal with the current situation to ensure as little impact to the Brazilian meat industry as possible?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Travel Time

Today we have spent a lot of time on the road as we prepare for many hours of flights. We started out traveling from Intumbiara to Brasilia with a short pit stop in Goiania at Juarez's, to drop him off and have a coffee break. We soon were back on the road. It took between 5-6 hours to make our way to Brasilia.

Once we arrived in Brasilia we went to a mall, named Pier 21, to enjoy lunch at the food court. From there we made our way to the middle of Brasilia to get a birds eye view of the city from the TV tower. There is a market near the tower so we took this opportunity to pick up some souvenirs. After this we hit a supermarket and then planned to take a stroll along the lake and see the city, but rain changed those plans. We made our way to a mall and shared conversation while relaxing.

We have now checked into the airport and are preparing to board our flight. While at the airport we met a gentleman from Illinois who came to Brazil on a similar study abroad opportunity in 2000 and since started farming 30,000 acres in Brazil along with his operation in Illinois. Which one of these students will start farming in Brazil as part of their operation? It was truly a great time with great students!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Muito Quente

Mutio quente is a good description of today. Muito quente is Portuguese for "very hot." Today was in the mid 90's as we learned more about Brazilian agriculture. We started learning about cotton production. We were able to visit a cotton producer who works with Bayer Crop Science to produce cotton seed for future crops. He shared production practices, challenges, and some of the equipment used. Most of our group is familiar with corn and soybean production so a lot was learned.

From the farm we traveled to visit a cotton processing plant that is Japanese owned. They sell the cotton (60% exported, 40% domestic), keep seed for future crops, and then utilize the rest of the seeds for livestock feed. We were able to see the procedure of processing cotton including grading. The processing plant, also, had a large fruit and vegetable area so we were able to explore different fruits and vegetables produced in the region.

After lunch we traveled to Caramuru, a corn and soybean processing plant. We began with the corn plant where they were processing corn. A majority of the corn is processed into corn meal for cooking purposes and human consumption. The plant was "muito quente" with all the equipment running in the heat of the afternoon. Following our time in the corn processing area we made our way  to the oil extraction facility. They primarily produce soybean oil (90% of oil production), but also work with sunflower, canola, and corn oil. While there primary product is oil for cooking they use all parts of the crops in some way, shape, or form. Their packaging facility was impressive with all the robots. They are able to produce 700,000 liters of oil in one day.

Back home many of our students head to the river on a very hot day. In Brazil things are no different. One of the agribusiness that is hosting us in this area offered to meet us as the river to cool off. We enjoyed conversations while swimming and boating. Today concluded with dinner where we enjoyed great food and live Brazilian pop music. Tomorrow we make a long trek back to Brasilia before catching our flight back to the states tomorrow night.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hitting Backroads in Brazil

We were back to exploring agriculture today in Brazil after the water park yesterday. We learned a lot about sugarcane production today. We started with a field where they had recently planted sugarcane. They plant small sections of sugarcane in the soil and plants sprout from the nodes. We covered a wide array of topics relating to sugarcane including nutrient requirements, pests, growing conditions, and more. It takes about 20 months from planting before sugarcane is ready to harvest. Sugarcane needs to be replanted every 5-8 years depending on production history and practices. The sugarcane fields we visited are harvested for ethanol production. Ethanol is used heavily to fuel vehicles in Brazil.

Next we went to an area where they were soil sampling which led to a discussion on precision agriculture practices. The farmer we were visiting with was very progressive and utilizes RTK guidance for planting and drone scouting. He is also utilizing grid soil sampling. They are currently utilizing 3 hectare (7.5 acre) grids. They hope to move to 1 hectare (2.5 acre) grids. We then traveled to a couple locations where we hoped to see harvest and planting take place, but unfortunately this was not possible due to wet condition from rain the night before.

However, the rain did not stop the farmer from sharing the process with us. He got on the phone with another farmer in the state of Minas Gerais and they were planting and harvesting today. We jumped on the road and crossed the river to the state of Minas Gerais. We had to take many backroads to reach the fields mentioned earlier and now. It was more time on the road, but well worth the time to witness planting and harvesting of sugarcane. The machines are remarkable and nothing like we are used too. We then made our way back to main roads. On the way back we came across many rough roads and had to take parts of the fields over the roads several times as the van would high center otherwise.

After lunch we returned to the state of Goias to visit a Pioneer seed corn production facility near Intumbiara. Unfortunately, our extra time in the sugarcane fields cut into our time at Pioneer. We were unable to do a plant tour, because of our arrival time. However, we had a great discussion on seed corn production in Brazil with several Pioneer employees. This specific plant works with around 45 different hybrids over 18,000 hectares (45,000 acres). We were able to compare and contrast seed production in the U.S. and Brazil. There were many similarities, but a good share of differences as well. One of the big challenges in Brazil is year round seed production with a double cropping system. Another big point of discussion was the heat units per day in Brazil. In this region they can count on 25 heat units per day and some areas of Brazil will see 30-35 heat units per day.

We ended the evening with a great dinner outside in a courtyard followed by a stop at an ice cream shop. Tomorrow we explore another farm and soybean processing plant.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Day of Recreation in Brazil

We were a little worried when the day started out as it began with rain. We loaded up in the rain and left Goiania for Caldas Novas where there is a Hot Park Waterpark. Thankfully the rain stopped while we traveled to the Hot Park. The water is naturally heated by the earth and has many pools, slides, lazy rivers, etc. Some took advantage of the thrill rides while others took it easy. The day at the Hot Park ended with a great sand volleyball match.

When our time concluded at the Hot Park we made our way to Intumbiara and got checked into the Hotel. After getting settled in we walked to a nice pizza restaurant. Our walk took us along the river which is filled with recreational activities. We enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner and visited with two agronomists who will be with us over the next couple days. They shared pest problems and yield numbers with us. We look forward to continued conversations.

As we walked back to the hotel we stopped to watch some three on three soccer. Before you knew it the Brazilians had invited us to play. It was evident that most of us where not on their level, but it was still a lot of fun! Look forward to getting back to the fields over the next couple days.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dairy Cattle and Monkeys

Today was another great day! We made our way to Piracanjuba Dairy about an hour from our hotel. The site that we visited was a smaller operation with about 480 total head of cattle and they were milking under 200 head twice a day. This site is utilized for training dairy farmers and workers in dairy production and practices. They covered everything from milking practices to management practices to artificial insemination. This training is open for all, but farmers who sell their milk to Piracanjuba get first priority. Piracanjuba has three large dairys across Brazil. Combined these three sites produce 1.5 million gallons of milk each day. At the farm we visited they had a variety of different breeds for training purposes, but the majority of dairy cattle are 7/8 Holstein and 1/8 Zebu.

We had several students with us that come from a dairy background. They enjoyed comparing the similarities and differences between dairy production in the USA and Brazil. They analyzed everything from nutrition to facilities.

We went for a traditional burger and fries for lunch before making our way to UFG (Universidade Federal de Goias) to tour campus. We started on the Agronomy campus with a tour of the coffee and food lab. All coffee for campus is roasted in this lab and quality tested. Next we found the monkeys! This is always a highlight for the students. We were, also, able to visit the TV station for UFG and learn about the workings of the station and programming.

We ended the evening by walking down the street from our hotel for supper and chocolate snacks. The catch was we no longer had a translator with us. We were surely a sight trying to order dinner at Giraffe's. When we made our way to the chocolate shop we were rescued by a nine year old boy who translated for us. We were very grateful! We are now enjoying an evening at the rooftop pool discussing the day and reflecting on what we have learned so far. Tomorrow we head to the hot springs and then the town of Intumbiara.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Taking to the Fields in Brazil

Today was a spectacular day of learning. We were able to get out into fields and pastures to experience Brazilian agriculture. We started the day out at Embrapa, which is a national agriculture research institution in Brazil. In the past this location has only focused on rice and edible beans, but just recently they are becoming more diversified as they are serving as a regional hub. They are incorporating a wider variety of crops and even livestock into their research. We began with a brief welcome and introduction to the facility before making our way to the labs, greenhouses, fields, and then pastures. We were able to see many crops including rice, beans, soybeans, sorghum, corn, and cotton. We had the great opportunity to learn about integrated crop-livestock systems and the Nellore cattle that they are working with. Here are some interesting facts from our Embrapa visit:
  • Environmental research is just as important as production research.
  • They have a gene bank with over 44,000 species.
  • They are the first public institution to breed transgenic beans.
  • The integrated crop-livestock system is improving soil and the environment.

We enjoyed lunch at the agriculture campus at the Universidade Federal de Goias (UFG) where we will visit tomorrow and visited with many students before traveling to PUDICA an organic farm. One of the owners of PUDICA is, also, a professor at UFG. We spent several hours exploring his farm. Many enjoyed checking out the numerous parrots as he works with a group to reincorporate parrots back to their natural habitats after injuries. We were able to see many different crops in production. One of his fields had banana's, papayas, peppers, and coffee all growing together. He did have crops we are more familiar with such as corn and soybeans, but he looks to produce specialized varieties for niche markets. They take the philosophy of health first followed by the environment, social aspects, and economics in that order.

After a long day in the sun and heat we enjoyed a steak dinner in an open air restaurant. We look forward to another great day on Tuesday.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Funday Brazilian Style

Sundays are low key in Brazil and often include spending time with others. This was the case for us this particular Sunday in Brazil. We started off by traveling to a local park that was buzzing with family and friends gathering. Some of us stopped and enjoyed some coconut water as we explored the park, before we made our way to Juarez and Jeanne's home.

We had a relaxed afternoon enjoying Brazilian cuisine and even some alligator. We were blessed to have many former students from Brazil, who studied at Hawkeye, join us along with many friends we have made through the years as part of this partnership. It was a great time as old friends reconnected and new friendships were formed. Our students enjoyed visiting with those from Brazil to learn more about their culture and agriculture practices. With the heat of the day many spent time cooling off in the pool. We are EXTREMELY THANKFUL to Juarez and Jeanne for hosting us in their home.

We had planned to attend a soccer game this afternoon, but unfortunately it happened that there was not a game as originally planned. Instead we took the opportunity to do some shopping at a local mall. It is one of the largest malls in all of Brazil. We concluded the night on the rooftop at the pool and getting to bed early to prepare for a full week of exploring Brazilian agriculture!

Exploring the Cerrado

This morning we packed up and were on the road by 7:00 as we left Brasila in route to Pirenopolis. This was the first time we were able to get out of the city and see some of the countryside. We are in the cerrado region of Brazil and we got to see a lot of the landscape. We saw a lot of pastures with cattle grazing along with some first crop soybeans, second crop corn, and the rolling countryside.

We arrived in Pirenopolis and were able to hike and explore an area with multiple waterfalls and pools that are formed from natural springs. This allowed us to cool off from the heat in the pools and enjoy some time together. We had many discussions on our hike regarding different plants we came across.

Shortly after noon we headed into the town of Pirenopolis to enjoy lunch at a typical Brazilian restaurant followed by a short stroll around town to find some ice cream for dessert. Following lunch we had more time in the vehicle as we traveled to Goiania where we will be over the next several days. Once again there was great discussion around agriculture and all we were seeing during our travels. One interesting piece of scenery we came across was the Statue of Liberty in Annapolis.

After checking in at the hotel we walked up to a "fair" near our hotel. A fair in Brazil is similar to a market where many goods are sold. We did a little shopping, mostly sampling different types of fruits and cuisine. Before returning to our hotel we stoped by a grocery store for water and other necessities.

Many former students who studied at Hawkeye from years past stoped by to say "hello" and catch up. We look forward to seeing many more former students and friends over the next week. Sunday promises to be a great day with a tour of the city, lunch at Juarez's, and a soccer game!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Learning and Feasting

Today was a day filled with great learning and feasting. We kicked off the day with a typical Brazilian breakfast that included fresh fruits, breads, meats, cheeses, and eggs. From the hotel we made our way to the Ministry of Agriculture for Brazil. Pedro Viana Borges shared an excellent presentation with us highlighting agriculture in Brazil. Here are just a few interesting facts from the presentation:

  • 8 out of 10 glasses of orange juice around the world came from Brazil.
  • Brazil exports chicken to 135 different countries around the world.
  • There are more cattle than people in Brazil.
  • Lead the world in sugar, coffee, and orange juice production. 2nd leading producer of soybeans and beef worldwide.
  • "Brazil is a major power in agriculture, but they are committed to protecting the environment."

Following our time at the Ministry we enjoyed lunch at a Churrascaria (Brazilian Steackhouse) where they bring cut after cut of meat to your table. After lunch we had a little relaxation time before making our way to CODEVASF (Sao Francisco and Parnaiba Valley Development Company). CODEVASF is a private company that is working to enrich farm families and all families lives. They provide support through documents, technical/rural extension assistance, infrastructure development, and more. Lots of time irrigation projects are part of their work. The CODEVASF team shared a wealth of knowledge with us.

Next we met up with Jose at UnB (Unversidade de Brasilia) to learn more about Brazil as a country and tour campus. UnB has an enrollment of around 35,000 students. As we concluded our time on campus we returned to the hotel before enjoying a delicious supper at Pizza a Bessa. Pizza a Bessa is a restaurant with over 40 different types of Pizza. The employees continuously are bringing different types of pizzas to your table to enjoy. We all enjoyed the open air restaurant.

There is no doubt there was an abundance of knowledge and food consumed today! We look forward to an exciting day tomorrow as we travel to Pirenopolis.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

We Have Arrived!

We arrived in Brazil and had a spectacular first day in country! Flights went well for the most part besides a little over an hour delay in Miami before we departed due to some needed maintenance on the aircraft. Sunshine and warm weather greeted us in Brasilia, unfortunately one of the students bags did not make it. We await its arrival tomorrow.

From the airport we dropped bags off at our hotel and walked to a nearby mall to grab lunch at the food court. Following lunch the students returned to the hotel for some down time while Dave and I went to the Instituto Federal Brasilia to discuss future collaboration possibilities. The Instituto Federal Brasilia is similar to a community college in the United States that serves 17,000 students. Our students took the down time to relax and swim on the rooftop.

Later in the afternoon we took the opportunity to do some sightseeing in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. We started at the JK Memorial, which honors past president Kubitschek who founded the city of Brasilia. From there we made stops at the national cathedral, three powers square, a scenic overlook, and the presidential palace. The time together led to many conversations around the red soil and Brazilian culture.

For supper tonight we enjoyed traditional Northeast Brazilian cuisine at the Mangai Buffet before returning to the hotel. We are now reflecting on our day on the rooftop at the pool. There is no doubt this is a great group and we have an awesome week and a half together to look forward to!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bound for Brazil!

We have just arrived at the Eastern Iowa Airport to make our way to Brazil! We have a spectacular group of nine students and two faculty who will spend a week and a half learning more about Brazilian agriculture. We encourage you to follow our daily adventures on this blog. Our next update will come Thursday evening. With an overnight flight we are set to arrive in Brasilia Thursday morning. Wheels up!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cacao: Agroforestry versus Monoculture

A recent study conducted in Bolivia explored the production and economics of cacao. While they took yield into consideration they also looked at profitability and nutrition health of the farmers and their families. We encourage you to read the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations in your classrooms, coffee shops, and communities around the world!

Cacao Agroforestry Systems Increase Farmers' Income

Discussion Points

  • Explain the two production practices of agroforestry and monoculture systems.
  • Briefly discuss cacao production trends over the past couple years and where it is grown around the world.
  • This study found that even though cacao yields decreased in agroforestry systems when compared to monoculture systems overall agroforestry systems achieved higher profits and better nutrition for the farmers and their families. How can this be explained?
  • This study looked at conventional versus organic cacao production as well. Discuss the findings in this area.
  • What is your major takeaway from this study and why?