Dr. Feldman visited the Division of Seeds Science and Technology, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, Faculty of Agriculture, Bogor Agriculture University (BAU) from 13 to 14 February 2017. This visit was a continuation of the previous visits of partners under International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture – Benefit Sharing Fund (ITPGRFA – BSF) project. The objectives of this visit were:
- Visit field partner to assess standard of field work, sites
- Pass on protocols, research tools and minor levels of technique training
- Planning ways forward, particularly in terms of field work and future visits
- Understand issues, challenges and limitations faced by field partners
- Explore possibilities of obtaining external grant funding
- Raise interest in current bambara groundnut research as well as CFF in general
13 February 2017
Dr. Feldman met with Prof. Dr. Satriyas, a PhD student, Maryati Sari, and a Masters student, Happy. The students are working on bambara groundnut at IPB; in terms of seed health and mapping, respectively. He then visited the screen house, where they were growing the core parental lines and local farmer lines in poly bags. Maryati is particularly interested in the two traits of dormancy and indeterminacy. Happy is looking at local farmers in the West Java area. Prof. Dr. Satriyas and Dr. Feldman discussed the potential collaboration between BAU and CFF in terms of laboratory work particularly regarding molecular genetics. Further discussion has to be arranged with Dr. Wai Kuan Ho and Dr. Sean Mayes to find out which possible areas can be covered.
14 February 2017
Dr. Feldman met with several staff in Faculty of Agriculture, including the Head of School. He was updated with the research that was going on in the Agronomy and Horticulture Division. Dr. Feldman then delivered a seminar about the research being done at CFF entitled ‘Research progress in bambara groundnut and other underutilised crop species’. The audience was interested in how CFF perceived underutilised crop research, especially in contrast to researching major crops. He announced the collaborative relationship between CFF and the university. Dr. Feldman invited the other researchers to have a collaboration with CFF in order to become part of a wider research community.
During his visit, Dr, Feldman also gave his hand to assist Prof Dr. Satriyas to setup up a Masters student, Muhammad Fauzan Farid Al-Hamdi from Department of Seed Science and Technology to be part of the Treaty project. Dr. Feldman will act as part of the supervisory committee and will give guidance in technical and English writing. Another student has to be sought to complete the remaining 1-2 years of the project.
On the same day, he visited the IPB Agribusiness Development Center which is an impressive initiative that is around nine years old. It sets up the value chain from production to retail (major supermarkets), linking to approximately 150 local small-holder farmers. It instills organic practices, which mean that the fresh produce obtains a premium price. It has its own nursery to ensure high quality seedlings, which are dispersed to local farmers. It also has its own post-harvest unit, which sorts out good from bad quality harvested material, and packs them with a BAU sticker. This increases consumer perception of quality via a trusted brand. Farmers’ returns depends on retail sales in the same manner that the production scale depends on the retail demand. Farmer income is enhanced as BAU cuts out the middle man, working on a non-profit basis. Many farmers find the emphasis on organic and high quality produce to be restrictive to their usual practices. Therefore, the Center has to try to change farmers’ mindsets via outreach.
The visit reinforced a lot of positive aspects of researching undertutilised crops, such as a scientific community that is passionate about their crop(s) of study. However, it also made clear some of the negative issues that perhaps are not always so obvious. Firstly, in biological terms, these crops will have certain nuances that are not always so well known, and so researchers can run into difficulties with new problems. Growing Bambara groundnut in polybags under wet conditions evidently had adverse effects to its growth and health. Secondly, from the viewpoint of young scientists, the prospect of researching underutilised crops may not seem attractive as there are likely to be a lack of resources available, including financial resources. However, it should be emphasized that researching underutilised crops also has a lot of opportunity for new researchers. Not only are there more challenges to address but there is also more room to become a leader in the field. Finally, following trends of funding bodies, grants are increasingly concerned about sustainable agriculture, nutritional security and diversification of farming systems and diets. Underutilised crops has an important role to play in all of these topics.