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Researchers introducing sustainable agriculture practices to improve food security
Date:3/15/2010

Blacksburg, Va.-- Two Virginia Tech professors are leading research teams that will work with scientists and small-scale farmers in South America and the Caribbean to increase food production, improve soil quality, and reduce risks associated with climate change. The projects are part of the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), a $15 million, five-year program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and managed by the university's Office of International Research, Education, and Development.

Central to both projects and five others managed by the SANREM CRSP through 2014 are conservation agriculture techniques such as controlling soil erosion and increasing soil organic matter with cover crops, minimizing soil disturbance from tillage, and rotating crops to improve soil health and discourage agricultural pests.

Jeffrey Alwang, professor of agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech, is directing a project titled "Pathways to conservation agriculture production systems in the Andes." With sites in Bolivia and Ecuador, the project will use research in soil sciences, cropping systems, plant pathology, and economic and social sciences to design, evaluate, and disseminate conservation agricultural technologies aimed at improving food security in the region.

"Farm families in the Andean Region often depend on just one food crop: the potato," Alwang said. "We will study ways to improve potato yields, test new varieties, and introduce alternative crops like beans and Andean fruits to raise farmer incomes. We will also experiment with techniques to improve soil quality and reduce erosion on steep slopes."

James McKenna, professor and interim head of the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, is leading a conservation agriculture project in Haiti. "Less than half of Haiti's food is currently produced in Haiti,"
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Contact: Miriam Rich
mrich@vt.edu
540-231-4153
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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