Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dinner with Leonard Gianessi

I don't want to bog this down with introduction information but at the end of this post, I have pasted Mr. Gianessi's profile he sends out and offers the information I knew about him before supper this evening. 

I was invited to dinner this evening by the CAFNR Career Services Director Stephanie Chipman because of my strong interest in international agriculture and how they relates to the articles Mr. Gianessi has published. I had no idea what I was getting into but it was a great experience!

When I said yes I thought I was signing up for a simple meal (take out from Olive Garden maybe) in a room with a handful of other undergraduate students. I found out in a confirmation e-mail that the meal was at the Reynolds Alumni Center on campus- which is a very nice restaurant I had never been to before but walked passed on several occasions. I also noticed that I was the only undergraduate student, the rest attending were administration, campus researchers/professors and doctorate students. There were only eight people (counting myself) at the dinner table. 

By the end of the night I had experienced a spectacular five-course meal and three solid hours of discussion on topics ranging anywhere from Mr. Gianessi's topic of increasing herbicide use to educating the general public on why agriculture is the way that it is to talking about hometowns and personal histories. 

I really liked how Mr. Gianessi described himself, I feel we have much in common in this area. He works with scientists and researchers in the crop production field (entomologists, weed scientists, soil scientists, etc) and they are 1 inch wide but 5 miles deep- they generally have a very focused knowledge base, but they know their topic very in-depth. Mr. Gianessi sees himself as being 1 inch deep but 5 miles wide. He knows about a lot of different areas in agriculture and understands the lingo used in the different fields of study, but he also understands that he doesn't know nearly as much about any given topic than those who are chest deep. 

This reminded me of growing up and running anything I heard by mom because she went to college. I thought that when you went to college you gained an infinite amount of knowledge and thus knew everything! Imagine how I felt when I found out that you don't get to learn about EVERYTHING but only a lot about a certain topic! I had aspired to be a walking encyclopedia- my dreams were crushed! But with that, I stumbled across my passions in life- who would have thought a farm girl from a town of 668 people would fall in love with international agriculture? I am still trying to figure out what general path I want to take to be involved in that area. While I still try to go to various lectures and events to expand that encyclopedia in my mind, I find that I am strongly drawn to international agriculture topics and even when I am listening to a lecture or seminar on some very different topic, I find myself wondering what their ag situation is like and how this all connects to information I have gained from others and if the opinions are different because of the angles each are coming at, and so on and so forth. In high school, I would role my eyes at the thought of a "theory." Now, theories make it all possible to comprehend a certain idea and use it in different areas. I know this may seem obvious, but to truly appreciate something for what it is instead of just accepting it and taking it as it is given to you, but adding personal meaning and significance to an area, really makes it that much more exciting. (I promise I had decaf coffee with dessert!)

Coming back around, ;), I had a great evening. The best part was being able to feel comfortable in the group and easily add to the conversation, even though I was truly the youngest. I never felt inadequate, even when there were conversations about spores and arachnids going on with lingo I had never heard before.  Even though I didn't know exactly what they were discussing, I've received enough science in high school and college to follow the conversation and understand the bigger meaning. Now I could not write an article on the conversation based solely on what I heard, I would need much more clarification for that, but I could certainly blog about the experience. :) 

I was thoroughly engaged throughout the evening and was surprised when I got up to go to the restroom how stiff my legs and muscles were. I had not realized that I had been sitting there for over two and a half hours. You know the conversation is good and interesting if you don't feel your legs getting stiff. The people I met were fantastic and practically did the networking for me. I received a handful of invitations to various lectures and networking events that I never expected so that was a pleasant surprise as well. 

This is getting lengthy (typical Julia) so I will finish with the information Mr. Gianessi has provided for his lecture I will be attending Friday and/or Saturday. It should be very interesting- he was quite an insightful man who should have a great perspective to offer. 

Leonard Gianessi 

Director, Crop Protection Research Institute 

CropLife Foundation 

  

Food production problems in Africa are once again front page news. African crop yields average one-third that of the rest of the world’s harvest. As food shortages loom, public institutions, developmental groups, and government agencies are assessing technologies and policies that have the potential to significantly increase food production in Africa. 

 

One of the most serious threats to African food production- the problem of weeds competing with crops-is not being addressed in the ongoing assessments. And yet, solving the weed problem in Africa is critical if farmers are to attain optimal yields and gain the full value of additional use of fertilizer, irrigation and improved seeds. Currently, African farmers lose 20-100% of their potential crop production due to uncontrolled 

weeds. The primary method of weed control by smallholder farmers in Africa is hand weeding with short-handled tools. Weeding is backbreaking work done primarily by women. Because of labor cost and shortage and other demands on farmers time, not enough weeding is being done or is being done too late to prevent serious yield losses. Farmers are reluctant to apply fertilizer because weeds would be further stimulated and even more hand weeding would be required.  

 

In this presentation, Leonard Gianessi makes the case for increased use of herbicides by smallholder farmers as a solution for Africa’s weed control problems. Research has shown that, if smallholders used herbicides, hand weeding time could be virtually eliminated. Farmers would have significant time availability to plant additional crops, apply fertilizers, and harvest more crops.  

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