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K-State Today

June 18, 2020

Two professors involved in webinar series discussing key challenges faced by farmers in providing food

Submitted by Layne Wilson

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, or SEARCA, hosted a webinar series covering a range of key challenges to our communities and farmers across the globe who provide us food. The center's Online Learning and Virtual Engagement, or SOLVE, webinar series is an immediate response to COVID-19 and the impacts on food security.

Kansas State University's Vara Prasad and Manny Reyes were invited to speak for the sixth webinar, SOLVE Food and Nutrition Insecurity through Sustainable Agriculture Intensification.

Prasad is a university distinguished professor of crop ecophysiology in the agronomy department and the director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, or SIIL. Prasad discussed the importance of sustainable intensification, and how it is a solution to overcoming the challenges we are faced with today concerning food and nutritional security.

Prasad explained how we have multiple crises to deal with, due to the implications of COVID-19. These include a food crisis, nutritional crisis and climate crisis.

"One of the solutions for all of these crises, which is the need for safe and nutritious food and protection of our environment, is sustainable agricultural intensification," Prasad said. "This is not the only solution, but it is a great start and provides realistic solutions to our problems and challenges."

Prasad discussed how sustainable intensification is increasing food production and access to safe food on existing farmland without any negative impact on the environment or natural resources. In simple terms, it is producing more from less.

Reyes is a research professor at K-State in the SIIL, and coordinator at the Center of Excellence on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Nutrition, or CE SAIN, at Royal University of Agriculture in Cambodia. He is passionate about conservation agriculture and natural resource management, and has trained hundreds of scholars, administrators and farmers.

Reyes discussed the problem that Southeast Asia is facing currently of land degradation, which in turn is leading to food and nutrition insecurity. He says the good news is that we have a solution which is conservation agriculture.

"This is a technique that I sincerely believe will enhance soil health and solve our soil degradation problem due to soil erosion," Reyes said.

Reyes discussed the three principles of conservation agriculture. These include minimum soil disturbance, continuous cover of the soil and diverse species. He said conservation agriculture alone does not respond to all the challenges of sustainable agriculture intensification, and that it does need to be complemented by all other good practices known. However, conservation agriculture is the base for sustainable agriculture intensification by following the three principles discussed.

"By focusing on conservation agriculture for sustainable intensification, we can grow safe and nutritious food while also enhancing the health of the soil," Reyes said.

SEARCA works to strengthen institutional capacities toward inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia through graduate education, research and development, and knowledge management. K-State and SEARCA signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate, facilitate and support graduate students, faculty and researchers.

The full webinar can be watched on SEARCA's Facebook page.