Browsing Category: Agriculture

Biology professor Jason Streubel examines test plants in preparation for research into growing urban gardens. Biology professor Jason Streubel examines test plants in preparation for research into growing urban gardens.

Students research pop bottle gardening

How many people can you feed with plants grown in a two-liter bottle?

That’s not the kind of question you hear every day — unless you are doing research into urban agriculture, like Dr. Jason Streubel, associate professor of biology at Evangel University.

Streubel also leads the Agriculture Initiative of Convoy of Hope, and it is his work with this Springfield-based organization that has excited biology students at Evangel.

“In addition to our ongoing work in Haiti, we have started working with a group of urban pastors in Detroit,” said Streubel. “We are downsizing the concept of community gardens. We are teaching the pastors to ‘plant what you can, anywhere you can.’”

Since launching their efforts in Haiti, Streubel and his teams have trained 2,300 farmers in best management practices specific to their region and crops. They recently polled 400 farmers who reported a 250 percent increase in yield and an 80 percent increase in income as a result of Convoy’s education and seed program.

“So this year, my Evangel students are working on discovering the yield potential of various containers,” he said. “We know what to expect from traditional gardens. But we want to know what will grow in a common plastic bottle.”

Evangel students studied academic and professional publications last semester, and then established parameters to implement the spring research.

Beans will be planted in four types of containers in Evangel’s greenhouse — a simulated garden, 4-inch pots, one-liter plastic bottles and two-liter plastic bottles.

“This research directly correlates to everything we are doing at Convoy of Hope, from the inner city of Detroit to the fields of Haiti,” Streubel said.

“This is also an academic evaluation. We hope that our findings could be published and presented at The American Society of Agronomy meetings.”

Streubel is pleased that his collaboration gives students a hands-on experience and helps Convoy of Hope expand its work.

“It is my desire to inspire and equip the next generation of faith-based scientists working in organizations like Convoy of Hope and in universities around the world.”

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Agriculture / Program Updates

Winning with Beans in Haiti

Last week was historic for beans in Haiti. In partnership with Mission of Hope, a program partner in Haiti, our agronomy staff there has been working closely with farmers to increase crop yield in Turpin and Z’Oranje. Specifically in these regions we have focused on black bean production and our labors are bearing much fruit … or beans.

A group of 24 farmers approached our staff about the possibility of negotiating a large sale of black beans for our Children’s Feeding Initiative. In conjunction with the local church and farmers, our staff bought 8,250 lbs. of black beans. Throughout the discussion it was very important to all parties to ensure all aspects of local economy and markets were only positively impacted.

According to my math, these beans will contribute to almost 24,000 nutrient-rich meals, an ideal combination of protein, fiber and micronutrients, to the children in the initiative. That’s worth celebrating and congratulations are in order for our local agronomist, Manasse Mercilus, and his team who make progress toward local food security possible.

The local farmer wins, the local economy wins, the child wins and Haiti’s future wins.

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One of the Haitian farmers we work with prepares his field. One of the Haitian farmers we work with prepares his field.

The Field Season

I loved this time of year as a kid. I would spend time driving around the orchard on the Honda Trail 90 finishing up the u-pick cherry season.  The work at the mink ranch was in full swing as 7,000 new babies needed their shots and as the cold damp rainy weather finally left after the 4th of July. It’s time to look back at the ups and downs, blessings and lessons learned, to winterize the equipment and determine what to do for the next field season.

I have come to think of life in the terms of a field or growing season. In American agriculture and climate we are always trying to lengthen the season but in the end we generally get just one. This past growing season has been filled with blessings, challenges and adventure. However, it’s the future growing seasons that drive me forward.

The general consensus is that roughly 870 million people in the world are still chronically undernourished and 16 million of those are from developed countries (FAO, 2012 (1)). The world population is primed for an increase of 9.1 billion by 2050, which will demand a 60% increase in agricultural production. This increase has to also take into account the good soil that remains, sustainability, economic viability, yield increases on existing land, the ongoing debates over the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism) and total effect climate change on farmable lands (FAO, 2012 (2)).

As we roll into the fall of 2013 I am reminded that 2050 is just 37 field seasons away. If seasons remain reasonably stable when the first tractor breaks ground in 2050 I will only be 76.   As I look to the next growing season as a person who deals with farmers and some of the 870 million chronically undernourished daily, I am reminded of the lesson I learned growing up – every growing season is different and every growing season matters.

If I’m going to impact 2050 as husband, dad, farmer, preacher, runner or scientist, then this coming field season needs my full attention because growing season is in the field notes and almost closed.

At Convoy of Hope we work with farmers to give them the power of agricultural education because it gives them opportunity to change their future.  

FAO (1) The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012.  The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 is published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme. Released October 8, 2012.

FAO(2) World Agriculture Towards 2030/2050: The 2012 Revision.  ESA E Working Paper No. 12-03.   Released June 2012.   

 
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Haitian bean farmers partnering in the bean experiment. Haitian bean farmers partnering in the bean experiment.

A 5-year bean experiment

As I walked through bean fields in Turpin and Zoranje during Haiti’s last rainy season I realized the crops had contracted a virus. Unfortunately, there is no cure for these plants once infected and this particular infection came in the seed. Think of when you go to the Dr. you get, “sorry, this one’s a nasty virus, you’re just going to have to ride it out.” So, who do I call, what do I do? Standing there I realized that as Convoy of Hope’s director of agriculture initiatives, I could either take on this task or hope that another scientist with the same training at another organization happened to walk in this field and discover the same virus.

Fastforward, we went with option A. Through traditional breeding programs scientists have found virus resistant varieties of black beans. We are now experimenting to see if these varieties can grow in Haiti where food-security is a leading cause and symptom of poverty.

I just got back from Haiti where Convoy of Hope initiated a 5-year experiment and partnership with a team of USDA-ARS scientists and bean breeders. We’re testing 28 varieties of beans so experimental that most of them only have numbers for names. Their promising traits span from higher nutrient value to drought resistance. Over the next 75-80 days we will observe factors like survival, growth and disease-resistance all to determine which variety to breed next. In the end we’ll also evaluate taste, color, market and farmer acceptance, and nutritional value. The ideal is to arrive at a bean that will grow with optimal yield, nutritional make-up and market value.

This little piece of science has the potential to make long-lasting generational change in Haiti, score one for the nerds!

Note: For scientists that just have to know, this is a 5-year experiment set up in a corn/bean rotation as a complete randomized block design with 4 treatments and 3 full replicates.  

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Agriculture / Program Updates