Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on September 3, 2009. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
USDA grant makes MSU/China partners
MISSISSIPPI STATE – A $150,000 grant will enable Mississippi State University students to gain international exposure as they study a technology that makes it possible to grow crops for longer than a typical season allows.
“Season extension technology” allows a crop to be grown earlier or later than weather typically allows. One method is to construct an unheated, Quonset-shaped greenhouse that captures heat.
This summer, Mengmeng Gu, an ornamental horticulture specialist with the MSU Extension Service, received the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant with collaboration from the University of Arkansas and the University of Florida. Faculty from all three U.S. universities will work together with scholars at six Chinese institutions.
The grant will help develop and enhance teaching, research and extension programs to improve the profitability of small farms, which account for more than 90 percent of all farms in the United States.
“Reduced environmental risk and improved economic benefits from season extension production help small farmers compete in a marketplace that is increasingly pursuing locally grown agricultural products,” Gu said.
Earlier this year, MSU received a competitive $500,000 USDA grant to research season extension technology for applications in Mississippi. MSU built its first high tunnel in 2009.
Gu said China, which has a climate comparable to that of the United States, has been a major agricultural country for 5,000 years and has used season extension technology for decades. It is the world’s top user of plastic for crop production, one type of season extension technology, and has more acreage in production under plastic and glass than the rest of the world combined.
Gu said the new grant will offer students in each of the three participating American universities four scholarships to partially fund the study-abroad trip the first year, and three scholarships per institution the second year.
“While the primary focus of the study-abroad trip is to view and evaluate China’s use of season extension techniques, the group will obviously benefit from exposure to other agricultural practices used in China,” Gu said.
Each study-abroad trip will last about 30 days and will include travel through USDA Cold Hardiness Zones 6-10 in China. Mississippi has Cold Hardiness Zones 7 and 8. These zones refer to climate types. The trips will be taken in May and June and again in December 2010.
“The students participating in the study abroad trip can learn season extension production and marketing of horticultural corps in either warmer months or cooler months,” Gu said. “Different crop growing stages, environmental control and relative production and marketing strategies will be featured in the two trips.”
The grant also will make possible a faculty exchange between the American and Chinese institutions. Goals will be to initiate international partnerships in research, education and extension; to enhance the adoption of international technologies in the United States; and to strengthen the roles that American universities play in maintaining U.S. competitiveness.
American faculty members will have the opportunity to take an exchange trip, and on the second year of the program, Chinese scholars will be invited to MSU to give two or three seminars on season extension production and marketing.
Bill Evans, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station research coordinator at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs, will travel to China on the second trip. He said the information exchange will benefit China, MSU and Mississippi.
“I am looking forward to learning about agriculture in China and about their agricultural education and research system,” Evans said. “I hope this project allows us to lay a strong foundation for cooperative education, outreach and research efforts between Mississippi and China. Sharing information about each other’s systems, even brainstorming about real and perceived areas needing improvement, can benefit China and Mississippi.”
The third part of the grant will create two scholarships per participating state. These will be given to horticultural produce growers to partially fund growers’ trips in conjunction with the students’ study-aboard December trip. Three such scholarships will be offered per state in the grant’s third year to partially fund a seven-day international field trip.
“The international field trip will offer growers direct exposure to international season extension research, production and marketing,” Gu said. “With experience in production and marketing, the growers could compare what they observe in China with their own practices and adopt suitable technology back in the United States.”
Evans said these field trips will allow Mississippi growers to meet Chinese colleagues.
“We should see some crops we don’t grow in Mississippi, some interesting uses of mechanized and hand labor, and learn about how information is shared with and among growers,” Evans said.
Gu is working with collaborators in China on details of the first student trip, offered next May. Brian Trader, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Guihong Bi and Bill Evans at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs will be co-leaders on one of these trips.