I recently had an amazing opportunity to be a part of a ten day trip to Indonesia with Plant Breeders Without Borders, an organization Bayer collaborates with to promote breeding techniques. The plan was to join with faculty from Bogor University to facilitate training for local farmers. This project was focused on Bambara Groundnut which is considered an underutilized specie in Indonesia.
The first few days of our trip we visited local farmers. Farming practices in Indonesia are much different than what I was used to, but I appreciated seeing how it worked for them. I was impressed by their determined work habit and culture of working together as families. Farmers were very knowledgeable, pleasant to talk with and hard working. Most of the farming is done by hand on very small plots of land. I observed mother and father working together harvesting Bambara Groundnut by hand. I also enjoyed watching young children playing soccer in nearby pastures at the end of the day when their parents’ work was completed. It was great to see families together.
The program gives local farmers practical training in the field. Several different plant species (e.g., Bambara Groundnut, Eggplant, Peanut, etc.) were used to teach the anatomy of flowers and how to make plant crosses. Simple, but impactful, breeding concepts were taught. From the field we went to the classroom, the discussion that followed allowed plant breeders to understand the needs of local farmers. We discovered different traits essential to increase Groundnut production. Comments from farmers about increasing yield, disease resistance and crop quality allowed the university staff to better understand priorities of plant selected traits. Agronomic practices and economic analysis were also discussed to help bring increased value to the farmer. I really enjoyed the opportunity to assist in plant breeding training. To actively participate and interact with famers, faculty members and students from the university, was very rewarding.
Plant Breeder for Bayer Crop Science, Lubbock, TX
This training also caused me to reflect on the breeding program that I am currently involved in. I have realized the genetic gain and great accomplishments made through plant selections, such as increased yield and nutrition. There is a critical need to communicate with growers to better understand customers and their needs. Bayer is a for profit company, but at the end of the day seeds and chemicals are a service provided to growers to better their livelihoods. If growers are not successful, companies will not be successful.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate with Plant Breeders Without Borders and to know the company I work with is involved in this program. This experience has brought a new perspective and happiness into my life because I could see how my work is actually impacting lives in distant geographies. The wonderful people I met in Indonesia treated me like a close friend. I was introduced to their families, fed delicious local food, and taught about their culture. Our common passion for agriculture united us. I left feeling richer because of all I was able to learn, and appreciative of their culture. I believe I became a better plant breeder because of this trip. I would encourage others to be involved and take opportunities to reach out and help others, whether through Plant Breeders Without Borders or through other programs. You might find out, as I did, that by helping others you help yourself become a better person and professional.