News - March 8, 2007

Brazilian broker comes up trumps

The presence of a representative of the Brazilian research institute Embrapa in Wageningen is bearing fruit. An important joint banana research programme started recently, led by Wageningen UR and Embrapa.

Dr Manoel Souza started work at Wageningen UR about nine months ago. In addition to doing research, he is also a broker between Wageningen UR and his home institution Embrapa, the Brazilian equivalent of the research institutes in Wageningen.

The aim of the Embrapa office at Wageningen UR is to bring together agricultural and environmental researchers at Dutch universities with researchers in Brazil. Souza has had a lot of interest from Dutch researchers wanting to do joint research and students looking for internships in Brazil.

More impressive, though, is a major project that has just started – a ten-year research programme on bananas led by Embrapa and Wageningen UR, involving a number of European and Latin American institutes. The use of pesticides in banana cultivation is very high. In some parts of Latin America, crops are sprayed as many as seventy times a year just to control one disease. The aim of the programme, headed by Dr Gert Kema of Plant Research International, is to reduce the use of pesticides by half in ten years, tells Souza.

Three PhD students and six post-doc fellowships have already been approved by the programme, some of whom will work in Wageningen. Cooperation is also going well between Embrapa and Alterra; they are doing joint environmental research on competing claims on natural resources in three areas in Brazil. Both Wageningen UR and Embrapa are interested in pursuing joint research on bioenergy and biofuels as well, said Souza.