International Scientists Conduct Climate Smart Research at NC State

WRITTEN BY: Olivia Rogers (

International fellows from Latin America are finishing up their three month stay at NC State. These fellows are part of the USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Scientific Exchanges Program (SEP). Nine fellows from Latin America have been spending time at NC State conducting research on climate smart agricultural practices.

The USDA-FAS SEP provides an opportunity for international researchers to visit institutions such as NC State to share knowledge and research. This program matches university faculty with a fellow who is in the same field of research. The mentor and fellow spend three months focused on education and research.

Before arriving on NC State’s campus, the fellows met with the USDA-FAS in Washington, DC. During this visit, the fellows got an introduction to USDA, and they met with professionals in leadership positions. The fellows also met other SEP fellows who were going to different universities to complete the program. When they weren’t in meetings the fellows visited different sites around the nation’s capital to enhance their cultural experiences.

The fellows attending the World Food Prize with NC State staff.

During their time in North Carolina, the fellows enhance their professional development through various pitch meetings and presentation design opportunities. This aspect of the program helps the fellows learn how to make their research digestible for professional audiences. The fellows also travel to Des Moines, Iowa for the annual World Food Prize. This event focuses on addressing food insecurity. These aspects of the program combine to promote collaboration and education among the fellows.

When the program wraps up, the fellows will travel back to Washington, DC for post-program meetings. These meetings will provide the fellows with an opportunity to share their climate smart agricultural research with USDA representatives.

Read about the research below—

Brenda Román Ponce is a research professor at Universidad Politécnica del Estado de Morelos, México. Her research at NC State focuses on endophytes and their antagonistic activity against plant pathogens. Her mentor is Oliver Baars who works within the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at NC State.


Elías Hugo Huanuqueño Coca is a Lecturer and Sustainable Plant Breeder within the Department of Phytotechnics at National Agrarian University La Molina in Lima, Perú. While at NC State, he is focusing on applying molecular techniques to enhance sustainable plant breeding for Ñuña bean and corn production. His mentor is Rubén Rellán who is an assistant professor at NC State.

Ricardo Borjas Ventura is a Professor at National Agrarian University in La Molina, Perú. His mentor at NC State is Ricardo Hernandez. They work together to study the effect of salt stress on the initial growth and physiology of grafted tomatoes. This research allows Ventura to study new genetic material that can last in Perú’s conditions.

Yeirme Yaneth Jaimes Suárez is an Associate PhD Researcher at the Research Center La Suiza of the Colombian Agricultural Research Corporation (AGROSAVIA) in Colombia. She is working with the Center of Integrated Pest Management at NC State to research forecast models for new pests of cacao.

Olga Teresa Barreto Cruz is a Professor at the Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia. At NC State she works with her mentor Vivek Fellner to gain further knowledge on the effects of natural feed additives on ruminal fermentation.

Darwin Hernando Martinez is a Manager of Cocoa Research and Innovation Network at AGROSAVIA in Colombia. At NC State he is collaborating with his mentor, Trino Ascencio-Ibáñez, to receive training. This specialized training focuses on using molecular detection techniques to find disease in cocoa.

Vanessa Catalina Díaz Poveda is a research assistant in Cenifcafé, Colombia. She works with her mentor Alex Woodley to develop mitigation strategies of greenhouse gas emissions and apply those strategies to coffee production.

Henry Eduardo Vacacela Ajila is a researcher at the National Institute of Agricultural Research INIAP in Ecuador. He works with Godshen Pallipparambil, Yu Takeuchi and Lauren Quevillon at the Center for Integrated Pest Management at NC State. His research focuses on climate change in relation to new pest development.

David Hidalgo Mata is an Agricultural Researcher at the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIAP) in Santo Domingo, Ecuador. His mentor is R Michael Roe. His research focuses on technologies that might help control the Asian LongHorn tick in livestock.