Helping poor farmers in Latin America develop effective soil management strategies is the goal of CALS crop science student Angel Cruz, who will be working this summer, courtesy of a Fulbright Fellowship and a Borlaug Fellowship, in El Salvador.
In a brief interview about her experiences recently, here’s what Cruz had to say:
“I think a lot of people right now are talking about feeding the world in 2050, but I want to remember that there are a lot of people who are hungry today and don’t have enough to eat. My name is Angel Cruz. I’m a Ph.D. student here at NC State in the Crop Science Department. Most of my research has to do with agroecology and soil conservation and how it impacts food security for small farmers in Central America.
“This past summer in El Salvador I found that their corn and bean yields had no response to fertilizer applications. Farmers are spending a lot of money on fertilizer, which is a problem if fertilizer is not having any impact on yield. So there is some other limiting factor, which we suspect is soil management strategies.
“What I am doing is working with farmers and the University of El Salvador and some of their agronomy professors, as well as a nonprofit there that has really strong community ties, to identify some key soil management strategies. I’m taking a lot of soils data and yield data but also surveying farmers to see how appropriate those strategies are.
“In January I was awarded a U.S. Borlaug Fellowship to cover all the research costs, and then I had applied for a Fulbright, really as just a dream, and recently found out I was awarded the Fulbright, which will cover all my expenses while I am there.
“I am probably going to do 10 on-farm field trials next year with farmers, and these are some of the poorest farmers in El Salvador. The majority of the farms in the world are actually smallholder farmers that are farming 2 hectares or less. And some of the lesser developed countries, 50 percent of their food economy is actually small farmers.
“And so if we can improve food production for smallholder farmers, we can really have an impact.”