USDA-Borlaug mentor follow-up visit to Ukraine

By Dr. Rafiq Islam, Soil, Water, and Bioenergy Resources Program Director

Recently, Drs. Tom Worley, Director of the OSU South Centers and Rafiq Islam, Borlaug mentor have visited Ukraine to meet the USDA-Borlaug mentee, Dr. Natalia Didenko. Dr. Didenko organized and managed the mentor follow-up trip very professionally based on the skills she acquired during her Borlaug fellowship period at the Ohio State University in 2016. As part of our program schedule, we visited (1) Institute of Water Problems and Land Reclamation, National Academy of Agrarian Sciences in Kyiv, Ukraine; (2) Agro-ecology and Forestry Research Institute in Zhytomyr; (3) Kherson State Agrarian University, Kherson; (4) Institute of Irrigated Agriculture, Kherson; and (5) Dnipro State Agrarian and Economic University, Dnipro.

We met Director Dr. Romashchenko Mykhailo and his division specialists at the Institute of Water Problems and Land Reclamation. They discussed accelerated salinity and degraded soil quality, droughts, and soil compaction issues in response to climate change effects. In response, Dr. Tom Worley delivered a presentation on Ohio State University and South Centers for possible research, academic and extension and outreach collaboration to address some of the issues raised by the director and specialists. Dr. Rafiq Islam also gave a research and Extension presentation on sustainable management of soil quality and water resources in response to climate change effects on Ukraine.

We were accompanied by Dr. Didenko to visit Kherson State Agrarian University and Institute of Irrigated Agriculture in southern Ukraine. We met Rector Dr. Yuriy Kryylov, deans, and senior professors to discuss collaborative research and Extension outreach on sustainable soil and water management practices in the Kherson region.

As part of our program, we visited several private farms (e.g. Freedom Farm International) as well as State farms (Askaniyskoe). We met a pioneer no-till farmer (Stefanov) in Kherson, who is currently managing 12,000 ha lands (30,000 acres) with no-till, cover crops and crop rotation for the last 12 years to improve soil health, reduced soil compaction and minimize water-use for irrigation. Visiting that farm was amazing to see the results being achieveable using sustainable agriculture methods.

By the initiation of Drs. Natalia Didenko and Iryna Volovyk, Chief of International Affairs Dept., Dnipro State Agrarian and Economic University), we met Rector Anatoly S. Kobets, vice-rectors, deans, several professors, and international program officials of the Dnipro State Agrarian and Economic University and discussed collaboration. Later, Professors Olexandr Mironov and Mykola Kharytonov from Soil and Ecology Dept. of the Dnipro State Agrarian and Economic University took us to visit reclaimed and abandoned mine-lands currently under phytoremediation process to generate bio-feedstock production for energy. With Professor Olexandr Mironov, we also visited “Agro Soyuz” one of the largest private Ag-enterprises in Dnipro, who promotes no-till and cover crops use in Ukraine.

Throughout our visit, we had several discussions with our Ukrainian counterparts to develop academic courses, conduct applied research, and initiate Extension outreach programs with their specialists. We also discussed initiation of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with The Ohio State University. Accordingly, Dr. Tom Worley signed the MOU with the Institute of Water Problems and Land Reclamation institute, as the MOU was approved by the OSU Office of International Programs earlier.

Currently, we are working to develop a “Visiting scholar exchange program” to bring scientists from several universities and institutes in Ukraine to work in Soil, Water, and Bioenergy Resources Program of The Ohio State University South Centers, starting May 2018.