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NMSU hosts visit of Iraqi agricultural faculty

Eight Iraqi faculty members spent the last week of July on the New Mexico State University campus and at other locations in southern New Mexico learning about NMSU's land-grant mission and how its Cooperative Extension Service operates. The five men and three women, participants in the USDA-funded Iraq Agricultural Extension Revitalization Project, are affiliated with universities in Baghdad and Iraq's Kurdish region. They were participating in a four-week U.S. training program based at Texas A&M University.

Pete Lammers, NMSU research professor and technical director of the university's Algal Bioenergy Program, gestures as he explains NMSU's new algal photobioreactor to a group of Iraqi visitors. Eight faculty members from three Iraqi universities spent the last week of July at NMSU learning about the Cooperative Extension Service through the USDA-funded Iraq Agricultural Extension Revitalization Project. (NMSU photo by Jay A. Rodman)

The group's Las Cruces week was a mixture of presentations by NMSU faculty, visits to area agricultural production and processing facilities, tours of NMSU's Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center and Fabian Garcia Science Center, and roundtable discussions. Visits to White Sands National Monument and the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum combined sightseeing with issues of agricultural communication.

Their visit was coordinated by Jay Lillywhite, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, who heads up NMSU's participation in IAER.

The participants learned about agribusiness issues as they relate to Extension, the role of Extension in supporting producers, Extension programs for youth, and how Extension personnel approach their jobs. Jeanne Gleason, who heads the Department of Agricultural Communications, led daily sessions about agricultural communication as it relates to the Extension mission.

Visits in the private sector included a commercial vegetable farm in Hatch, a vinegar-making operation in Monticello, an incubator kitchen in Truth or Consequences and a goat farm and cheese processing operation in La Paloma.

At the NMSU science centers, they learned about glandless cotton field trials and possible commercial value of gossypol-free cottonseed oil; NMSU's new algal photobioreactor and the promise of algae-based biofuel production; and grape production in the American Southwest, with its hot, dry climate similar to Iraq's. The overarching goal of these visits was to help the participants understand how Extension researchers disseminate their findings for the benefit of agricultural stakeholders, such as producers and agribusinesses.

NMSU has been involved in IAER since 2007, one of five U.S. universities that received nearly $10 million in USDA grants to help rebuild Iraq's agriculture and agribusiness sectors. Texas A&M is the lead institution in the consortium that also includes Washington State University, Utah State University and University of California at Davis.

During the four years of the project, NMSU personnel have been involved, both in the U.S. and in Iraq, in training Iraqi extension specialists and developing materials for extension training programs.