November 22, 2011
This year TROPENTAG 2011 took place at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität Bonn, Germany and its motto was “Development on the margin”. After having participated with contributions in preceding years, this year K+S KALI GmbH acted as one of the official sponsors of the event for the first time. According to Prof. Mathias Becker, Professor for Plant Nutrition in the Tropics and Subtropics, who directed this year’s TROPENTAG, it has become the most important event devoted to development-oriented agricultural research in Europe. “The number of participants and countries represented has increased rapidly over the past few years, and this year we were able to welcome some 800 participants from 81 countries,” he said. “The academic quality has also increased significantly due to the higher number of contributions submitted and the consequent selection potential”.
The TROPENTAG is organised by the universities of Göttingen, Hohenheim and Kassel-Witzenhausen, the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Bonn, the North-South Centre of ETH Zürich and the Council for Tropical and Subtropical Research e. V. (ATSAF) in cooperation with the GIZ Advisory Service on Agricultural Research for Development. The interdisciplinary international conference has been held annually since 1999 at different locations, thus far predominantly in Germany. “Meanwhile, institutions in Austria, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic are also interested in hosting the TROPENTAG”, is how Becker described current developments. “This is further contributing to the networking of international research on agriculture and development and the strengthening of TROPENTAG”.
TROPENTAG is primarily aimed at the target group of junior scientists, and is intended to promote their interest in development-oriented agricultural research. Prof. Mathias Becker explained the financing concept: “To enable young scientists from all over the world to participate, low conference fees are a must. In order to meet the greater demands on the profile of the conference, in addition to the basic financing from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development we also have to rely on sponsors”. The respective hosts of TROPENTAG are responsible for acquiring sponsors. The sponsors can choose whether to make a financial commitment or provide premises for the creation of their own conference unit on a topic of their choice. The funds they contribute are devoted exclusively to hosting the conference. Anything that remains is used to subsidise the travel expenses of young scientists from abroad.
In the opinion of Prof. Mathias Becker, the challenge of international agricultural research is identified primarily by a contribution to securing nutrition. 925 million starving people worldwide, population growth and the increased degradation of the soil have made food production solutions tailored to the specific location an urgent necessity. “The existing challenges can only be met jointly by the scientific and business communities”, says Becker. “Ultimately, industry has the strength and structures to contribute to local solutions”. As an example of this, he mentions the depleted soils in the East African Highlands or in North Vietnam, where simply by adding single nutrient fertilizers we can achieve large increases in yields for the smallest producers. Finding product and distribution-related solutions is a very urgent task.
At TROPENTAG, Prof. Jóska Gerendás, Agricultural Applied Research and Advisory Department of K+S KALI GmbH, presented selected findings on the sulphur supply of oil palms on Indonesian plantations. These findings were arrived at as part of a best management practice (BMP) project coordinated by the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), with financial support from K+S KALI GmbH. “K+S KALI GmbH generates about 50% of its revenues from potassium and magnesium products outside Europe”, said Prof. Gerendás. “With South-East Asia, Brazil and India, the largest overseas markets are located in the tropics and subtropics. The development of fertilizing systems tailored to local conditions for the crops cultivated in these regions is therefore a topic that we will have to focus on more in the future”. K+S KALI GmbH’s commitment to TROPENTAG is already a tradition. At regular intervals, it features the company’s agriculturalists’ scientific contributions.
As Prof. Mathias Becker sees it, the motto of this year's TROPENTAG – “Development on the margin” – can also be seen as the guiding principle of interdisciplinary agricultural and development-oriented research. “In order to contribute to securing nutrition, we principally need solutions for locations with marginal conditions”, he said. “And also for rural regions, whose population thus far lives and works outside the markets".
How to improve the resilience of agricultural systems to the effects of crises is the subject of TROPENTAG 2012. Its motto will be “Resilience of agricultural systems against crises” and it will be held at the Georg-August Universität Göttingen, Germany. K+S KALI GmbH is planning to continue to demonstrate its commitment by sponsoring TROPENTAG. The conference location in Göttingen offers an excellent opportunity to network the IAPN (Institute of Applied Plant Nutrition) founded by K+S KALI GmbH with the organisers and participants in TROPENTAG and to present its own work in this field.
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