International DAAD Alumniseminar and Tropentag 2019

DAAD Alumniseminar "Scientific Debating about Sustainable Agriculture – Biodiversity protection supported by breeding, biological plant protection and mixed crop cultivation"

The International DAAD Alumni Seminar was held in Goettingen from 10th to 17th September 2019, followed by the TROPENTAG 2019 from 18th to 21st September 2019 in Kassel, Germany. Within the framework of the Alumni Special Project, the seminar brought together 25 participants from 21 countries to exchange ideas, experiences and to debate about a common interest: Sustainable Agriculture - Biodiversity protection supported by breeding, biological plant protection and mix-crop cultivation.


Attending the seminar, the participants had the opportunity not only to introduce their research and projects, but also to learn new technologies from scientists at the University of Goettingen and other organizations in Germany. We were honored to present our keynote speakers, Dr. Liane Schulz-Streeck from CiBreed to give us a talk about Integrated Plant and Animal Breeding and introduce us to the Center´s concept and the associated study programs; Dr. Johannes Koschi from Agrecol about the topic "The open-source license - a legal approach to securing seeds as commons"; Dr. Gudrun Keding from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences with a presentation about diversified crop production. Regarding the empirical social science findings on science communication, we were introduced Prof. Dr. Senja Post who is an expert about life science communication at the Faculty of Agricultural Science. Enhancing skills for participants are also concerned through practical training in debating with the guidance of Sarah Iweala and Dr. Stefan Zimmermann from the Public Relations Unit, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.


The excursions were designed to provide participants a comprehensive understanding of the sustainable agricultural value chain optimized productivity and biodiversity protection. The first destination was KWS SAAT SE & Co. KGaA, a company founded in 1856, that specializes in researching and supplying high-quality crop breeding material.


BIOCARE GmbH was the second destination, a family-owned company founded in 1995 in Einbeck with unique biological plant protection products. Naturkost Elkershausen GmbH, a regional wholesale which covers a large range of products from fresh to dry, represented the processes involving agricultural products after harvesting, Although focusing on the different stages of the agricultural product value chain, all these companies share a common feature, which is the strong cooperation with universities and farmers in product research and development as well as product consumption.


One of the highlight events of the seminar was the public debate at the Sternwarte Conference Center, joined by the Alumni group from Witzenhausen and students. The two selected topics "Can Monoculture feed the increasing world population" and "Can chemical plant protection and biodiversity go together?" were discussed and furthermore published at the Agrardebatten-Blog.


Besides scientific activities, the seminar also offered a networking possibility by different meetings with the Alumni group in Witzenhausen, as well as international students and staff of student services, which was expected to help participants to get into the deeper discussion and develop further cooperation in the future.

After the seminar in Goettingen, the group participated in Tropentag 2019 from 17th to 21st at the University of Kassel with the theme "Filling gaps and removing traps for sustainable resources management". One of the seminar´s participants was awarded the Poster Prize of Tropentag 2019 for his topic "Large scale screening for potential stresses tolerant rice germplasms in Vietnam".

The International DAAD Alumni Seminar was organized and hosted by the Centre of Biodiversity and Sustainable Land Use, University of Goettingen, and sponsored by funds from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provided by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).


The loss of biodiversity through direct and indirect human causes reduces adaptability to environmental changes and ecosystem services. Agriculture increasingly contributes to the loss of diversity through intensification of crop production and mechanisation of animal husbandry. The constant demand for increased yields of food and feed requires the provision of high-quality plant varieties up to efficient land use systems. In the past, increased yields in plant production were largely due to advances in breeding. In addition, fertilization, crop protection and new agricultural techniques contributed to increasing productivity.
The current social debate on the loss of biodiversity also calls for agricultural research and innovation through systemic approaches to optimise environmental compatibility and yield capacity. Conflicts of interest and complexity lead to scientifically controversial debates.

The Alumni seminar aimed at training and debating in three selected agricultural topics (1) breeding, (2) biological plant protection and (3) mixed crop cultivation, which can counteract the loss of biodiversity. They fit thematically to the conference title "Filling gaps and removing traps for sustainable resource development".