"We don't have exactly the
same species in Brazil and in the United States, but we do have the same genera
and the same problems of controlling insect damage without overusing chemical
pesticides," Borges says.
Brazil is ahead of the United States in some aspects of insect biocontrol on
farms. One reason is that insects are a greater challenge in a more tropical
country; another is that biocontrol is often labor intensive and labor is less
expensive in Brazil, explains Borges. "But the technology we develop can
be applied in the United States as well," he says. "We understand
today that we must learn together because what we have is really one global
One oddity that Borges' colleague ARS entomologist Jeffrey R. Aldrich has
noted is that parasitic insects native to the United States prefer to attack
exotic species, including certain stink bugs from Brazil, something Borges and
Aldrich hope to investigate further.
Aldrich is especially interested in working with Brazil because insects
there are much more similar to those in the United States than those of Europe
or Asia are. "Joint studies across an ocean are not going to be of as much
benefit because we have less in common in terms of species," Aldrich says.
Brazilian agronomist Ariovaldo Luchiari has been taking advantage of the
season reversal between the United States and Brazil to double his data
collecting as he evaluates indicators to measure stress in corn and soybeans as
part of improving precision agriculture management systems. Precision
agriculture systems depend on gathering specific data in a repeatable fashion
from the soil and crops, using equipment connected to global information and
global positioning systems.
"Precision agriculture is about shifting farming from managing strictly
by observation to using unbiased scientific data to make decisions. Right now,
I am comparing water and nitrogen stresses in corn to see if I can use
chlorophyll fluorescence to tell me when intervention by irrigating and/or
fertilizing would be truly worthwhile," Luchiari says. He is working at
the ARS Soil and Water Conservation Research Unit in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Precision agriculture technology is gaining popularity in the United States
and Brazil. Luchiari has been able to bring a new perspective to developing
such technology and to helping Brazilian farmers put it to work. Considering
Brazilian farmers may be a major market for U.S. companies that are marketing
precision agriculture technology, Luchiari's work holds real significance for
Other Opportunities Abound
While LABEX is a direct arrangement between EMBRAPA and ARS, it is by no
means an exclusive relationship. Since ARS has more than 100 research
locations, partnering also gives the Brazilian scientists opportunities to work
with a variety of U.S. universities.
LABEX has placed Brazilian molecular biologist Maria Jose A. Sampaio at ARS'
U.S. Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Laboratory in Ithaca, New York, but she is
working closely with Cornell University, especially the Cornell Research
Foundation, the school's technology transfer and intellectual property rights
arm. Sampaio is working on the complex issues of gene patenting, particularly
international implications for improving biotechnology in developing countries.
Since the Uruguay Round in 1994, countries have been asked to modify their
legislation to allow for the patenting of biotechnology and to provide
protection for plant varieties.
Both EMBRAPA and ARS see the development of intellectual property rights as
essential to giving researchers continuing access to plant germplasm and genes
for agronomically important traits, while preserving the rights of the host
country, the inventor of new technology, and the developer of new varieties.
"The project also provides funds for working with other intellectual
property rights offices at various American universities to develop an
understanding of their modus operandi and the use of proprietary assets in the
transfer of technology to other public and private organizations," Sampaio
says. "In the coming year, I will also be seeking more interaction with
ARS' Technology Transfer Office."By J. Kim Kaplan, ARS.
Scientists mentioned in this story can be contacted through
J. Kim Kaplan, USDA-ARS
Information Staff, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Beltsville, MD
20705-5128; phone (301) 504-1637, fax (301) 504-1648.