USDA-ARS and Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, are celebrating 15 years of successful collaborations via their ‘Virtual Laboratory’, called LABEX. The ARS Office of International Research Programs (OIRP) manages the program as a trust fund cooperative agreement, with Embrapa funds to support ARS and Land-grant university research exchanges with Embrapa scientists. Over the course of the program, ARS laboratories and a few US universities hosted 25 senior Brazilian scientists for two to three years, and nearly 100 more Embrapa scientists for six to 18 month stints.
The program is designed to foster scientific exchange and capacity building in areas of mutual benefit for the US and Brazil, and sponsor cutting edge research in molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics, nanotechnology, and remote sensing. Projects address critical agricultural challenges in climate change mitigation and adaptation, invasive species, food safety, animal health, plant and animal genetic resources preservation, biofuels production, crop integrated pest and disease management, forest management, water resources, drought tolerance, and citrus Huanlongbing (citrus greening). Impacts include development of high mechanical performance nanofibers, genes and gene promoters to enhance plant biotic and abiotic stress tolerance, contamination prevention methods for animal-originated foods, new soil carbon assessment methods, identification of molecular markers for soybean rust disease, rapid diagnostics for animal health, biomass and second generation biofuels production, and protocols for long-term preservation and exchange of genetic resources, just to name a few of the tangible outcomes of this partnership. Intangibles include the long-term relationships developed between researchers, leading to joint participation in international research groups and alliances, and creation of joint projects and research networks, and the smoother transfer and adaptation of new technologies and processes.
In 2014, there are five Embrapa LABEX senior scientists working in ARS labs in five focal areas for two to three year tours. Magda Benavides, animal health, at Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Bovine Functional Genomics Laboratory, Beltsville, MD; Dr. Ricardo Alves, bioactive compounds, at Texas A&M University, College Station, TX; Dr. Eduardo Andrade, citrus Huanglongbing, at the US Horticultural Research Laboratory, Fort Pierce, FL; Samuel Rezende, animal genetic resources, at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, Fort Collins, CO; and Carlos Lazarini, LABEX Coordinator, at OIRP in Beltsville, MD. Additionally, Dr. Alexandre Nepomuceno, only recently went back to his Research Center in Brazil. He developed his collaborative research on drought tolerance, at the Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany, CA.