CIAT emeritus scientist Rainer Schultze-Kraft has received the 2016 Friendship Award from the Chinese government, for his long-term work with tropical forage scientists in the country.

He was one of 50 experts from 18 countries and a wide range of disciplines to receive the annual award, made by China’s State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, at a special ceremony in Beijing.

The award – presented by China’s Vice Premier Ma Kai – is considered the highest accolade that foreign experts working with Chinese institutions can receive.

Schultze-Kraft’s work with Chinese plant scientists began in 1982, at the very start of the collaboration between CIAT and the South China Academy of Tropical Crops (SCATC), now known as CATAS (Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences). He provided Chinese colleagues with a selection of mainly legume samples from the large tropical forages collection at the CIAT genebank, for field trials in Hainan, together with methodologies for evaluating plant performance. Two SCATC/CIAT expeditions to collect wild legume samples in tropical China followed in 1984 and 1988.

It was the beginning of a long-term partnership that also saw young Chinese scientists joining CIAT in Colombia as visiting researchers, specialising in research into tropical forage germplasm. One of these scientists – Liu Guodao – is now professor and vice-president of CATAS – and another – Chaozu He – is professor and director of the Faculty of Tropical Agriculture and Life Sciences at Hainan University.

One of CIAT’s forage legumes, Stylosanthes guianensis (CIAT 184) – first collected by Schultze-Kraft as a wild plant in the district of Jamundí, near Cali, Colombia – has since been established on hundreds of thousands of hectares in tropical and subtropical China. While originally selected for extensive cattle-rearing in tropical savannahs, varieties from Chinese breeding programs based on this accession are now used in China primarily as cover crop in fruit tree plantations, to protect soils and improve fertility.

In recent years, Schultze-Kraft, has made a number of visits to Hainan, working closely with Chinese forage scientists there. The work has included training activities at CATAS and joint development of project proposals that involve the use of forage samples from the CIAT genebank. He is currently helping coordinate production of a CATAS compendium on the forage legume genus Stylosanthes.

Schultze-Kraft is also co-editor of the open access online journal Tropical Grasslands-Forrajes Tropicales, co-sponsored by CATAS, which publishes new research into the importance of tropical forages in boosting meat and milk production, protecting soils and responding to climate change, as well as a host of other issues.

More recently, Schultze-Kraft and colleagues from CIAT have worked closely with CATAS developing a collaboration on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in forage-based systems. This has included staff exchanges and training on processes such as biological nitrification inhibition, which can help reduce both emissions of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide from farming systems, and nitrate leaching, a key concern in China.

“It’s a great honour to receive this award,” Schultze-Kraft said, following the award ceremony on China’s National Day (1st Oct). “I see it very much linked to the significance and value of the tropical forage germplasm collection in CIAT’s genebank and the Tropical Forages Program’s projections towards Asia. I’m pleased and very grateful that my good intentions have been recognised, and look forward to more collaboration in the future.”

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The Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences (CATAS) is CIAT’s premier institutional partner in China, particularly with regard to research into cassava and tropical forages.

CIAT’s genebank at its headquarters in Colombia safeguards over 67,000 samples of cassava, bean and tropical forages, for use by scientists all over the world. Click for information on our plans to expand the facility.

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