After four years at CIAT as the leader of the Rice Program, Fernando Correa passes the baton to María Fernanda Álvarez, the new leader, as of August 12. Here is a piece of his story:

Contributing to making rice varieties planted in Latin America more resistant to diseases, droughts, and other adverse effects of climate change so they can express a high yield potential and good-quality grain was Fernando Correa’s mission for four years, while working at CIAT as the leader of the Rice Program. Today, he concludes his experience as researcher, leaving a great legacy to the organization.

When he first came to the Center, he started working at the Plant Pathology Area of the Bean Program, from 1977 to 1982, and then he went abroad to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in Plant Pathology. He came back to CIAT in the late 1987 and worked as senior researcher and leader of the Rice Program up to 2008. Then, up to 2015, he was engaged in the development of rice hybrids at the RiceTec, Inc. company in the US. Circumstances led him back to CIAT that same year to lead the Rice Program once again and to implement all the positive outcomes achieved in the private sector.

 Accomplishments with Rice

His ability to persuade, his confidence and experience in plant pathology led the Rice Program to reach two significant accomplishments. The first one is the project with the National Rice Growers Association (Fedearroz), through which it will be possible to obtain a larger number of varieties tolerant to the Hoja Blanca virus. “We are able to see this outcome in two years thanks to Fernando, who got completely engaged as a researcher; he changed some protocols and the way we were evaluating the Hoja Blanca virus for breeding. Now we are taking these varieties to the field, where they will end their cycle, and we will be able to assess their ability to recover from the virus”, added María Fernanda. 

 

Fernando’s critical eye also helped to further the development of rice hybrids. His second accomplishment was leading the Rice Hybrids for Latin America consortium (HIAAL, its Spanish initials), which harnesses the genetic diversity of the germplasm, thus taking maximum advantage of its potential heterosis, through test crossings. These hybrids are evaluated and then the VIOHIAAL nurseries are created to distribute them annually among partners for their evaluation in different countries. This accomplishment will provide farmers with better yields and higher profits, and will also enable the development of the seed market and a higher rate of recovery of the investment in research and development.

 

His Great Legacy

The people interviewed for this post pointed out that he will remain in the memory of those who know him for always having a tender smile for everyone. During his time at CIAT, he devoted much of his time to working hand in hand with María Fernanda Álvarez, who continues to receive feedback on the advances of projects, research, and field work.

His mentoring abilities made a positive impact on my professional life. He is an outstanding person, who is always teaching and sharing his experience. His simplicity makes interacting with him very easy and he is always open to questions. I thank him for being a scientist at heart, who was always ready to smile at me and teach me something.

María Fernanda Álvarez

New Leader of Rice Program at CIAT

There will always be a lot more to tell about Dr. Correa, but his modesty prevents this. This is a humble tribute to the considerable work he carried out during these years of research at CIAT and, as stated by Eduardo Graterol, Executive Director of the Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR, in Spanish), “I trust Fernando, in addition to relaxing and devoting more time to his loved ones, will continue helping us to face the major challenges for the sustainability of rice production in Latin America”.

His Colleagues and Friends will Always Remember Him for...

“Being a professional scientifically admirable and unbeatable as mentor. I thank him for sharing his knowledge and making work very enjoyable.” Fondly, Maribel Cruz.

“Being renowned in the rice sector. His contributions in pathology are taken as benchmarks that have allowed other scientists to make further progress in the knowledge and search to reduce the impact of diseases on production. In addition, his experience at CIAT and the private sector have been highly valuable for FLAR members.”, Greetings, Eduardo Graterol.

“Always with a smile, above all, his human warmth. His teachings will stay with those of us, who had the pleasure of working with him.”, Beatriz Ocampo.

“Helping many to grow as individuals and professionals, always open to listen; his human warmth and the smile that characterizes him. Thank you so much for everything.”, Liliana Bolaños Paz (Fedearroz).

“His human warmth and professionalism are two features that set him apart and characterize him as a true leader. You, as a person, as an agricultural engineer, and as a scientist, have a lot to offer and keep making contributions to the development of the Latin American agriculture, either as part of an institution or independently. I ask God to rain down on you and your family His blessings and divine protection.”, With great appreciation and respect, Gustavo Prado.

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