UW-River Falls

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Last updated:
May 31, 2002

UW-RF Faculty Work in Nicaragua

UW-River Falls retired Professors Lou Greub, agronomy, and Gerald Nolte, agricultural economics, spent three weeks in Nicaragua recently to share some of their professional expertise and agricultural skills with several agricultural groups.

Wisconsin and Nicaragua are partner states in the nonprofit organization, Partners of the Americas. Within the program Hudson and River Falls are partner cities to Octal, a city of about 30,000 in Northern Nicaragua. Foreign aid efforts are common in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Because half the labor force in Nicaragua works in agriculture, many aid programs are geared toward that as well as in environmental-related projects and community enhancement programs.

At the Universidad National Agria, Greub, who specializes in forages, worked with students and faculty on intensive rotational grazing systems and electric fence construction. After conducting a class on how to lay out a pasture system, he took students into the field at the UNA Lab Farm where they planned a grazing system and constructed an electric fence. Greub noted that many farms in Nicaragua do not have electric fencing but that solar powered units, like the one used at the UNA Lab Farm, would be a viable way to incorporate the technology into their farming systems. Intensive rotational grazing also has potential in Nicaragua where cattle are almost universally grazed. The challenge lies in that there is nearly six months of dry season to work around when grazing at the lower elevations.

Nolte, who specializes in farm financial management and marketing, gave a seminar to agribusiness students and faculty on a personnel management system and worked with faculty on several grant proposals. A grant already submitted to the U.S. State Department, would result in three years of agribusiness faculty exchanges between the UNA and UW-RF. Work was done on a similar proposal for faculty in other disciplines at UNA and on a large community development grant proposal.

Nearly 400 producers were in attendance for the first annual Dairy Congress sponsored by the cattle producers association of Nicaragua. Nolte led off the Congress with a talk on the status of the dairy industry worldwide. Greub followed on the second day with a presentation on intensive rotational grazing. There was keen interest in both topics with many hands still raised at the end of the formal question and answer periods. Several of the younger farmers and farm managers that Greub and Nolte met were well on their way to adopting more modern and efficient grazing systems. However, with an average production of 10 ten pounds of milk, per cow per day, Nicaraguan dairy systems still have a long way to approach United States standards.

Following the dairy congress, Greub and Nolte spent several days giving workshops to farmers and the extension educators employed by cooperatives. These were in collaboration with PRODEGA, a Finnish government-sponsored dairy development project, and with local dairy cooperatives. The emphasis of these workshops was on forage management and rotational grazing. One conclusion reached by the two and their hosts is the need for demonstration forage plots and grazing systems to give better information for farmers.

Greub and Nolte also visited a unique coffee plantation, dairy farm, greenhouse, and resort operation in the higher elevations of north central Nicaragua. The Selva Negra plantation and others in the area are producing shade-grown coffee organically. Organic producers often use compost in place of chemical fertilizer. Nolte and Greub put on a class for producers so they can learn to better monitor their extensive composting operation and produce a higher quality final product.

For more information on the Wisconsin-Nicaragua Partners program, contact Tony Jilek, anthony.f.jilek@uwrf.edu, or Leslie Bleskachek, leslie.k.blesachek@uwrf.edu.

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