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Message from Borlaug-Ruan international intern Sweta Sudhir, Turkey, summer 2015

October 5, 2015
Sweta in the field in Konya, peeling wheat stems to score for crown rot symptoms. Photo: Gul Erginbas Orakci

Sweta in the field in Konya, peeling wheat stems to score for crown rot symptoms. Photo: Gul Erginbas Orakci

As a small-town Iowa girl, I have grown up around farms my whole life but never quite grasped the complexity of the issue of food insecurity. Two years ago, my understanding of food insecurity could be summed up in an image of a barren desert in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet that January I embarked on a journey that would take me from my hometown in Iowa, to the state capital and, finally, to Eskişehir, Turkey.

This past summer I spent eight weeks in Turkey as part of the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship of the World Food Prize Organization. My deep thanks to Mr. Brad Horton, Lisa Fleming, and Ambassador Quinn for this opportunity. Working in the soilborne pathogen lab of CIMMYT-Turkey, I was introduced to the devastating impact of nematodes and fusarium on wheat yield. Reading journal articles before I came to Turkey, I simply saw numbers on a sheet of paper, but as I visited the field sites in Eskişehir, Yozgat, and Konya and as I conversed with my mentors Dr. Abdelfattah A. Dababat and Dr. Gül Erginbas-Orakci, I was able to see the devastation these pathogens cause on yield and the livelihood of farmers.

Sweta in the lab in Eskişehir helping out with crown rot studies. Photo: Joseph Barry

Sweta in the lab in Eskişehir helping out with crown rot studies. Photo: Joseph Barry

Over the course of the eight weeks I was introduced to various aspects of CIMMYT-Turkey’s work. I was trained in collecting nematode cysts under a microscope, washing soil samples, harvesting and weighing grain to determine yield, and stripping wheat stems to quantify the severity of crown rot infection (caused by Fusarium culmorum). I would like to specifically thank Sevil Yavuz, Ekrem Ҫelik, and Ümit Rüzgar for working with me daily and teaching me the most efficient methods in these practices. I also got the chance to work with Joseph Barry, a Ph.D. student from the University of Southern Queensland. His research focuses on understanding the basic mechanisms of crown rot disease.

This broad training experience gave me an understanding of the enormous challenges of alleviating food insecurity and seeded a deep appreciation for the hard work required to make progress in this field. In addition to the research, I got a phenomenal cultural experience and won’t ever forget the hospitality I received from each individual.

Click here to read Food Tank’s Q&A with Borlaug-Ruan International Intern Sweta Sudhir and how she hopes to improve the lives of farmers and fight hunger through agricultural research.


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