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MSU, university in India to collaborate with MOU

December 7, 2012

For Starkville Daily News

As Mississippi State focuses on globalization as one of its strategic goals, the university is counting Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University in India among its international partners for research and development.

MSU and the prominent Indian university signed an official Memorandum of Understanding Wednesday [Dec. 5] to collaborate on research that will benefit both institutions and their respective constituencies.
Prior to the signing, MSU President Mark Keenum met with Indian Minister for Agriculture Kanna Lakshminrayana, Agriculture Commissioner K. Madhu Sudhan Rao, and ANGRAU Professor Aldas Janaiah, director of the university's School of Agribusiness Management. All three Indian delegates represent the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

During his visit with the Indian delegation, Keenum told the visitors of his "fond memories of my experiences in India" while serving as Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"I visited with local farmers in their villages and with Indian university and agricultural leaders," Keenum said. "Those experiences left me eager for Mississippi State University to be more engaged globally and to get more involved with international partners like ANGRAU. The world faces the challenges of feeding and clothing a projected 2 billion more people over the next 50 years at a time when 1 billion of the world's current 7 billion inhabitants are malnourished. Working together, we can begin to address the obvious need for more food and fiber."

The agreement emphasizes various areas within agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine which could provide mutual exchange opportunities for both students and faculty. Biofuels and biofeedstock research, aquaculture, innovative watershed projection, veterinary medicine, agricultural engineering and poultry science are all areas of interest to ANGRAU for mutual ongoing research programs.

MSU Provost Jerry Gilbert told the Indian delegation that he sees many opportunities in a Mississippi State partnership with the Indian land grant state university.

"Hearing your challenges presents us with great opportunities," said Gilbert. "We hope the relationship will grow and based on our prior experiences with Indian students here at MSU, we trust that will be so. We love our Indian students and they are some of the best students on this campus. We pledge to work closely with you as we mesh these challenges and opportunities."

Greg Bohach, vice president for agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine, added, "Based on this new partnership and other market driven factors, we are looking into reinstating MSU's seed technology program as part of our cooperation with these new partners and as part of changing priorities as the university seeks to increase our participation in global initiatives to battle hunger and food insecurity."

Aldas Janaiah, director of the ANGRAU School of Agribusiness Management, said his institution has particular interest in partnering with MSU in the area of seed science and technology.

"MSU has been recognized as a global leader in these fields. The state of Mississippi and the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh have many commonalities. Rice production, a strong poultry industry presence, and many other similarities make this partnership one that should be very productive," Janaiah said.

The agreement identifies several additional areas of interest, including high performance computing involving plants and health, interactions with the Institute for Genomics, Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, and technology development and transfer. The Indian university also is interested in the possibility of using the Thad Cochran Research, Technology, and Economic Development Park as a model for a similar facility in India.

The relationship between MSU and ANGRAU began after a visit by David Shaw, MSU vice president for research and economic development, with the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. in September of this year. Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs Bala Bhaskar offered to assist in facilitating collaborations between MSU and institutions in India. Bhaskar's offer to help resulted in an invitation to a few ANGRAU professors to visit MSU. Their day touring campus and taking part in presentations and discussions helped the two universities identify the possibilities for research collaboration. A delegation of MSU administrators and scientists reciprocated with a recent visit to ANGRAU.

Officials from the India delegation said they hope to see the fruits of this collaboration and hope the partnership will especially yield benefits for small farm operations in India. Among the challenges facing farmers currently are changing patterns in the growing season and water and drainage management.

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