Farmers in Egypt and the state of Washington grow similar vegetable crops, and as a result, the agriculture is affected by the same viruses, a Fulbright scholar said in a lecture Tuesday night.
HanuPappu, professor and chair of the department of plant pathology, spent three months in Alexandria, Egypt as part of the Fulbright scholar program in 2009.
He said he chose Egypt because of these agricultural similarities. His research abroad was focused on which viruses affected the vegetable crops and study what the Egyptians have done to counter the plant diseases.
While the crops are similar, the growing approach is different than that in the state of Washington, Pappu said. In Egypt, different crops are often mixed on the same plot of land, whereas in the United States it is often single-crop fields. He said he saw some fields with six different crops all growing together.
Pappu said most crops in Egypt are grown for domestic use, but large commercial farms operate to export food as well.
Pappu looked at two different systems of agriculture: small farmers with two acres of land or fewer, who grow food for subsistence and sell excess to markets as well as large-scale commercial farming that produce to export.
He travelled to different farms in northern Egypt and collected samples of sick plants to study in the lab. He said plants didn’t always show symptoms of sickness, and infected crops were sometimes exported unknowingly.
In the lab, Pappu studied the viruses under a microscope with graduate students. He said 50,000 times magnification is needed to see the structures.
“In a profession of plant pathology we look at sick plants all day and we like it,” Pappu said. “My wife says ‘sick minds like sick things.’”
In addition to research, Pappu taught graduate and undergraduate classes at Alexandria University in Egypt. He said the highlight of his time in Egypt was the opportunities he had to interact with the students in the classroom and during seminars.
The Fulbright Commission in Cairo organized many opportunities for students and scholars to interact, Pappu said.
The Fulbright employees he interacted with were the most professional and helpful staff he has ever encountered, he said. The staff set new standards in service and he has tried to incorporate that standard into his work at WSU.
Sarah Ann Hones, director of distinguished scholarships, said the Fulbright scholarship was established in 1946 with the idea that the recipients would be cultural ambassadors.
She said there were three recipients of the Fulbright scholarship from WSU, who will begin research abroad next year. WSU currently hosts 40 Fulbright students from countries around the world. WSU established the Distinguished Scholarships Program last year to encourage students to apply for prestigious scholarships and help guide them through the application process.
MahtiDaliparthi, a graduate student in electrical engineering said she didn’t know about the opportunities the Fulbright scholarship program offered.
“I think many people don’t know about it,” Daliparthi said.
Pappu said most of the American Fulbright students he met with while in Egypt were from the east coast of the United States. He said he wants to make sure students at WSU know about the program and encourages them to apply.
AnkitaVerma, a graduate student in material science engineering, said she enjoyed hearing about the program opportunities and Pappu’s experience as a Fulbright scholar.
“It’s good to know about how we can go to other places and learn about their culture,” Verma said.