UC Davis and Europe’s lead ag university join forces with policymakers on climate and food science

Quick Summary

  • UC Davis and Wageningen University sign food research and academic exchange pact.
  • The two universities are also part of the UN's Climate-Smart Agriculture alliance.
  • UC President Janet Napolitano to sign similar systemwide agreement with Wageningen.

March 10, 2016

Two of the world's top-ranking agricultural universities are teaming up with California and international policymakers to tackle one of the greatest challenges to food systems across the planet.

Climate-Smart Agriculture adds to the growing list of partnerships between Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the University of California, Davis, and provides a platform for collaborating on science and policy solutions for both mitigating the effects and adapting to climate change impacts.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi and Wageningen President Louise Fresco will sign an agreement on March 17 to collaborate on food and agricultural research and to extend an ongoing student and faculty exchange program. Netherlands Minister of Education Jet Bussemaker will be attending the meeting to foster the exchange program, along with UC Davis Chief Global Strategist Joanna Regulska and UC Davis Dean Helene Dillard.

“Major challenges in our food systems call for extraordinary advances," said UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who established the World Food Center as one hub for addressing these challenges. “Through international collaborations like this one, California, UC Davis and Wageningen University can continue to be proving grounds for such advances.”

Louise Fresco and Linda Katehi

President Louise Fresco and Chancellor Linda Katehi sign an agreement of collaboration with Dean Helene Dillard, Geneticist Howard Yana Shapiro and Vice Provost and Associate Chancellor Joanna Regulska. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Acing on a UN alliance

UC Davis and Wageningen are also members of the United Nations Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA). The Netherlands minister of agriculture with Secretary Karen Ross from the California Department of Food and Agriculture signed a separate agreement in December that committed the two governments to supporting both Wageningen and UC Davis in their climate-smart research collaboration.

The Netherlands minister of agriculture and Secretary Karen Ross of the California Department of Food and Agriculture signed a separate agreement in December, which committed the two governments to supporting both Wageningen and UC Davis in their climate-smart research collaboration.

"A concerted approach is urgently needed to prepare California agriculture for future climate change impacts," writes Ross in a recent editorial. "California is the nation's leading agricultural state, with 76,400 farms producing more than 400 commodities with a farm-gate value of $54 billion."

California also lures intenational interest through its a booming agtech industry, which is combining big data software with sensor technologies to build precision agriculture solutions for climate challenges.

Connecting science to food policy

Sir Gordon Conway on Climate Smart policy

Sir Gordon Conway talks to the World Food Center

A pioneer in sustainable ag, Sir Gordon Conway spoke with Lin Weaver, a friend of the WFC, at the 2015 CSA research conference, co-sponsored by UC Davis. Conway is a founding WFC board member.

Joining efforts with Secretary Ross and her climate team at CDFA, the World Food Center's Josette Lewis and UC Davis faculty have been connecting campus researchers to policymakers and sustainability leaders at the nexus of climate, food and water. Partnerships like the Wageningen agreement enable those scientists and UC Davis' rising scholars to directly inform the policies and practices that better inform policymakers, farmers and ranchers in adapting their systems to changing environments.

"There's probably no sector of the economy that's more impacted by climate than agriculture," said Lewis, who is also a campus spokesperson for the UC Global Food Initiative. "Here in California we have a great opportunity to contribute substantially to the strategies internationally for dealing with both mitigation and adaption aspects."

In 2013, UC Davis hosted an international CSA research conference and cosponsored the upcoming conference in France, held exactly one year before the upcoming meeting.

UC President Janet Napolitano, who launched the Global Food Initiative, will be signing a separate UC-wide agreement on student exchanges with the Netherlands delegation the same day.

UC Davis study abroad students at Wageningen

UC Davis food science undergraduates, from left, Alyssa Steger, Janie Ke, Tiffany Wiriyaphanich, Nopmanee Suvapatrachai and Kyra Schwaninger, as well as Tyler Simons (not pictured), have each spent one quarter studying at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Enriching science with new scholars

Wageningen VP on climate challenges in food

Martin Kropff talks to the World Food Center

Martin Kropff is the former VP of Wageningen and current director general of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. He was interviewed by Lin Weaver, a friend of the WFC, at the 2015 CSA conference.

Since its beginning more than a decade ago, the UC Davis-Wageningen exchange program has grown to include other UC campuses and over the next five years will likely expand to incorporate more areas of study.

Two Wageningen undergraduates, Nienke Kramer and Kirsten Goijvaerts, are currently studying at UC Davis. Kramer, a nutrition major, plans to pursue a master's degree in health sciences with a focus on public health upon returning to the Netherlands. Goijvaerts, a biotechnology major, plans to begin a master's degree program in biotechnology when she returns home.

Both were delighted to discover that bicycles are as popular in Davis as in the Netherlands and have enjoyed the opportunity to study and travel during their exchange quarter in California.

During the past two years, six UC Davis undergraduate food science students likewise have had the opportunity to study at Wageningen University. Janie Ke, Kyra Schwaninger, Tyler Simons, Alyssa Steger, Nopmanee Suvapatrachai and Tiffany Wiriyaphanich each spent fall quarter of either 2014 or 2015, taking a full load of courses that fulfill the requirements of the food science major.