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A Reflection on the Water for Food Conference

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By Chandler Mazour
Gothenburg Water Utilization Center

As I reflect on the Robert G Daugherty Water for Food Conference held last week in Lincoln, NE, it’s difficult to boil my thoughts down.  There are so many challenges and opportunities with water, even if we’re only thinking of water for food.  For me, there are two key takeaways from the three-day, information-packed conference.

WWF Tour 397First, extension-type efforts to create and teach water efficient cropping systems will be critical in the future.  Second, and just as important, the emerging solutions on the ground, including those in development and those not even thought of yet, demand a collaborative approach.

Our experience here at the Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg, NE, is probably what endears me to the importance of extension.  Extension is essentially teaching and that is what we do in Gothenburg.  We teach thousands of people every year how to build more water efficient systems that utilize the plant’s genetics, biotech traits and proper agronomic management practices.

The importance of extension was emphasized in multiple sessions at the Water for Food conference including “Research in Action”, “Surviving the 2012 Drought: 80 Years of Innovation,” and finally the “University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension” presentation by Chuck Hibberd.  The neat thing about extension and water efficient cropping systems is that we can combine best practices from around the world and mold them together into many powerful systems-based recommendations.

Collaboration was at the heart of almost every discussion at the conference– whether it was climate change, epigenetics, resiliency, or the agronomic side of things.  Building solutions to address these critical water and food challenges will most certainly demand collaboration at all levels and between the private and public sectors.  It was great to hear Chuck Hibberd call out the super collaboration we have here at the Learning Center with UNL extension.  Farmers benefit every day from the collaboration between UNL and the Water Utilization Learning Center as well as other partners who bring an immense amount of knowledge and expertise.  As with so many global challenges, no one company or person can do this alone.

There was more information presented than I could possibly summarize here.  I learned a lot, met some great people, connected with old friends working for the same cause and even signed up new visitors to Gothenburg.  If you find yourself four hours west of Omaha and looking for something to do, come on by.

Last, thank you to Water for Food for a wonderful conference.

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