LSU College of Agriculture students study tropical horticulture in Honduras

Tobie Blanchard  |  5/16/2017 4:05:29 PM

(05/15/17) BATON ROUGE, La. – Six LSU students and one professor traveled to Honduras in April to learn about tropical horticulture in Latin America.

LSU AgCenter International Programs received a grant from Partners of the Americas to conduct a study abroad program in Honduras from April 8-16. The grant also funded six students from the National Agriculture University of Honduras (UNA) in Catacamas to travel with the group. Five students from UNA will visit LSU this fall for three months as visiting scholars, another component of the grant.

David Picha, professor and LSU AgCenter director of International Programs, teaches international horticulture and tropical horticulture. His students on the trip got to see first-hand in Honduras what they are learning in their class.

“This study abroad experience presented an opportunity to see crops that don’t grow in the continental United States and to see the entire value chain from growing to packing and marketing and to enrich cultural experiences for our students,” Picha said.

International Programs coordinator Susan Karimiha said the Partners of the Americas 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grant was awarded to LSU to increase academic collaboration between Honduras and the U.S by initiating a study abroad program.

“Study abroad activities in the agriculture sector are good ways to do that,” Karimiha said. “The exchange program between our institutions has fostered an increased dialogue, sharing of ideas, exposure and increased competencies of the students from each institution. We have experience now in hosting a shared study abroad program in Honduras and can replicate the program in future years.”

The students visited coffee, palm oil and cacao farms; Dole pineapple and banana production facilities; a crop germplasm bank; and the Honduran Fund for Agricultural Research.

Graduate student Cristina Serrano, who has participated in several study abroad programs while at LSU, said this one was unique.

“We shared everything with the UNA students, so it really gave me a new perspective,” she said. “You learn a lot more and better understand the culture when you are interacting daily with other students like yourself.”

Morrill Scott, a sophomore studying plant and soil systems, said he really enjoyed the food and hospitality he experienced in Honduras.

“Hospitality of the people was really impressive. They invited us into their homes and gave us food and fresh coffee,” Scott said.

Cesar Escalente Guardado, a graduate student at LSU, received his undergraduate degree at UNA, where students take a hands-on approach to learning. They spend time not only in the classroom but also working in the lab or the field.

When the LSU group visited UNA, they saw mango trees Guardado planted while he was a student there. Guardado said it was great traveling home with the LSU group.

“I was able to go to places I had never visited before,” he said.

Guardado, who is studying plant pathology, said he was especially interested in learning about diseases affecting the coffee crop.

Cheston Schayot, a senior in interdisciplinary studies, said the trip brought his international horticulture class to life.

“We talked a lot about the plants beforehand in class. Everything we learned in class at LSU, we got to see in person in Honduras,” he said.

Picha said the program is part of a long-term partnership between the two schools, which enabled both the American and Honduran students to understand the challenges farmers and agribusinesses face in Latin America.

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Students gather on the National Agriculture University of Honduras campus in Catacamas, Olancho. Pictured are LSU and UNA students who traveled together. From left are students Dayra Aguilar, Roger Flores, Cristina Serrano, Erick García, Morrill Scott and Holltman Flores, Reno Myers, Junior Betanco, Cheston Schayot and José Ortiz. Sitting in front are LSU professor David Picha and student Katrina Spillane. LSU International Programs coordinator Susan Karimiha is in the bus doorway. Photo provided by Susan Karimiha

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LSU professor David Picha, in cap and blue shirt, conducts a tropical fruit crop training session at the Centro Universitario Regional del Litoral Atlántico station in La Ceiba, Honduras to LSU and UNA students. Photo provided by Susan Karimiha

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A group from the LSU College of Agriculture poses in front of a container ship at Puerto Castilla, Honduras, prior to the departure of a load of tropical fruit bound for Gulfport, Mississippi. Pictured are students Cesar Guardado, Cheston Schayot and Cristina Serrano; professor David Picha; International Programs coordinator Susan Karimiha; and students Reno Myers and Morrill Scott. Photo provided by Susan Karimiha

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