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Experimental fields

Agronomist Marcos Lana left Brazil to become a researcher in Germany and implement a project in Africa

097_Carreira_PerfilPersonal archiveIn August 2007, agronomist Marcos Lana, from Santa Catarina State, then 26, accompanied a delegation of researchers in Brazil from the Agricultural Landscape Research Center in Müncheberg, Germany. At that time he was invited to take part in a project funded by the European Union on the impacts of climate change on agriculture. Back then he was a substitute professor of agronomy and mechanization at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC). He accepted the proposal, and in 2009 he moved to Germany, where he began working as a researcher at the Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research. In 2010 he started his PhD at the University of Kiel on the impacts of climate change on agriculture in southern Brazil. “I always wanted to get experience as a researcher abroad,” he says.

In 2011 he became involved in another project, this one funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research on food security in a semiarid region of Tanzania in Africa. The project included over 900 families of small farmers. “We introduced experimental fields to test practices that could improve conditions for crop management, production, storage and marketing,” he explains. He says that as a result he was able to put into practice the knowledge he acquired in Brazil and Germany.

In 2013 Lana completed his PhD. He then went to work as a professor at the University of Potsdam, near Berlin. One semester later he was asked to teach a course on research methods for plant production in the agronomy program at Humboldt University, one of the oldest in Germany. At age 32, Lana became an advisor for German and Brazilian master’s and PhD exchange students. During his stint in Germany, he maintained collaborative networks with Brazilian researchers.

In 2015 Lana was one of four Brazilians out of 100 finalists who competed in the fifth edition of the Falling Walls Lab, an international competition involving innovative ideas in which contestants have just three minutes to explain their research, project, business plan or social initiative and convince the judges of their importance. Lana presented a project that sought to identify new ways of establishing specific sugarcane crop management zones, so that each area was treated according to its physical-chemical characteristics.

According to Lana, the idea is to put together information on factors that can affect plant performance in a given area of the field. “With these data, I can assess each area more accurately,” he explains. “As a result, fertilizer can be applied and management can be tailored to each parcel of the field. This lowers production costs and limits damage to the environment since no areas will be over-fertilized.” Even though he did not win the competition, Lana made important contacts with researchers and entrepreneurs. “I am an example of the internationalization of Brazilian science,” he says.