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International Ag Expert Gives Keynote at Conference in Ireland
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 12/02/2019

Patrick Drohan, associate professor of pedology in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, gave a keynote address at the Catchment 2019 conference in Wexford, Ireland, in November.

He was invited to speak based on research he led, published in the Journal of Environmental Quality in June this year, that offered a global perspective on phosphorus management in agriculture, focusing on lessons learned about nutrient pollution and future directions in the United States and Europe.

The Agricultural Catchments Programme works with more than 300 farming families across Ireland to maintain and improve water quality. The project is funded and coordinated by Teagasc, the Irish government's Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which aims to lead the sustainable development of a competitive, consumer-focused agri-food sector and to contribute to a vibrant rural economy and society.

The sustainable management of phosphorous is at the center of global food and water-security agendas, Drohan noted. Within the food system, the farmer is at the forefront of daily decision making in phosphorous management, ensuring that the nutrient efficiently reaches crops while preventing excess phosphorous from entering water bodies where it can result in eutrophication.

Examples are the so-called dead zones that form annually in the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico.

"Tackling the challenges we globally face -- in maturing as a civilization, in producing food -- is as important to villages in Ireland as it is to the most remote parts of the world," he told attendees at the Catchment 2019 conference. "I am hopeful about our future, and you should be, too. We have solved many of the basic food-production challenges the globe faces."

The big, complex, agriculture-related problems remaining, Drohan added, are largely human-behavior issues governments can address, but only if their constituencies are educated to think critically and elect world leaders who can think critically.

"I have no doubt that solving these problems requires far harder work than any of the soil and water sampling, or planting or harvesting we have done," he said. "We must change as individuals, as communities, as countries -- and that is hard, requiring support from governments and a village, here in Ireland and around the world."

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