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Q&A with David Jordan

By Christy Fricks
University of Georgia, Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab

Background

David L. Jordan, Crop Science Professor and Extension Specialist at North Carolina State University (NCSU), is the Lead Scientist for the Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab’s (PMIL) “Ghana Peanut Value Chain Interventions" project. In addition to leading the Ghana project, he is a collaborator on the PMIL "Southern Africa Peanut Value Chain Interventions" and "Haiti Peanut Value Chain Interventions" Projects.

PMIL: What can you tell me about the project you are currently leading in Ghana?

Dr. Jordan: "Since it is a value chain project, it is fairly comprehensive. We are examining the way peanuts are handled all the way from the field through to the processor and buyer.

But the major part that we are looking at is aflatoxin contamination. I would say that is the main goal of all the value chain projects, to minimize aflatoxin contamination.

We want to determine at which point in the production chain, you have the highest degree or greatest likelihood of aflatoxin contamination, and then develop methods to reduce the contamination."

PMIL: That sounds like an ambitious goal. How are you implementing the project from here in the United States?

Dr. Jordan: "There is research happening here in the U.S., but of course the primary research is there in Ghana, with the farmers, handlers and processors.

To begin with, we identified 5 villages in central and northern Ghana where peanuts are a major crop. Then we are going in and helping farmers in each village to implement a different management and post-harvest practices, in addition to their traditional methods. What we are looking for are the differences in aflatoxin contamination between the ‘traditional’ and ‘introduced’ methods.

For instance, we are implementing a new drying process and they are also storing in a different way. We are drying peanut as quickly as possible after harvest and storing under conditions that minimize mold development and subsequent aflatoxin production are key aspects of the project. Developing peanut varieties and adjusting cultural practices that minimize risk of aflatoxin development fit into the value chain project. Any many ways it is all about incorporating reasonable approaches to aflatoxin reduction given the constraints farmers in Ghana have to deal with. If the project can do this we will have been successful."

PMIL: You recently went to Ghana and visited the villages participating in the research study. Can you tell me about those field research visits?

Dr. Jordan: "We go in with local people to the villages, first speak to the leader to get their permission by telling them why we are there. We describe what the experiments are, what treatments will be used and the goals.

At every step there is this really good interaction between the researchers and the village, and we continuously build on this rapport.

Our colleagues there in Africa have been doing this for a long time, it is called the “Farmer Field School.”

The idea behind the Farmer Field School is that it isn’t just the farmer that learns, it is the researcher as well.

With the farmer field schools, you establish a relationship and you get access to the land. Then you invite farmers, you walk through the fields together and you talk about what is going on there–those interactions mean a great deal.

This is not brand new with us. All over the developing world you hear that terminology."

PMIL: Is there an awareness of aflatoxin in the villages where you are working?

Dr. Jordan: "I don’t think they have a great understanding for it and certainly they don’t have a great understanding for how to minimize it. I think there is a lot of room for research and for education on why it is important to do some extra steps to make sure that aflatoxin is not a problem."

PMIL: You’ve mentioned the success of your previous work in Ghana and the importance of building relationships and collaboration. Can you tell me a little bit about that work and how you see it contributing to this?

Dr. Jordan: "Rick Brandenburg (PMIL Collaborator and fellow Professor at NCSU) and I worked on a previous project in Ghana with the previous Peanut Collaborative Research Project. Thus, we had already established relationships with our in-country collaborators and the villages.

I don’t think we would ever have tried to do some of the things we are doing now, if we hadn’t already established those relationships. We are trying to do some fairly complicated things with aflatoxin mitigation.

In the previous project, we didn’t focus much on aflatoxins. We focused on basic production principles such as germination, planting dates, evaluation of varieties and interventions such as pest control and fertilizers.

Through our work, farmers have increased their yields from 1 to 3 times just by introducing some simple production strategies. So they (the farmers) already have incentive to work with us.

We also released two new disease resistant varieties, and introduced some simple peanut shellers that are used in the villages now.

Finally, we developed a really a good Integrated Pest Management manual, “Integrated Practices To Manage Diseases, Nematodes, Weeds and Arthropod Pests of Groundnut in Ghana.”

Through support by PCRSP and now PMIL, our colleagues in Ghana were able to publish their findings in the peer-reviewed literature, so they benefit too, like farmers, as we approach the goal of improving peanut production and income while facilitating a safer product for the market."

For photos from David Jordans latest trip, please visit our Flickr page.

Published February 27, 2015