If it was out of no other choice many opted for agricultural science at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) this year, it’s pure passion for the subject and an irresistible itching to come up with sophisticated technologies to help farmers that drove two foreign students to come all the way down to the city from Canada for a four-month research programme at TNAU.
Julien Malard and Dune Dills, students of McGill University in Montreal in Canada, have now completed two-and-a-half months at TNAU. Natives of France, the main focus of their research is organic farming technologies, pest modelling and organic management in sunflower production system. The duo is, however, residents of Canada.
“Farmers use pesticides to kill all the insects or pests, including the ones beneficial to them. Harmful pests over a period of time become resilient and develop immunity against the pesticides. Hence, the indiscriminate use of pesticides can aid the population of insects harmful to crops. So, we want to come up with a technology that will make use of biological processes to kill harmful insects while helping insects that benefit the crops to grow,” Julien said.
The duo is guided by Prof E Somasundaram, head, department of sustainable organic agriculture. Julien and Dune said they were also mastering the art of analysing soil and water in organic environment and how to manage pest by using non-chemical pools.
A PhD student, it is Julien’s third visit to the country and it is maiden one for Dune, an undergraduate degree student. Dune said she co-ordinated with her professor, who got in touch with Somasundaram and facilitated the research programme. The duo would return to Canada in September. They are, however, keen on returning to the city to learn more about its culture and help the farming community. “Farming technologies should be developed in consultation with the farming community and the technology transfer should be through farmers and not officials and scientists,” Julien said.
Somasundaram said this was the third time that TNAU was playing host to foreign researchers. “The two speak Tamil and Hindi fluently and they have surprised many with their fluent Tamil,” he said. Dune said she was interested in language studies. Julien has also learnt Gujarati and Punjabi and is looking to learn Telugu and Malayalam.