Published on 04/27/06

Joint research with China holds promise for state

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

“Imagine taking the population of Georgia, doubling it and adding a few more million people and throwing them all inside I- 285 in Atlanta,” said Mark Risse, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension engineer.

That’s Shanghai, a Chinese city that, even as it wrestles with environmental, housing and traffic problems, has much to offer Georgia.

“They feed their population with an agricultural system that surrounds the city, and most of their diet is produced locally," said Risse, who is also an associate professor of engineering with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"In many ways, their food production systems and diets are more sustainable than ours," he said. "We can learn from them to develop more locally based, sustainable food production and perhaps help them to minimize the environmental impacts of these systems."

That's just one of the ways UGA and Georgia can learn from Shanghai, Risse said. He's part of a growing relationship between the CAES and the Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences.

The collaboration began five years ago with visits by UGA faculty members and Shen Genxiang of the SAES, said Ed Kanemasu, CAES director of global programs. "We're looking at furthering the collaboration between our college and their academy."

Shen and SAES president Cao Lulin recently discussed research and teaching opportunities with various UGA faculty and staff members. They were joined by Wu Chengjian of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, which oversees the academy.

China expends 3 percent of its gross national product on environmental issues. From help with wastewater treatments to pollution cleanup, the SAES scientists are seeking ways to partner with others to find solutions for problems facing both China and the United States.

SAES and UGA may be able to collaborate, Shen said, in ecological planning, applied ecology and ecotoxicology. Specifically, they'd like to partner on:

• Agricultural and animal waste treatment and use.

• Agricultural nonpoint-source pollution modeling and control.

• Wastewater biological treatment and solutions.

• Bioenergy production.

• Sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural technologies and systems.

Risse is dedicated to helping China and UGA find answers together. He has taken three trips there to work with SAES on animal waste, an issue he continues to work on in Georgia.

"We can help them, and I know good and well we can learn a lot from them," he said.

Shen foresees the collaboration between organizations in short- term visits, researcher exchanges and cooperative projects.

"I think the international exchange is useful for our academy to improve our research," Cao said. "We should open our mind wide and open the door to our side. We have a lot of common interests. We have a lot of opportunities to develop technology that would be useful for this kind of thing."

"It's a tremendous opportunity for both of us to learn from each other," Risse said.

Much of SAES's research revolves around ecological and atmospheric environments, energy sources and the organic industry. Besides the United States, they've partnered with Japan, Australia, Norway, Denmark, Great Britain and Germany. Their largest current project (245 million euros) is a joint venture with Italy on organic farming systems and technology.

One of Shanghai's major problems is drinking water, which comes primarily from surface water. In the past, they've focused on cleaning up point-source contamination.

Now they have to deal with nonpoint-source contamination from agricultural runoff, such as fertilizer and pesticides. In Shanghai, "it's a problem also of water consumption," Cao said. "The quality is not as good because we already have pollution."

Along with Risse and other UGA researchers, they're working toward a solution.

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.