Published on 05/03/16

UGA, Italian university partner to offer first-of-its-kind program in sustainable agriculture

By Merritt Melancon

Padova, Italy – To promote collaboration on some of the biggest challenges facing agriculture today, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is partnering with the University of Padova in Italy for a groundbreaking dual master’s degree program in sustainable agriculture.

On May 3, administrators and faculty from the University of Padova and UGA met in Padova, a city in northern Italy about 24 miles west of Venice, to sign a memorandum of understanding finalizing the dual-degree program. The first students will be enrolled this fall.

Both the University of Padova, which is the top-ranked agricultural university in Italy, and UGA, which houses one of the best colleges of agriculture in the U.S., are leaders in precision and sustainable agriculture practices.

“This innovative program will not only provide UGA graduate students with outstanding training, it will also provide them with a unique opportunity to learn about the challenges, opportunities and leading edges of their field on another continent,” said Suzanne Barbour, dean of the UGA Graduate School. “This experience will serve our students well when they enter the job market in our increasingly global economy. I hope the dual-degree program in sustainable agriculture will be a model for others to follow as they develop comparable offerings in other disciplines.”

The dual-degree program, housed in the department of crop and soil sciences at UGA, is the first of its kind in the college.

The challenges facing agriculture in the 21st century are global and won’t be solved by scientists from a single country or continent, said George Vellidis, a UGA professor of crop and soil sciences who spearheaded the effort to develop the program.

“When agriculturalists from across the globe work together, we can better solve the constant problems that emerge and threaten food production and food security,” he said. “The dual degree is beneficial to students because it will train them in both sustainable agriculture and global competence — a valuable portfolio in a globalizing economy.”

Students who choose the dual-degree program at UGA will complete most of their coursework in Athens during year one and then travel to Italy for one or two more courses and to conduct their master’s thesis research during year two. Students beginning at the University of Padova will complete most of their coursework in Padova and then travel to the U.S. to complete their master’s thesis research and take one or two courses at UGA.

To participate in the dual-degree program and receive degrees from both universities, students must be admitted to both institutions and fulfill all graduation requirements at both universities.

“The dual-degree program with Padova will offer students a unique experiential learning opportunity,” said Noel Fallows, interim associate provost for international education at UGA, “by integrating coursework taken at a prestigious international partner institution into their academic programs of study, while also encouraging greater levels of contact among supervising faculty and serving as a catalyst for interdisciplinary research and sponsored grant-funding initiatives.”

The dual degree is being offered as part of a new sustainable agriculture emphasis area within the existing master’s degree in crop and soil sciences. Students wishing to pursue the sustainable agriculture emphasis area can choose to either participate in the dual-degree program or take all of their courses at UGA.

“One of the great challenges facing humanity is the development of sustainable food production systems that ensure farm profitability with fewer farming inputs while simultaneously improving crop quality and soil health and reducing environmental impact,” said Miguel Cabrera, UGA CAES professor and graduate coordinator of crop and soil sciences. “There is strong interest in these sustainable agriculture issues among our undergraduate and graduate students. This new dual degree will offer them an opportunity to receive training in those areas while gaining an international perspective on sustainability.”

The dual degree is the maturation of a 12-year partnership between UGA, the University of Padova and four other European and U.S. universities. Together, these schools formed the TransAtlantic Precision Agriculture Consortium (TAPAC) in 2004.

Precision agriculture is an agricultural management strategy that helps increase the efficiency and sustainability of food production by using advanced technologies to strategically deliver water, fertilizer and other inputs to crops. When viewed from the food security perspective, optimal use of crop inputs ensures that resources are used as efficiently as possible.

Since its inception, the TAPAC partners have exchanged 45 undergraduate students and eight graduate students.

This semester, Dory Franklin, an associate professor in the crop and soil sciences department, is teaching UGA and University of Padova students while in Padova. Funding for these activities has been provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s International Science and Education program, the U.S. Department of Education, the European Commission, the University of Padova and UGA.

“The dual degree is one of the important outcomes of a relationship cultivated over a decade between UGA and University of Padova,” said Amrit Bart, director of the college’s Office of Global Programs. “Building and sustaining international partnerships such as this takes the backing of both universities and their stakeholders. While other universities and programs are talking and thinking about dual-degree programs, our college and our faculty are making it happen.”

For more information on the program, visit For a full timeline of the program's development or more information about the application process, visit

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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