How it all began
Louisiana State University (LSU) and Mendel University in Brno (MENDELU) began to cooperate in 2014. At that time, LSU approached MENDELU with the proposition of establishing a strong strategic partnership between universities. "LSU and MENDELU have a similar focus, teaching at all levels, from undergraduate to doctoral degree programs, and top research; therefore, we approached MENDELU with the offer. The communication between universities was optimistic, fast and clear from the beginning," said Ivana Tregenza, the director of LSU College of Agriculture International Relations. The universities are both active in regional development and world-class research. Over the six years of partnership, the universities have managed to establish lasting personal and professional contacts across departments and faculties. The program shifted from cooperation between international relations offices to cooperation at the administrative level and, finally, to strategic cooperation at both levels.
"The opportunity to collaborate between two premier agriculture research universities in different environments lets us expand our scope and resources to provide valuable information to our stakeholders and build capacity for our faculty and students."
- Wade Baumgartner, LSU AgCenter Associate Vice President
Our goals for the future are joint research, scientific publications, technology transfer and increased links between the two universities and the private sector from both countires, the U. S. and the Czech Republic.
"Louisiana State University is an important partner for us, and I am very pleased that we have managed to build strong and stable cooperation, which is beneficial for both universities, even though they are on different continents. I am very proud of our international cooperation, exchanges of students and academics, sharing common aims and challenges, as well as joint research projects of both universities. Our cooperation moves both universities not only in science but also in all other areas. I believe it will continue successfully even in difficult times of the pandemic, and we will find a way of communication that brings us even closer. Although we cannot meet personally, we can use online connections to continue our ongoing projects, complete the set goals and face other challenges together."
-Danuöe Nerudov·, rector of MENDELU
"An ocean, languages and cultures separate us, yet the faculty and students of Mendel
University and LSU have discovered deep similarities throughout our affiliation. We
each have a
strong commitment to research and education and a proud history of working with the agricultural industry in our regions of the world. We also face some of the same challenges, and
as we share our solutions and work together to over- come those obstacles, we grow stronger together. I am proud of the relationship our two institutions have built. Faculty and student exchanges, joint research projects, visiting scholars, joint events and technology transfer enrich the work we do. While COVID-19 has halted our ability to work together in person, our unity and cooperation continue even through this crisis. You can learn more about this work and how our collaboration continues to grow and thrive."
-LSU Vice President for Agriculture William "Bill" Richardson
Mendel University in Brno
Mendel University (MENDELU) in Brno, Czech Republic is a public institution with a long tradition of excellence in teaching and research that has driven new ways of thinking since 1919 and proudly bears the name of J. G. Mendel, the founder of modern genetics.
Louisiana State University
The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center (LSU AgCenter) conducts agricultural research, extension and teaching programs. The LSU AgCenter works to advance and maintain the diverse and unique agricultural industry of Louisiana, sustain the natural resources of Louisiana, provide nutritional research and education, and develop youth and families through the 4-H program. Agricultural research in Louisiana is dynamic, and its breadth is extensive. Traditional research areas remain at the core of AgCenter programs: plant variety development, improved animal and plant production, environmentally sound pest management, forest management and wood product development, natural resource conservation and management, food technology and safety, and agricultural economics.
However, offshoots of traditional research have led to exciting discoveries in human disease diagnostics and treatment, value-added products for oil drilling operations and recycling technology for contaminated wood products. LSU AgCenter extension programs bring this research to the people of Louisiana and beyond. Each parish (an administrative subdivision within the state) has extension agents who work directly with farmers, home gardeners, consumers, youth and families to solve problems and improve lives. Extension agents also provide educational outreach and trainings to people in their communities.
LSU AgCenter departments include 4-H Youth Development; Agricultural Chemistry; Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness; Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation; Animal Sciences; the Audubon Sugar Institute; Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Entomology, Experimental Statistics; Nutrition and Food Sciences; Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences; Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology; Renewable Natural Resources; and Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising. The LSU AgCenter also has research stations across Louisiana where scientists deepen their knowledge and develop new technology. Many faculty members at the LSU AgCenter hold joint appointments with the LSU College of Agriculture and teach in college academic departments that align with LSU AgCenter departments.
Since 2015, MENDELU and LSU students have been going on student exchanges to spend several months at the partner university every year. Students can also attend summer schools at both universities. At the same time, both academics and non- academics from LSU and MENDELU visit the partner university to give lectures, run workshops and learn about the projects, approaches, work environment and methods of their colleagues and apply them at their home university.
Visiting Scholars and Internships
Two forestry graduate students from Mendel University spent time in Louisiana in the fall of 2017 for a one-month internship with Plaquemine landholding company A. Wilbertís Sons. The company has been exploring growing eucalyptus trees for biomass. The students, Patrik R?ûi?ka and Radek KlÌ?, developed a series of mathematic equations that can be used to estimate the merchantable volume and value of timber in eucalyptus plantings.
"Because of these students’ visit, this company now has a tool that can enhance their bottom line," said Dr. John Russin, who also holds the A. Wilbert’s Sons Professorship in the AgCenter. Růžička and Klíč also studied ways to propagate eucalyptus without seed through a method known as vegetative propagation. And they worked with Mark LeBlanc, head of the AgCenter Department of Agricultural Chemistry, to look at possibilities for extracting and marketing oil and compounds from eucalyptus leaves. "We owe much of our nearly 150-year existence to innovations and discoveries made by university-led research and development," said Klein Kirby, chairman of A. Wilbert’s Sons. "Our company is committed to supporting and promoting agricultural education and research in any way possible. Introduction to the new international program by Dr. Russin was a very attractive way to get involved. We could not have asked for better partners than LSU and Mendel University."
Bojana Petrovic, a student at MENDELU, produced informational gardening videos during her internship at LSU with horticulture professor Kathryn Fontenot.
"Bojana was an excellent student. She not only developed and coordinated an organic vegetable transplant project during her internship at LSU, but she also assisted with many extension events. Bojana set up and coordinated garden tables at local schools’ STEM nights, made many farm visits to give guidance to local producers, and provided information to school teachers at the Louisiana Farm to School Conference," Fontenot said.
MENDELU student Alena Sobotkova came to LSU for her one-year internship at the LSU College of Art & Design in 2018. During her stay, she taught a class and organized her LSU students to participate at a furniture and interior design competition in Brno jointly with MENDELU students.
LSU student of horticulture Celine Richard spent her summer internship at the Faculty of Horticulture in Lednice. She participated in practical activities in floriculture, flower arrangements, growing medicinal plants and fruit trees and learned diagnostic methods for viral diseases in the fruit science laboratory.
"I had an awesome experience at Mendel University, which allowed me to make lasting friendships with other students from around the world. I also gained a different perspective on agriculture by learning in small groups in the Faculty of Horticulture."
-LSU horticulture student Noah Willsea spent a semester at Mendel University
"Overall, my time spent in the Czech Republic was quite positive. I felt welcomed by staff, had ample opportunities to explore the city as well as neighboring countries and enjoyed the experiences of working and living with people from all over the world."
-LSU agricultural business student Cameron Roig spent a year at Mendel University.
Students and representatives of LSU and MENDELU organized and participated in a number of joint events, including summer schools and the Couture de la Fleur fashion show at the LSU AgCenter Botantic Gardens at Burden.
"Couture de la Fleur" Fashion Show /October 2017
Preparation for this joint show began several months before the arrival of Czech students to the U.S. Students from LSU worked on designing and making clothes and MENDELU students designed flower accessories. Students, faculty, florists and others worked together to create one-of-a-kind pieces that were displayed on a fashion runway. After the show, the audience was invited to get a closer look at the fashions and meet the models, designers and creators. The event was held in conjunction with Wine and Roses, a fundraising dinner sponsored by the AgCenter and the Friends of LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden.
"Couture de la Fleur, an event that challenged the students from both universities to design wearable art inspired by flowers and nature, was another great example of the highly successful collaboration and the importance of forming relationships with universities abroad to enhance faculty programming and benefit student learning and experience outside of the classroom."
-Dr. Jeff Kuehny, Chief Organizer of Couture de la Fleur and Director of the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden
Summer schools are two-week educational programs for domestic and foreign students and teachers, whose aim is to bring together experts from various fields who intensively address a predetermined topic.
2019 Summer School at MENDELU
The Summer School, which was attended by LSU AgCenter experts and an LSU student, was held at MENDELU from June 8—19, 2019. The topic was "From field to the table," and food quality was discussed in particular. In addition to MENDELU and LSU representatives, teachers and students from Kasetsart University in Thailand and students from Austria and Uzbekistan participated.
"A great benefit of summer schools is not only meeting and discussing with foreign experts and students, but also learning how to share information and experience. It is a completely different form than the one we usually encounter at school."
-Robert Pokluda, Head of the Department of Vegetable Growing and Floriculture at MENDELU and the organizer of the Summer School 2019
Students from Faculty of Economics and Management of Mendel University learned about various agricultural industries in Louisiana and explored land management under the guidance of A. Wilbert’s Sons, LLC, team.
International Week at Mendel University
LSU AgCenter Global Network team members participated in this event at Mendel to raise awareness and provide information about programs available to both students and faculty to advance joint research.
"International Week was a great experience for strengthening of our highly valued partnership as well as our cherished friendships."
-Pavla Soukopová, Administrator of KA5, foreign delegations, bilateral agreements
Experiences and Future Opportunities with Mendel University
"I participated in two activities with Mendel University. The first is hosting a graduate student from Mendel at LSU. This student was instrumental in helping us develop a baseline economic contribution analysis of public support from the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator. The second project involved delivering a guest lecture in Brno in a jointly held class between students at Mendel and at online at LSU.
The second major activity was hosting both students from Mendel and LSU in a joint lecture comparing and contrasting the agricultural and rural economies of the two countries. Students were able to ask questions to each other around these viewpoints to understand each region‘s baseline economy as well as how their institutions enhance or constrain their sustainability.
I think future collaboration can come at the intersection of research and policy comparison/assessment. Mendel has a historical model of looking at development from a regional level. Such a framework would be helpful in teaching coursework and performing development and policy simulations using a regional system dynamics framework. LSU and Mendel could replicate and extend some previous U. S. /European systems frameworks developed a decade ago applied to multifunctional agriculture in the EU to be applied and extended to Czech Republic regions."
-Matt Fannin, Professor, LSU AgCenter Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness
Frankie Gould, Associate Vice President & Professor
Gould has led several exchanges with MENDELU faculty and administrators when they visited the LSU AgCenter. When an LSU AgCenter team visited MENDELU in 2018, Gould delivered a communications lecture and a hands-on activity on knowledge transfer to botany and plant biotech students. The lecture, "How to tell your story," and the activity, "Art of the elevator speech," enhanced the students’ self-presentation and public speaking skills. They had to tell their story in 10 floors or 30 seconds and answer these questions: What is your organization, who are you, what is your focus and why should we care?
Due to the similar focus of universities, there is a constant exchange of information between scientists from both institutions and experts collaborating on a number of scientific topics.
"Thanks to my intership at LSU, I had a chance to get to know a place with different equipment, learn new laboratory procedures and meet people who are experts in their field."
-Vendula Popelkova, Faculty of AgriSciences MENDELU
"We look forward to the results of ongoing collaborative research, not only for advancement of knowledge, but the applied aspects and joint technology transfer."
-Dr. Wade Baumgartner, LSU AgCenter associate vice president
Adapting forests to climate change
Climate change and careless forest management can lead to changes in soil quality and microbial activity with a negative impact on the health and stability of forests. Since 2018, LSU and MENDELU have been working on a project that studies the changes that occur in the soil and attempts to find a way to adapt forest ecosystems to these changes so that they do not diminish forest stability. Observations of these changes take place both in the U. S. and in the Czech Republic.
Researchers: Ales Kucera (Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology MENDELU), Michael Blazier (LSU AgCenter) and Lewis Gaston (LSU AgCenter)
Researchers from the LSU AgCenter and Mendel University have joined forces to explore using lignin, a polymer found in the cell walls of many plants, to clean oil-contaminated plastics and water.
Qinglin Wu, of the LSU AgCenter School of Renewable Natural Resources, and Pawn Kumar Mishra, of Mendel University, have found that a formula containing lignin, water and salt binds to oil, allowing it to be removed.
"The process works very well in cleaning oil-contaminated plastics such as used motor oil containers and can be scaled up for commercial operations," Wu said.
"The work represents an excellent collaboration between the LSU AgCenter and Mendel University in applying fundamental science to solve a real-world problem."
He noted that contamination is a major reason why only a small percentage of plastic waste is recycled globally, meaning many of those items end up in landfills instead of being reused. Oil pollution in water poses concerns, too, as it endangers fish, wildlife and aquatic plants.
"There is an unfilled need for improved methods to facilitate cleaning oil-contaminated plastics and water to recover valuable resources and to reduce their environmental impacts," Wu said.
A variety of recycled materials can be used as the lignin source in the formula, Wu said. Examples include waste from paper mills and sugarcane bagasse. Another benefit of the formula is that it is water-based, offering an alternative to harsher solvents that are commonly used to remove oil from plastics and water. The AgCenter and Mendel University have filed a joint U.S. patent application for this technology.
Nanoparticles for wound healing
The development of bandages or patches that would have an anti-inflammatory effect due to nanoparticles and accelerate the healing process is the goal of MENDELU experts. Part of the research was carried out in 2019 in the laboratory of Cristina Sabliov at LSU, which is focused on organic nanoparticles. Thanks to this, our scientists could try new devices and procedures and also consult with LSU experts. How exactly the patch or bandage will look is not yet clear, as research is not over. However, they could be used, for example, in postoperative conditions.
Researchers: Vendula Popelkova (Faculty of AgriSciences MENDELU), Pavla Vymazalova (Faculty of AgriSciences MENDELU) and Cristina Sabliov (LSU AgCenter)
The potential for an Economics of Regional Food Systems course would make a great joint online course between Mendel University and LSU. Topics work well as a synthesis / application course for students in the final year of baccalaureate studies or a first-year master’s program. While having basic economics coursework can be helpful, it is not essential, allowing students from multiple majors such as agricultural economics / agricultural business, horticulture, plant sciences and regional studies to participate. The course would be taught from a systems-thinking perspective, allowing students to understated modelling and intersecting systems at different levels (economic, biological, environmental, social). The online model allows faculty to share in development and delivery of the online course and manage individual learning objectives and credit requirements. The course could create faculty exchanges for in-person case-studies and joint research projects.
Faculty of AgriSciences MENDELU
We would like to continue organizing summer schools at LSU and developing student internships. We are also interested in deepening cooperation, for example, in the field of food and food incubators, and cooperation with physicists on lubricants, where there is a great intersection with our technicians.
Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology MENDELU
We will continue with the topics of land use methods, furniture design, the Phytophthora research center project and lignin research (key structural materials in vascular plants and some algae). We would also like to work together on human factors ergonomics, environmental health and safety, individual behavior and community.
Faculty of Business and Economics MENDELU
We would like to cooperate in organizing summer schools, exchanging professors, co-organizing professional economic and management conferences, and in leading and exchanging doctoral students.
Faculty of Horticulture MENDELU
The outlook for the future is to establish cooperation in the field of agricultural and horticultural microbiology. It will be mainly a study of yeasts and bacteria related to food topics.
Faculty of Regional Development and International Studies MENDELU
We will cooperate on practical student internships in Central America, which is a target region for both institutions. We are also considering cooperation in the presentation of spatial planning issues in the Czech Republic and Louisiana.