For Brian Dougherty, this year has been a whirlwind of learning about agriculture in many parts of the world as a Nuffield Scholar.
The Waukon native, former Allamakee County Farm Bureau president and current Iowa State University (ISU) graduate student believes that learning about farming in other parts of the world will provide insight into key issues in Iowa agriculture. He’s especially interested in learning about new technologies that help farmers take on the challenge of reducing nutrient losses, building soil health and improving water quality.
“These technologies tend to emerge first in other parts of the world, especially in Europe, before we see them here,” Dougherty said. “I’m hoping that I can learn about technologies that would apply here.”
The Nuffield Scholarships, started in the United Kingdom in the 1940s, are designed to provide research opportunities for farmers and agribusiness people from around the world to study farming, horticulture or rural industries. Approximately 80 scholars worldwide are selected for the program each year.
Dougherty was one of two Nuffield Scholars selected from the United States for the 2018 session. His scholarship is sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), along with the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the Iowa Soybean Association, the Iowa Pork Producers Association and the National Pork Board.
A wide world of ag learning opportunities
For Dougherty, who is pursuing a master’s degree in agricultural and biosystems engineering at ISU, the Nuffield Scholarship has led to a wide range of learning opportunities on several continents. In March, he traveled to the Netherlands, where he met with other Nuffield Scholars and learned about Dutch farming practices. Then Dougherty traveled to Italy; Washington, D.C.; Texas; British Columbia; Argentina; and Chile.
“I was on the road for seven weeks straight, which was a challenge, but there were tremendous learning opportunities in all of those places,” Dougherty said.
In May, Dougherty spent a month in Australia and New Zealand looking into practices used there to protect soil health, manage nutrients and improve water quality. The experience of farmers in those two countries has parallels to issues farmers face in Iowa, he said.
“New Zealand is challenged with nitrate leaching issues that are similar to those in Iowa,” Dougherty said. “Farmers there face strict regulations regarding effluent capture and application.”
In drought-prone Australia, Dougherty said, issues mostly center on conserving water and improving soil health.
This fall, Dougherty will travel back to Europe to investigate practices livestock farms use to manage manure and control odors. “I’m really interested in learning more about what they do over there and how they manage with a small land base and very strict environmental regulations.”
While he’s had a busy travel year, hard work and long hours are nothing new for Dougherty. After earning his associates degree, he returned to the family dairy farm in northeast Iowa and milked cows for 17 years. During that time, he also was very active in the Allamakee County Farm Bureau, serving as vice president, president and voting delegate, as well as serving on dairy committees for the IFBF and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
A few years ago, Dougherty decided to return to college and to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural engineering, with a specialty in land and water resources. During his studies, he learned about the Nuffield Scholars program and decided to apply.
“It sounded like a great program, and I’m really excited to be a part of it,” Dougherty said.
While there are big differences in agriculture around the globe, Dougherty said he’s also found some similarities.
“Everywhere I’ve gone, there is a lot of concern about transferring farms to the next generation,” Dougherty said. “In Italy, South America, Canada and everywhere else I have traveled, I’ve heard about the struggle with high land prices, finding capital and getting the next generation started on the farm. It just seems to be a universal problem.”
After his travels through the Nuffield Scholars program, Dougherty will author a report on his focus area of soil health, water quality and nutrient management. He also expects to host future Nuffield Scholars as they travel to Iowa to learn about practices here.
For more information on the Nuffield Scholars program visit: http://nuffieldinternational.org/scholarship.html.