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Sidebar: When K-State Planted a School
Kansas Ag Connection - 08/13/2019

India has a network of more than 50 universities devoted to agriculture, horticulture and animal science, thanks in part to Kansas State University.

Land-grant universities were pioneered in the United States after the Civil War (Kansas State University was the first). Congress granted federally controlled land to states to establish public institutions that would make education and information available to all people. Land-grant institutions, through academics, research and extension, have ensured that practical, relevant knowledge would be passed to people of all backgrounds. They are responsible for the spread of agricultural and technical knowledge that, among other successes, built the U.S. into a global food provider.

"Beginning in the 1950s, the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, had an interest in establishing universities around the world, particularly in south Asia," said Vara Prasad, a university distinguished professor of crop ecophysiology at K-State and director of the USAID-funded SIIL.

According to Prasad, K-State was tapped to help establish an agricultural university in south India, using America's flourishing land-grant system as a model. That school was officially opened as Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University in 1964. "During the 1960s, USAID sent approximately 500 faculty members from several American campuses, to nine different universities in India. There were several other American universities involved in the process, but K-State's focus was the 'planting' of the land-grant model" and led this effort.

"What was originally a seedling has become a whole crop of land grant universities across India," he said.

The timing couldn't have been better. Norman Borlaug's Green Revolution was in full swing, and India was struggling to grow enough food to feed its citizens.

"The improved wheat and rice varieties were in place, but once in the ground, the seeds needed the right cultural and management practices for them to thrive. The eventual success of those efforts would not have happened without the land-grant model in place, in India."

"Because of the land-grant system," Prasad explained, "we were able to reach out to the millions of farmers with the right information and the right practices. The seeds that Borlaug helped develop -- the Green Revolution seeds -- needed proper cultivation for the actual Green Revolution to sprout and continue for the next two or three decades."

Originally one university in each of India's 29 states, the institutions eventually split into schools devoted to different disciplines: agriculture, horticulture and animal sciences.

"Most of them still have the basic three components of the land-grant system: teaching, research and extension," Prasad said.

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