Global Mission and Service staff in North Korea, Robert Shank, reports important strides in the rice, soybean, and corn breeding research at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), where he and his wife Linda are teaching. A new crop, barley, has been added to this work in 2014, and a Global Food Crisis Fund grant is helping expand the work to include small fruits.
The work of three out of the eight of Shank’s graduate students focuses on identifying and breeding rice for the flood-prone delta areas, soybeans for the salty irrigated soils, and incorporating US corn inbreds into Korean hybrids.
Shank reports that two students have gone to Harbin, China, for graduate work, and two more have scholarships to the International Rice Research Institute in the Phillipines.
The Shanks recently were approved by the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) review panel to receive a second $5,000 grant to expand the work to include tissue culture of small fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Following a trip of 20 senior students to China, one chose berries for a project.
Robert Shank writes, “There is strict communal control of the classes of tillable farmland, but little control of individual use of the land on mountainsides.” He explains that this has led to row cultivation, deforestation, erosion, and ultimately flooding in the riverbottoms. The farming of annual crops on these highly erodible uplands has been detrimental to soil conservation, whereas perennial crops like berry bushes and fruit trees can be highly productive and would be better at preventing erosion.
For more about the Shanks’ work, go to www.brethren.org/partners/northkorea .