ASU In the News

Math modeling may help boost Mexico's agriculture

As the world’s population grows, balancing sustainable agriculture with increased crop production is becoming a rising challenge.

Mathematician and Arizona State University Regents’ Professor Carlos Castillo-Chavez thinks mathematical modeling may help, according to a recent article on the CIMMYT news site.

Castillo-Chavez, who serves on President Obama’s Committee on the National Medal of Science, studies the dynamics and spread of pathogens and social ills, as well as issues of sustainability. Last month, he visited Mexico’s International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center to learn, offer input and discuss collaborative possibilities.

One topic was the center’s MasAgro program, which is designed to boost rain-fed corn and wheat production through the sustainable modernization of traditional agriculture. It pairs small-scale farmers with organizations that help them access modern agricultural technologies and functional markets, resulting in increased revenue gained through practices that do not contribute to climate change. 

Castillo-Chavez met with MasAgro staff and members of the center’s Biometrics and Statistics Unit.

During his visit, he explained that mathematical models can be used to study and increase the impact the center’s research has on Mexico by assessing the culture and identifying obstacles. He said that by effectively sharing the research with enough people, “a culture change takes place where farmers and politicians are in constant communication,” which allows implementation of the center’s research.

Another approach he feels is important: policymakers must push directives that benefit the public instead of promoting popular research topics.

“Most problems of interest to Mexico don’t always apply to what’s current or hot in international academia,” said Castillo-Chavez, who was born and raised in Mexico City. “There is no reason why Mexico should not have its own research agenda that may or may not intersect with the U.S.”

He is hopeful that practically applied research findings and informed leaders can be created by the center and ASU collaborating on research and education.

Castillo-Chavez is faculty in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the founding director of the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center.

Article Source: CIMMYT News
Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change