UC Davis has been at the heart of the state’s teaching and research collaborations with Chile since the 1960’s when dozens of Chilean graduate students known as the “Davis Boys” studied at UC Davis in agricultural sciences under a program sponsored by the Ford Foundation. They subsequently returned home and are credited with playing a major leadership role in revolutionizing Chilean agriculture.
Building on this long and productive relationship between Chile and California, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet signed two landmark agreements with UC Davis in June 2008 designed to strengthen research and teaching collaborations in the areas of crop genetics and plant breeding along with grape growing and winemaking. The Seed Biotechnology Center will be the primary campus partner in the first of the two agreements which lays the groundwork for a new research, development and training program focused on the conservation of plant genetic resources, development of new and hardier crop varieties, release of new crop varieties for the global market and collaborative graduate training programs in plant genetics and plant breeding. The Chile-California Partnership is being funded by the Chilean government.
The SBC was instrumental in bringing this Chile-California Partnership to fruition. In late 2007, the SBC began meeting with the Chilean Ambassador to the United States, Mariano Fernandez in Washington, D.C. In the spring of 2008, the Seed Biotechnology Center hosted Ambassador Fernandez and U.S. Ambassador to Chile Paul Simons for an investigative tour of the campus. Ambassador Fernandez was a key player in developing the Chile-California Partnership. His visit introduced the capabilities of the campus and accelerated the partnership process.
The partnership is designed to equally benefit both Chilean and California agriculture. California tomato, potato, and pepper growers have benefitted from collecting expeditions in Chile, where species related to these plants grow wild. The tomato expeditions were begun by UC Davis professor Charles Rick and have been continued by Roger Chetelat, the director of the C.M. Rick Tomato Genetics Resource Center (TGRC) on campus. The TGRC holds the largest collection of tomato accessions in the world, of which 10% are from Chile.
US Ambassador to Chile Paul Simons hosted a reception at his home recognizing Kent Bradford, Mike Campbell and Andres Schwember from the Seed Biotechnology Center during their visit to Chile in March. Over 100 guests attended the event with those pictured above being UC Davis alumni.