By Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp

1st Cavalry Division public affairs

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq – The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division recently took a step toward advancing the future of farming in Iraq through helping the country’s agricultural scientists at a major university here.

Soldiers from the brigade along with members from the brigade’s Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team and civil affairs office linked up with two scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deliver soil testing kits to faculty members of the University of Baghdad’s College of Agriculture on Saturday.

The delivery included 17 soil testing kits and a water analysis machine. The equipment will allow the scientists to improve their efforts in advancing their country’s agriculture.

According to Lt. Col. Harvey Fitzgerald, the brigade’s senior agri-business adviser, much of the work with agriculture in the area is being accelerated due to the success of local reconciliation efforts.

“We’re providing pieces of the puzzle for reconciliation and there’s lots of momentum right now, specifically through trying to find opportunities to strengthen agricultural economy and we’re trying to make sure that the Iraqi system is successful,” Fitzgerald said. “Today, we’re providing them with soil testing kits that will allow them to have the latest technology and help them with the planning of their resources for the fall planting season.”

The test kits will allow the Iraqi agriculturalists to test the overall composition of the soil to examine nitrate and phosphate levels and evaluate whether the soil is good for farming.

The day’s visit to the college marked the first time USDA representatives have traveled to meet with the faculty on the university campus which boasts 14 laboratories and a dairy research facility.

During their meeting, the college faculty, USDA representatives and brigade personnel discussed various issues concerning the running of agriculture programs at the university. Some topics discussed included the replacement of lab equipment which was stolen three years ago and training on new pieces of equipment that the college’s labs will be receiving.

“We will work with them to identify their needs and address their issues, working hard to help them resolve their problems,” said Dr. Rebecca Burt, a USDA soil science adviser. “We want to see them succeed at (taking over their own agricultural efforts) and we have a wealth of experts who can help them do just that.”

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