Fernando Calle: He leaves a trace of enthusiasm and love for growing cassava

Contributing to the third most important source of food energy in the world was Fernando Calle’s mission for 38 years of work at CIAT as agronomist in charge of cassava cultivation in Palmira and the Eastern Plains in Colombia. Today, he ends his phase as a researcher, leaving a great legacy in the organization.

He got his start at the Center in the Soil Program with Howeler Reinhardt, working on nutritional requirements of cassava for the acid soils of the Eastern Plains, in the Carimagua station. Circumstances led him to the Cassava Program to work on improvement, and his passion was such that he studied for a Master’s degree in plant production with an emphasis in improvement at the National University of Colombia. Hernán Ceballos, a plant breeder in the Cassava Program, says that “he is a man who represents the spirit of what CIAT was at the beginning: an attitude towards his work that goes beyond merely doing his duty. For him, work is not meeting a schedule but accomplishing a mission. He is a person who wakes up and goes to sleep thinking about cassava.” For her part, Nidia Betancourt, communications analyst of Clayuca Corporation, says that “in his frequent visits to the corporation, he was always ready to share his knowledge. He has been a trainer of technicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, producers, farmers, teachers, students, and journalists.” Clair Hershey, leader of the Cassava Program, adds that “Fernando is a person who manages to integrate wide theoretical and practical experience in multiple disciplines and topics related to cassava; in addition, his friendly nature and personality facilitate teamwork between the field and the laboratory.” As friend and father

Hershey adds that “he is an incomparable person who gets along well with everyone. He enjoys life, he is simple and uncomplicated, he adapts to any situation – sometimes we traveled in difficult conditions and he never complained.”

Calle is a good friend, husband, and father. He likes to play ping pong as a sport, and his favorite food is meat. Friends like Ximena Moreno, administrative analyst, claim that “he was the best friend of my husband, Jairo Bedoya, who worked for many years at CIAT in topics related to cassava. I will always be grateful to him for having been available and for serving as a support for my daughter and me after my husband died.” Achievements with cassava Fernando worked with dozens of local and national organizations in cassava-producing countries, as well as with advanced research institutes in the industrialized world. In order to make a contribution toward linking this tuber with dynamic markets, he also collaborated with companies in the private sector in countries such as Argentina, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, and Ecuador. He maintains close ties with Clayuca, from where he promotes the development and dissemination of improved technologies for the production and processing of cassava for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Calle contributed to the development of elite germplasm by using modern breeding techniques, such as rapid cycling recurrent selection and the production of duplicate haploids. “It has been a great strength to be able to rely on the expert advice of one of the professionals with the greatest knowledge and experience at a worldwide level about cassava production systems,” said Bernardo Ospina, executive director of Clayuca.

A large part of his achievements has focused on consultancy in the selection of cassava varieties for adaptation trials in other regions of the world, strengthening the systems of production and agronomic management of the crop, and supporting activities of knowledge management with groups of co-workers in the field and in the laboratory. He has also cooperated in the integration of various disciplines (pathologists, entomologists, plant breeders, among others); he has been a trainer in the Cassava Plant Breeding Network in Latin America and the Caribbean, where his objective was the consolidation of production, quality, and resistance data in a language that would make it possible to access data and genetic material to achieve the interchange of germplasm between countries. Another of his achievements was consulting on a project that was carried out in Argentina in an alliance with the European Union and Clayuca in the management of the cultivation from weed control to control of pests and diseases.

“I consider that one of the advantages of having worked in the Center is all the learning that is acquired on different topics. I am proud to have been part of this organization,” said Fernando Calle, research assistant, who says good-bye to CIAT as of December 23.

Calle will continue training and leaving his mark of enthusiasm and love for cassava growing. This legacy is shared with many of the people who worked with him and who had a chance to become familiar with this mission to see work and cultivation as the road to changing the world of cassava. “He takes with him an enormous load of institutional memory that will be impossible to replace. I came to the program 15 years ago and I grew in his shadow. He was the one who taught me much of what I know now, and he transmitted the love of cassava to me. Imagining myself in this program without him is going to be very difficult,” said Hernán Ceballos, Cassava Program plant breeder.