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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Rhizosphere biology of shrub-created resource islands of Sahelian agroecosystems: optimization and adaptation to climate change

PI: Yacine Ndour (Institut Senegalais de Recherches Agricoles)
U.S. Partner: Richard P. Dick (The Ohio State University)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2016
A major challenge facing Senegal is the capacity to feed a rapidly growing population against a background of climate change and low inherent soil fertility. Scientifically validated agricultural systems are now urgently needed that optimize crop productivity despite water and heat stresses. With previous support from the National Science Foundation, the collaboration to date between the Senegalese and U.S. scientists working on this PEER Science project has led to the discovery of two previously unrecognized shrub species that can coexist with crops on smallholder farms and have the ability to lift water from wet sub- to dry surface soil and to improve the soil. The primary goals of this new project are to understand how the harboring of beneficial nematodes (microscopic roundworms) and arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi (AMF) by shrub roots and associated rhizosphere can increase or maintain crop productivity in a climate change scenario of greater water and temperature stress. The project will be mainly based on lab experiments in a climate chamber with humidity and illumination to generate varying climate scenarios.

The main expected outcome will be progress toward developing optimized shrub-crop systems that will help subsistence farmers withstand climatic change stress. The project should serve USAID strategies of (1) adapting agricultural systems to increase, or at least, maintain crop production in climate changes while preserving biodiversity and related services at field scale, (2) creating wealth through better management of Senegal’s natural resources and development of sustainable agriculture, and (3) strengthening institutional and human capacities in the fields of agricultural education and research that benefit to smallholder farmers.

Summary of Recent Activities

Due to the lengthy procurement process involved with buying the new climate chamber to be used in the project, Dr. Ndour had to push back his experimental schedule by a few months. He and his group will conduct preliminary tests not requiring the chamber in the meantime. The project team is recruiting a PhD student from recent MS graduates from ISRA. A postdoctoral researcher has been identified to join the project in April 2014.
The project team has also been assisting the U.S. partners on the NSF PIRE project in Senegal in preparing for 2014 MicroTrop, an intensive lecture/lab course in tropical microbial ecology to be held May 19 to June 13, 2014. The team has been assisting with logistics, the lab and lecture components, and recruitment and selection of the 10 African participants who will join the 10 U.S. participants sponsored by the NSF project. The aim of MicroTrop is to develop scientific knowledge within the context of practical applications to solve agricultural challenges in a sustainable and ecological manner and create the basis for future international collaborations.

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