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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
2-432MicroTrop 2014 Field trip to Niayes' Small Farmer Vegetable Production
 MicroTrop 2014 Field trip to Niayes' Small Farmer Vegetable Production.
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

The period between January to March was characterized by ongoing research activities by the student team members as well as strong academic presentations at an international conference. The climatic chamber was installed and became available for lab use and the PhD students started their experiment using the machine on resistance and resilience of soil beneath and outside the shrub areas. The master’s student is working on the morphological characterization of different spores of mycorrhizae extracted from the soil. This will be his last experiment before he defends his thesis at Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar in June. Additionally, the team’s postdoctoral researcher attended to the third conference on Climate Smart Agriculture and a side event on Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA) “Food Security-Adaptation-Mitigation,” in Montpellier, France. A poster was presented based on the results from the preliminary experiment.

In the coming months, the team will continue collecting data with the PhD student focusing her efforts on resistance and resilience of biological assemblages derived from soil collected under the shrub and outside the shrub to stressful climate simulated conditions. An article from the preliminary experiment is currently being written by the postdoctoral researcher and will be submitted shortly to a peer-reviewed journal.

2-432 PhD student experiment in the greenhouse 2-432_ MicroTrop 2014 Participants and Lecturers.jpg
A PhD student conducts soil experiments in a greenhouse (photo courtesy of Dr. Ndour). MicroTrop 2014 Participants and Lecturers

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