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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 7 (2018 Deadline)


GIS-based weather, soils, land use, and agricultural management database in Cambodia

PI: Nareth Nut (nnareth@rua.edu.kh), Royal University of Agriculture
U.S. Partner: Gilbert Sigua, USDA Agriculture Research Service Coastal Plains Soil, Water, Plant Research Center
Dates: February 2019 - January 2021

Project Overview

Because several of Cambodia’s agricultural areas have degraded soils, the country is pursuing a sustainable agriculture approach aimed at growing food in a way that not only conserves the soil but also improves its quality. Working in partnership with U.S., French, and Brazilian researchers, local Cambodian scientists have developed working technologies that enhance soil quality and intensify production of upland grain, tuber, vegetable, forage, and lowland rice crops under conservation agriculture. The goal of the current PEER-supported research project is to evaluate the capacity of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to predict soil carbon sequestration in conservation agriculture production systems compared with traditional farming systems. Moreover, the project aims at establishing a GIS-based weather, soil, land use, and agricultural management databased that will be housed in a central location for use as a baseline to help global users predict environmental degradation from current practices. SWAT can be used as a reliable model to do such simulations and to assess the environmental and profitable benefits for Cambodia if sustainable intensification practices like conservation agriculture are promoted by the government and private industry. SWAT is based on the science behind the hydrologic cycle, nutrient cycle, carbon cycle, pesticide chemical degradation and movement, soil erosion processes, and crop growth and yield, combined as an integrated process. With support provided by PEER, Cambodian researchers will collaborate with their U.S. partner to gather and format the inputs for SWAT simulation, including digital elevation maps and data on climate, soils, land use, crops, agricultural management, and types of fertilizers used. The results of the simulations will be compared with measured data (if any exist) to assess if the simulations are reasonable. Moreover, the U.S. partner will provide technical expertise needed to accomplish critical objectives of the research project, as well as access to some equipment and laboratory instruments for analyses of water, soil, and plant samples.

7-080 Taking samples 27-080 Taking samples 1
Project members collect various soil samples for analyzation. (Photo courtesy of Nareth Nut).

It is expected that the project could improve agricultural management practices in Cambodia, as well as provide synthesized data that could be useful globally. Capacity building for faculty members of the Royal University of Agriculture would be improved through the training and implementation activities involved in the project. From the GIS-based digital data collected in this proposal, research can be done with quantified data using SWAT to analyze the impact of deforestation and agriculture on the Mekong River natural flows. In addition, different types of sustainable intensification production systems can be recommended from various scenarios and environmental conservation can be simulated using SWAT. Predictions can be linked to food production, improved yield and income, and the capacity of the community to meet its food needs.

Summary of Recent Activities

Beginning June 3, 2019, the PI completed one month of training on the Agricultural Policy/Environmental eXtender (APEX) model at the Blackland Research and Extension Center (BREC) at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research at Temple, Texas. During the visit, his host Dr. Jaehak Jeong provided instruction and guidance on using APEX and other tools to develop a model for a watershed in Battambang Province, Cambodia. He also provided mentorship in analyzing some initial findings on the project. Mr. Nut developed these primary findings into a poster, which he presented at the ASABE Annual Meeting in Boston July 7-8, 2019. In addition, the U.S. visit provided an opportunity for the PI to present his work to staff at USAID headquarters in Washington, DC. After that stop, the PI traveled to see his U.S. partner Dr. Gilbert Sigua and co-workers at the USDA Research Center in Florence, South Carolina. There the researchers discussed initial project findings on using the APEX model to analyze carbon sequestration in conservation agriculture in comparison with conventional tillage. After returning home in July, Mr. Nut organized his team to go into the field to collect additional information to verify the primary results simulated by the APEX model. They interviewed members of 32 households regarding crop management practices on their land (size of the farms, amount of fertilizers and pesticides used, types of crops, yield per hectare, monthly income, etc.). Team members also collected soil samples in the study area to analyze their properties, such as soil pH, bulk density, soil texture, organic matter, and nutrient content. They also analyzed soil organic carbon to determine carbon sequestration and did some calculations of the biomass or crop residues remaining in the fields.

In addition, Mr. Nut conducted a training workshop at the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA) September 1-3, 2019, on Modeling an Agricultural Watershed Using ArcAPEX. This workshop covered the fundamental principles of the APEX model with hands-on exercises for use in simulating farm and watershed management. The objective of the workshop was to introduce ArcAPEX to new users, provide them with hands-on practice, and familiarize them with general procedures of model development, implementation, and evaluation. The participants came primarily from RUA, especially from the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering and the Faculty of Agronomy, but there were some attendees from the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), private companies, and NGOs. After taking the training, most of the participants expressed interest and willingness to apply the model in their research and further career development.

Plans for the last quarter of 2019 call for supporting students (one Master’s level and five undergraduates) to attend and present research findings at the sixth SWAT-SEA International Conference and Workshop, which will be held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, October 21-26, 2019. Also, the PI present his research findings and provide assistance to the invited trainer (Dr. Jaehak Jeong). In the coming months, Mr. Nut, Dr. Sigua, Dr. Jeong, and the rest of the team from the Blackland Research and Extension Center will work on manuscripts to submit for publication. Moreover, the PI plans to purchase some additional equipment to measure nutrient and pesticide leakage from the fields so his students can use the APEX and SWAT models to simulate nutrient cycling from the fields as part of their thesis writing.


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