Day 1 :
University of Florida, USA
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Kelly T Morgan and his research program has collected data and developed products that have led to substantial nutrient and water savings in Florida, with emphasis on citrus, vegetable and sugarcane production in central and south Florida, resulting in improved water quality. The sandy soils of Florida require substantial amounts of both nutrients and irrigation for maximum production. The emphasis of his research program has been field-scale nutrient and water use, which go together to improve water quality. He provides extension presentations state-wide to grower groups on improvement of nutrient use efficiency to improve yields as well as reduce impacts on water quality. He has used his research activates to develop crop models on both state-wide and local scales. As a result, he has led or co-led several modeling efforts to reduce water use and the impact of agriculture on water quality. These efforts are key to future sustainable agriculture.
Smart irrigation apps were developed by a working group of faculties from the University of Florida and University of Georgia. The apps provide real-time irrigation schedules for selected crops (i.e., avocado, citrus, cotton, peanut, strawberry, and vegetables). Irrigation schedules in the smartphone apps are based on evapotranspiration or a water balance methodology using real-time weather data from the Florida Automated Weather Network and the Georgia Environmental Monitoring Network. The FAO Penman-Monteith method is used for calculating reference ET, and crop coefficients (Kc) are applied based on time after planting, calendar month, or a crop’s phenological stage. The functionality of each app was customized for each user group considering the most common irrigation systems used. Custom features include water conservation options, splitting irrigation events, spreadsheet output emails, and notifications. App inputs vary by crop (primarily due to the irrigation system used); however, all apps require root depth, irrigation rate, and soil type except the strawberry app. App outputs also vary and include estimated reference ET, days between irrigation events, irrigation depth and duration, accumulated rain for previous seven days, and growing degree days. National Weather Service forecast data are also provided in the apps. The apps are available in Android and iOS stores. A limitation to the app irrigation schedules is the spatial variation in rainfall, given the finite set of weather stations. Future efforts will focus on more accurate inclusion of rainfall into the irrigation schedules generated by the Smart irrigation apps. Validation of the apps in multiple season replicated plots at grower fields resulted in water savings for citrus, tomato and lawn of 24%, 33%, and 57% respectively. Cotton app improved yield with similar recommended water amounts.
University of Cambridge, UK
Peter J Leggo graduated from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland after a four-year Honours Geology degree course in 1959. He then gained his PhD degree from University of Bristol graduating in Geology and Mineralogy in 1963. Then, he joined Australia National University to work on Isotope Geochronology, 1963-65. He continued this work during a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Leeds, 1965-68. He held an accepted Professorship at the Department of Geology, University of Florida, USA and later at the Department of Environmental Studies, University of Virginia, USA. On return to the UK in 1995, he became interested in Natural Zeolites which led to current work on biological plant fertilizers at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge.
The adoption of a biological method of plant nutrition has proved to be extremely efficient. The method does not involve the use of chemical salts and the innovative approach to soil health and plant growth uses natural crushed zeolite rock and organic waste, either animal or plant. Zeolite minerals are well known to adsorb ammonia, which in this case, is produced by the decomposition of the organic waste. The slow release of the ammonia provides a gradual supply of nitrate ions that can be accepted by the growing plant. In this way, there is very little access to nitrate to diffuse into the soil. With phosphorus obtained from the organic waste by the activity of other micro-organisms and potassium, being available from the waste and soil, the three major elements (NPK) are present in ionized form which can be taken up by the growing plant. The ammonium ions, held by the zeolite are oxidized to nitrate by the activity of soil micro-organisms; not bacteria, as previously thought but Crenarchaeota (Archaea). This was confirmed by molecular biological studies conducted at the Department of Biotechnology, University of Cambridge. This way of providing nitrogen by biological oxidation of ammonia to nitrate (nitrification) involves enzymes which also produce hydrogen in a form which is very reactive. The reactivity of the hydrogen releases a range of ionized elements from the soil which provide minor elements in trace quantities required for strong plant growth. Organic material is essential to supply the carbon demand of soil micro-organisms. Due to the carbon demand of proliferating soil microbes, occurring from the use of chemical fertilizers, carbon is lost in the long-term. This loss leads to a change in soil structure and water holding capacity, resulting in a fragile soil which is prone to wind erosion. The dust bowls of the Midwest of the USA are a spectacular example of this effect. It is thought that the adoption of the more scientific organo-zeolitic-soil system, will be a step forward in plant nutrition.
Tripura University, India
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P S Chaudhuri is a Professor of Zoology at Tripura University (a central university), did his PG and PhD from the Calcutta University, Kolkata. He is an eminent earthworm scientist with more than 80 research papers in National and International Journals of repute. He is the author of the book “Kenchor Jeevan Baichitra: Kencho Prajukti (2006)” written in Bengali on the Biology and Ecology of earthworms in North-East India with special emphasis on vermiculture and vermicomposting. He has participated in more than 25 National and International Symposia and visited Avignon (France) 1990, Vigo (Spain) in 1998, Cardiff (UK) 2002 and Shanghai (China) 2016 to present his research papers in International symposia on Earthworm Ecology and Agricultural Sciences. He was elected as the Fellow of Zoological Society, Kolkata (1998) and Fellow of the Society of Applied Sciences, India (2010). His biography has been cited in the Who’s Who in Science and Engineering 2006-2007 (Marquis, USA). The Academic Forum of the Society of Earthworm Ecology and Environmental Research (SEEER) awarded Certificate of Appreciation to him as an Earthworm Biologist in 2012. He was selected as one of the “Inspiring Teacher of Tripura University”, Tripura in 2013. He has been honored with “Science Excellence Award” in 2015 and “Bharat Siksha Ratan Award” in 2016.
Statement of the Problem: Green revolution in India (1967-1987) made the country self-sufficient in food grain production. However, indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for the last few decades made the soil unproductive with loss of biodiversity and the environment polluted. So, rejection or reduced use of chemicals and practice of organic farming for recovery of soil health, increase in food grain production and biodiversity conservation have been suggested.
Methodology & Theoretical Orientation: Epigeic earthworms such as Eisenia, Eudrilus and Perionyx have been successfully cultured in organic wastes kept in cemented tanks under suitable temperature (26°C-30°C) and moisture (50%-60%) conditions for production of vermicompost. Different doses (@2.5 tons/ha – 20 tons/ha) of harvested vermicompost were applied (RBD technique) in the soils of paddy, pineapple and tea plantations in Tripura.
Findings: Vermicompost, rich in plant-available nutrients (avN, avP, avK etc.) and plant growth factors, when applied to soil: improved soil aggregation, water use efficiency, nutrient uptake etc. Dramatic yields of paddy, pineapple and tea were recorded following application of 10-20 tons of vermicompost/ha. A significant (p<0.05) and gradual increase in density and biomass of earthworms were also noticed with increase in amount of vermicompost applied.
Conclusion & Significance: Crop yield was very much related to the concentration of vermicompost, beyond the level of which production declined. Vermicomposting and its application to soil has several advantages: i) reduce organic pollution, ii) produces organic manure for application in agro-ecosystems, iii) increases biodiversity, iv) production of high quality earthworm proteins from wastes and its utilization as feed for poultry birds and fishes.