Tim Daniell

Can indigenous microbes release phosphorus to crops?

An innovative new project aims to select and use indigenous, phosphorus-solubilising fungi and bacteria to increase the yield of crops by reducing phosphorus deficiency in the tropical soils of Cameroon. Isolation and testing of the microbes in the laboratory at SCRI will be followed by trials in Cameroonian fields.

The background - phosphorus in short supply

Photograph of croplands in the dry season (Geoff Squire)Agriculture is the dominant sector in most sub-Saharan countries of Africa. It provides employment for most of the rural population and makes an important contribution to GDP, GNP and foreign exchange. Agricultural productivity is low and the people depending on agriculture are generally poor. Many of the soils are mostly low in fertility (for example, photograph right), particularly in phosphorus (P) and nitrogen, and need to be fertilised for adequate yield.

Clone of Sustainability Research Platform at Balruddery Farm

A new experimental research platform is being established at Balruddery Farm for long-term studies on arable sustainability.Photograph of a poppy field

The overall goal is to test whether or not potential solutions for sustainable agriculture arising from the current RERAD workpackages, actually result in improved arable biodiversity, resilience, crop productivity and yield stability at a commercial, field-scale over at least four rotation cycles (>20 years).

To do this, we will design a sustainable cropping system based on existing research at SCRI that optimises inputs, yield, biodiversity and ecosystem processes. The effect of this ‘sustainable’ system on long-term trends in yield and system health will be tested by comparison with current commercial practice.

Environment Plant Interactions

Image of the SCRI site looking towards the River TaySCRI's environmental science research spans across disciplines to gain a holistic understanding of how plants respond to and modify environmental processes. Scottish Government commissioned research is gaining an in-depth understanding of the environment in arable farming systems and this is being used to advise on policy development in Scotland. These skills have also been applied to emerging issues relevant to the UK and Europe, including the UK’s Farm Scale Evaluations, international working groups, IPDM-based alternatives to pesicides and EU-wide studies on the ecological impacts of GM plants.

The environment and the ecology of plants and pests are our key research areas, investigated by a strong multidisciplinary team of scientists in entomology, pathology, plant sciences, vegetation ecology, phytochemistry, mathematical modelling and soil sciences. A major area of interest is integrating processes that occur above ground and in the soil. Research conducted on plant interactions with soil has extended from the understanding of sustainable arable systems to ‘green’ engineering solutions for slope stabilisation with vegetation.

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