Brown Bag: Culture, Agriculture And Shrubs: Improving Soils and Crop Yield in West Africa

Voices from the Field Brown Bag Speaker Series

The Sahel is an ecologically fragile environment where in-season drought periods are common, causing chronic low yields, crop failures, and long-term food insecurity. Biologically based systems are needed that utilize local resources and can buffer against drought in the Sahel. Two native shrubs, Piliostigma reticulatum and Guiera senegalensis, coexist with row crops throughout the Sahel and until recently have largely been overlooked. Over 15 years, Prof. Dick has led research on optimized systems of G. senegalensis and P. reticulatum that have resulted in many intriguing benefits and mechanisms in relation to remediation of degraded soils and dramatic yield increases of millet and groundnut, with or without fertilizer. Importantly, these shrubs assist crops through drought periods, a key discovery of the research is hydraulic lift which shrubs perform by moving water through roots from wet subsoil to dry surface soil at night. Shrub-intercropping is advantageous for subsistence farmers, because it is a local resource they are familiar with that does not require external inputs or new infrastructure.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 12-1 pm

Enarson Classroom Building Room 100 on the Ohio State University campus

The event is free and open to the public, and participants are welcome to bring lunch and eat during the conversation.


About the speaker

Richard Dick is an Ohio Eminent Scholar and Professor of Soil Microbial Ecology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources. His research focuses on the role and manipulation of microbial communities in controlling biogeochemical processes and delivering ecosystem services for agricultural and environmental applications. Professor Dick has extensive international experience, as an agronomist for 3 years in Bangladesh, and leading research and development projects for 15 years in West Africa. Under his leadership with NSF funding, a team of African, French, and US scientists, discovered shrub rhizosphere hydrologic lift of water that enables the functioning and diversity of microbial communities to drive biochemical processes over the extended dry season of the semi-arid Sahel. This research has changed the paradigm of how arid environments can function and has major implications for Sahalian agriculture by utilizing inter-cropped shrubs as nutrient/water reservoirs and to remediate degraded landscapes. With his endowment at Ohio State University, he has established a lab with the expertise and facilities to apply molecular and stable isotope probing methods for studying soil and aquatic microbial ecology. His accomplishments have been recognized as a Fulbright Scholar, Fellow of Soil Science Society of America and American Society of Agronomy, and is the incoming 2018 President of the Soil Science Society of America.


About the Series

The Voices from the Field Brown Bag Speaker Series is a collaboration between the Center for African Studies and the Global Water Institute. Sessions are held Wednesdays from 12-1 in Enarson 100.


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Photo: Project Director, Richard Dick, and partners in Niger showing high yields of millet grown in the presence of native shrubs.