FoodAfrica WP1 is well on schedule. The work package focuses on strengthening capacity for diagnosis and management of soil micronutrient deficiencies in Sub Saharan Africa for improved plant, animal and human nutrition.
So far we have developed protocols for analysis of soil micronutrients using new low cost, high throughput, direct methods using infrared and x-ray spectroscopy technology.
We completed this year analysis of all 1,900 reference samples from the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) baseline of 60 sentinel sites that are a probability sample of Sub-Saharan Africa. MTT conducted conventional wet chemistry analysis of micronutrients while ICRAF conducted spectral measurements. Early results indicate a prevalence of low levels of copper, zinc and iron in African soils.
A set of 1,660 archived soils from the classic Sillanpää global soil micronutrient study from 30 countries around the world were similarly analysed. We found significant relationships between measured soil properties (copper, iron, lead, aluminium, vanadium, manganese, chromium, cobalt and boron) and MIR absorbance spectra in the soils. ICRAF also provided spectral analysis of 610 soil samples for a study on the mineral composition of Finnish soils.
We conducted a Hands-on Infrared spectroscopy Training Workshop 12–16 May 2014 for 38 scientists and technicians from National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) from 11 countries in Africa. A PhD student registered with the University of Nairobi completed the second year work programme and ICRAF has supported a 5 University of Nairobi MSc students. Internships were also provided to five Kenyan undergraduate students.
A student training/exchange visit was held between ICRAF, University of Nairobi and MTT. Two University of Nairobi Masters students worked on a 3-month internship at MTT on micronutrients reference analysis methods. Two MTT scientific staff spent a week at ICRAF exchanging expertise on x-ray diffraction mineralogy.
We presented preliminary results of the work at a number of venues, including the World Congress of Soil Science in Korea, the Micronutrient Forum in Addis Ababa, and the Food Africa mid-term Seminar in Helsinki.
Our plans for next year focus on developing soil spectral-spatial prediction models for soil micronutrients, running plant bioassays at the project’s new Plant Environment Facility to calibrate plant nutrient uptake to soil spectral tests, and making a set of videos of the new lab techniques for dissemination.
Written by Dr Keith Shepherd, ICRAF