SENR Professor Directs Collaborative Project Focused on Restoring Fragile Landscapes on the Sahel

June 13, 2013
Richard Dick, professor of Soil Microbial Ecology directs a $2.6 million National Science Foundation (NSF) Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) project focusing on the Sahel where landscape degradation is causing desertification that seriously reduces food security.  A potential key for restoring these landscapes are two unrecognized shrub species that can coexist with crops and have the ability to lift water from wet sub- to dry-surface soil and improve soils. 
 
The research examines the hydrology and rhizosphere microbiology as a basis for developing optimized shrub-crop systems that reduce crop water stress and stimulate microbial enhancement of nutrient availability (e.g. nitrogen fixation) and plant growth (e.g. plant hormones, disease suppression). Two PhD students and one MS students from OSU are posted in Senegal. The project brings together French, African, and US institutions for the first time that includes Ohio State University (lead), University of California at Merced; Central State University (Wilberforce, OH); Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles, Senegal; IRD (Montpellier, France) Laboratory of Tropical Microbial Ecology, Senegal;  and University of Thies, Senegal.
 
For two summer months of 2013, three US undergraduates are assisting with the research that includes field soil sampling campaigns, hydrological data collection, and soil microbiology lab work.
 
The NSF PIRE project, Hydrologic Redistribution and Rhizosphere Biology of Resource Islands in Degraded Agroecosystems of the Sahel: A PIRE in Tropical Microbial Ecology is a 5-year project. Dr. Brian McSpadden Gardner, OSU Plant Pathology; Dr. John Reeve, OSU Microbiology; and Dr. Teamrat Ghezzehei, University of California at Merced are co-investigators for the project.   
 
NSF’s PIRE program, instituted in 2005, supports international collaborations in research and education to advance scientific solutions to daunting global challenges.  Learn more about this PIRE project and others here.
 
Image credit:  NSF