The trick to boost harvests in drought-prone, food-insecure areas of West Africa could be a ubiquitous indigenous shrub that survives even under the toughest growing conditions, according to one in the Frontiers in Environmental Science .
published millet production increased by more than 900 percent.
Several decades have passed since Richard Dick, a soil scientist in the state of Ohio, traveled through rural Senegal in West Africa, noting that low-lying bushes looked good, even though most of the other vegetation had been destroyed in the farmers' fields.
"I said," Wow, there's biomass! What's this? He said, pointing to his team 's initial interest in finding organic matter to improve the surrounding soil, and since then, Dick and longtime senior staff member Ibrahima Diedhiou from Senegal have discovered many possibilities, such as the bushes' soil and soil
However, the most profound discovery came recently, Dick said.
A newly published study reveals that the same shrubs, when planted alongside millet, can share the precious water they attract and the production Promote one of the main crops that feeds the West Africans.
"People in this part of Africa rely on local farming to survive crops. Finding ways to increase food production, especially in times of severe drought, is critical, "said Dick, a professor of microbiological soil ecology in the state of Ohio.
" As things stand, the population continues to rise, there is no land left and earnings remain flat. "
The new study has shown that certain woody plants ̵
The farmers there and in other parts of the African region called Sahel have grown these shrubs to a varying degree alongside crops – probably for those thousands of years, Dick said.
Some cut them back or rip them out and incinerate them, and they have not been widely recognized as a crop resource, he said.
Dick and his research team have developed an innovative harvest management system they call an "optimized shrub system" using these readily available shrubs.  Their approach is to reduce the density of shrubs in farmers' fields drastically from less than 300 bushes per hectare to 1,500 bushes on the same property. Their system also includes fertilizing the soil with the shrub leaves and stalks rather than burning them.
Along with a dramatic increase in yield, this system improves soil quality, increases nutrients in crops, and shortens harvest time by approximately 15 days, which is important in a low rainfall area, Dick said.
The newly published study describes one way in which the plants benefit their neighbors.
The roots of the shrubs grow deep in the ground. Look for moisture 30 to 40 feet below the soil surface. This obviously equips the shrubs better to survive tough, dry conditions.
But how do you divide your liquid assets? Dick and his co-workers created an experiment in which they could track water moving from deep faucet roots to neighboring pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum.).
They found this at night – when the bushes were not busy with sunlight – dependent photosynthesis – the water drawn from deep underground exits through surface roots into the surrounding soil, not through the leaves.
The stomata – the "pores" on the leaves of a plant – close in the dark When photosynthesis stops, Dick explained.
This means that the roots of millet plants near the surface can absorb water that is delivered from the shrubs to the surface.
The researchers confirmed this by tracing the water from the beginning into the roots of the shrubs to their eventual presence in the millet leaves during a scientifically-imposed drought experiment that included a comparable shrub-free field.
"We have proven that" bioirrigation "happens through these shrubs. For the first time this has been shown for plant production," said Dick. "This is a native plant that is free and easy to grow – all of which is positive."
Now, the team still wants to pilot its cultivation system with farmers across the Sahel and make any necessary adjustments. More widespread use of the practice.
Finding natural, easy-to-use solutions to feed a growing population has great potential in West Africa, Dick said. In other regions of the world, including Southeast Asia and South America, farmers have adapted to population growth through the extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides. However, in Senegal and neighboring countries, agriculture depends on what nature has to offer. Producers generally do not use fertilizers or pesticides and do not have the means to irrigate dry crops.
"This is a semi-arid region it is located in. It rains only part of the year, and in some years there are major droughts and people are starving," said Dick, adding that 60 to 90 percent of the population Senegalese live in small, agricultural villages.
Whatever is available on the ground, and it is of utmost importance to find these answers and to work with local farmers to consider possible agricultural techniques. "19659003] The National Science Foundation supported this research.
Dick collaborated with scientists from Senegal, France, and the University of California, Merced and Riverside.