PLANT NUTRITION TRUST REPORT
University of Western Australia
As recipient of The Plant Nutrition Trust Award, I visited LSU AgCenter and its Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase, Manroe. It also coincided with the Annual International Meeting of America Society of Agronomy, America Society of Soil Science and Crop Science Society of America and I attended as a member at Tampa Convention Centre, Florida.
LSU AgCenter, Sweet Potato Research Station conducts pioneering research on role of phosphorus on sweet potato root structure and architecture. This work compliments my PhD research project aimed at understanding root rhizosphere properties of sweet potato in low Phosphate soils. I also attended the meeting in Tampa purposely to meet and network with other international researchers who are involved in related studies to my PhD research project. I met many graduate students working on fields related to root rhizosphere as well as functions of microbial community that exists in the soil.
This report highlight activities and contact made with other researchers on this trip.
Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase, Monroe
The LSU AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase is devoted mainly to sweet potato research and development in the United States of America. Its mission is to produce and supply high quality seed stock to commercial sweet potato growers and conduct research in various disciplines to support the industry in the country. Some of the commercial sweet potato varieties used around the world, including Beauregard were developed from LSU AgCenter.
Research into understanding the root system architecture and role of external soil nutrients on root development and storage root formation of sweet potato conducted at AgCenter is at very advanced stages. Variability in storage root yield of sweet potato is quite common in every country that grow sweet potato and remains a challenge. Understanding the root rhizosphere properties could potentially explain this variability and is the focus of my PhD research project. The pioneering work on sweet potato root system architecture at LSU AgCenter by Prof Villordon compliments research interest and was the main basis of many productive interaction during my visit.
The AgCenter at Louisiana State University hosts a wide range of disciplines in agriculture. One is the plant pathology section. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Dr Chris Clark, a plant pathologist involved mostly in sweet potato pathogens. Dr Clark has many year of experience and has documented most sweet potato pathogens known in the USA and elsewhere. I also had useful conversations with Mrs Mary Hoy, a tissue culture specialist who manages supply of tissue cultured plantlets to the clean seed supply system.
Dr Clark and I had conversations on the potential role of root exudates and its interactions with microbial community in the soil and its effect on soil borne pathogens of sweet potato. My study on measuring the root exudates and the microbial community could potentially contribute to understanding the effects of microbial agents on soil borne pathogens of sweet potato.
The Conference in Tampa, Florida
The American Society of Agronomy, crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America had their 2017 Annual International Meeting with the theme “Managing Global Resources for a Secure Future” in Tampa, Florida. I attended that meeting as recommended by Prof Arthur Villordon, who is my co supervisor, as it is a good opportunity to meet and network with scientist and resource people around the world.
Perceived benefits from my travel and visitations
Confirming the knowledge gap and building confidence
The discussion I had with Dr Villordon, who published widely on topics related to the role of phosphorus on sweet potato root system and architecture, indicated that my research on understanding the rhizosphere properties of sweet potato will certainly add value to knowledge gap needed to resolved persistent variability in storage root yield of sweet potato known to exist in many countries. This also gave the confidence that my work has relevance and a source of inspiration to complete well my remaining experiments and successfully complete my PhD study.
Identified potential collaborations
My visit to LSU AgCenter also stimulated discussions on collaboration work as an extension to my PhD research project. Dr Villordon has offered to provide his expertise as best as he could from his experience elsewhere on projects similar to the proposed collaborations.
I also had cross discipline discussions with Dr Chris Clark, a sweet potato disease specialist. He has an opinion that the root exudates and microbial community in the root rhizosphere could potentially suppress effects of soil borne pathogens of sweet potato. My next experiment has an object to unveil the microbiome in the root rhizosphere of sweet potato cultivars at different P rates. Hope a potential candidate microbial agent be identified from this work and hopefully that could further developed into a collaborative partnership.
Improved on a research technique
I had issues in establishing a good Phosphate response curve in my experimentation. I can now improve on that from tips I learned from Dr Villordon. He demonstrated that very contrasting P response can be achieved by establishing sweet potato from zero P medium to drain out the P reserves in the stem cutting and shoots before transplanting in trials pots. This will greatly assist in developing very contrasting response difference needed for my next experiment.
Collection of relevant literature and publications
Dr Villordon had a more updated collection of literature on sweet potato research in the world. He provided me the copy and that will greatly add value to improving my literature review section of my thesis.
I made good contact with resource people
At the Annual International Meeting in Tampa, I made a good number of contacts with graduate researchers and specialist in areas related to my research work. We exchanged contact information and I look forward to make contact with them during the cause of my study and beyond.
This productive trip would not have been possible without the funding support from Plant Nutrition Trust Award and I am grateful to Dr Peter Ryan and his team for this funding opportunity. I also acknowledge the support from UWA Graduate Research School.
My supervisors Associate Prof. Megan Ryan and Prof. Arthur Villordon have not only suggested for me to take trip but have given me all the support needed to make this trip to the United States very successful. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was truly a fulfilling experience in my PhD journey. I had pleasant interactions with Dr Chris Clark and Mrs Mary Hoy at LSU AgCenter. They allowed me to appreciate sweet potato disease in relation my research focus and also gave me the opportunity to visit LSU Rural Life Museum. Finally, the hospitability I got from Ms Susan Karimiha at Baton Rouge and Prof Arthur and family at Manroe were second to none for which I am very thankful.
Contact: David Minemba