Researchers have identified a common shrub, which, when planting adjacent crops, can increase crop production by up to 900 percent.
An African-specific shrub might be a solution to promote crop production in places where drought and food shortages occur.
The cultivation of such shrubs along the prospect increased the production of millet by more than 900 percent.
Soil scientist Professor Richard Dick traveled through the Senegalese rural areas of West Africa, figuring out how the low shrubs grow, despite dry conditions, which means that other vegetation has been destroyed.
"I said," Wow, there's some biomass! What is it? "" He said, referring to his team's initial interest in finding organic material to improve the soil in this area. " Since then, Professor Dick and long-time lead associate Ibrahim Diedhiou from Senegal have discovered many ways in which shrubs benefit the soil and crops.
"The most recent discovery was recently," said Professor Dick.
Researchers have discovered that these shrubs – when they are planted with millet – can share the precious water they drain and promote one of the primary crops that provides nutritional wealth to the people of West Africa.
"People in this part of Africa are counting on locally grown crops to survive. Finding ways to increase food production, especially during periods of severe drought, is critical," said Dr. Dick, a professor of ecology in the soil micro-organism in Ohio.
"In the current situation, the population continues to climb, there is no more land and the harvest remains in the apartment."
Some wood shrubs, such as Guiera, can "split" water with millet plants below the surface of the soil. Broth, as well as sorghum, are an important source of food in Senegal.
Researchers said farmers in the African region and elsewhere in the African region called Sahel have allowed these shrubs to grow together with crops in different volumes – perhaps thousands of years. Some cut them back or expel them and burn them, and they are largely unrecognized as a resource for crops, Prof Dick said.
The research team developed an innovative crop management system called "optimized shrub system" using these easily accessible shrubs.
Their approach involves a dramatic increase in the density of shrubs in farmers' countryside from less than 300 bushes per hectare (about 2.5 acres) to 1,500 bushes in the same plot. Their system also includes earth fertilizers with leaves and stems of the bush, rather than burning this organic matter.
With a dramatic increase in yield, this system improves soil quality, increases the amount of nutrients in crops and reduces harvesting time by about 15 days, which is important in a low rainfall area.
A recent study data is one way in which plants benefit their neighbors.
Dill roots grow deep in the soil, looking for moisture 30 to 40 feet below the surface of the earth. It is obviously better for the shrubs themselves to survive in difficult, dry conditions.
But how do they share the liquid wealth? Dick and his collaborators created an experiment in which they were able to track the water that moved from the deep-water roots to the nearby pearl flies (Pennisetum glaucum).
They found that at night, when the shrubs were not busy with solar-dependent photosynthesis, water from deep underground water spills through the roots of the surface in the surrounding soil rather than passing through the leaves.
Stomat – "pores" on plant leaves – close to the dark when photosynthesis is stopped, Professor Dick explained.
This meant that the roots of the proses plant on the surface were able to absorb the water that washed the shrubs on the surface.
The researchers confirmed this by tracking water from the initial entrance to the shrub roots up to its possible presence in the shark leaves during a scientifically imposed drought experiment, which included a comparison without shrubs.
"We proved that" organic irrigation "of these shrubs takes place, and this is the first time it has been proven for crop production," said Professor Dick. "This is a local plant, and it's free and easy to grow – everything is positive about it."
The team is now seeking to test its breeding system trials with farmers throughout the Sahel and make the necessary adjustments to promote wider distribution of practice.
Professor Dick said finding natural, easy-to-use solutions to feed the growing population has great potential in West Africa. In other regions of the world, including South-East Asia and South America, farmers have adapted to population growth through widespread use of fertilizers and pesticides. But in Senegal and neighboring countries, agriculture depends on what nature is – farmers generally do not use fertilizers or pesticides and do not have the resources to irrigate dry crops.
"It is a semi-dry region where it only consumes a part of the year. Some years there are large droughts and people are hungry," says Dick, adding that 60 to 90 percent of Senegal is living in small, agricultural villages.
"The best solution will be independent of local availability, and to find the answers and work with local farmers to discuss the potential of agricultural machinery is the most important," Dick said.
The study was published in the journal Environmental science boundaries.