Expert from atomic energy agency to help improve our soil


31-August-2012

Dr Lee Kheng Heng is a soil scientist and also the officer responsible for the IAEA’s Technical Corporation Project (SEY5006) called Implementing Nutrient and Water Management Practices Using Nuclear and Related Techniques to Enhance National Vegetable Production through Sustainable Agricultural Management.

“She will evaluate existing project resources, develop specific targets for implementation and detail the roles of project team,” Seychelles Agricultural Agency’s principal research and development officer Keven Nancy told Nation this week.

“She will help plan and develop experimental protocols of fertilisation for field trials and give training on data analysis.”

Dr Heng will meet the project’s team members and assess the experimental sites where the irrigation and fertilisation experiments were done before and also inspect laboratory and field equipment donated by IAEA under the project.

She will also visit farms to have an idea of the field situation and discuss technical aspects of the project with the team as well as support staff who will be shown how to use software, for example that used for calculations and also the Food and  Agricultural Organisation’s AquaCrop software for improving yield response to water.

“They will also learn to use the Green Crop Tracker to obtain canopy cover or leaf area index.”

Data collected from a weather station donated by IAEA will be used, he said, adding a Diviner 2000 probe will be used to carry out an irrigation scheduling of certain vegetable crop.

It has been estimated that of the total 6,000 hectares of potential agricultural land, 3,000 hectares are of the Seychelles red earth which is an acidic, ferralitic soil. Over 1,300 hectares are of the alkaline, coralline sandy soil. Both types of soils are deficient in macro and micro elements which are essential for optimum plant growth and development, therefore precise analytical laboratory results are required so that fertilisers can be applied in the correct amounts to correct the nutrient deficiencies and ensure good plant growth.

Therefore the initiation of the project activities, it is expected that the whole process of sustainable intensification of agricultural production would be enhanced not only to increase farm productivity and profitability – in the short term – but also streamlined to conserve the natural resource base (land and water) and biodiversity while protecting the environment.

By using isotopic/ nuclear and related techniques, it is hoped that integrated and improved plant nutrition and water management practices for increasing soil fertility, crop yields and food quality can be attained.

The third phase of the project launched in the 2012 and will run for a period of three years. It is presently in the equipment procurement, training and research stage.

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