Abimfoluwa Olaleye (right) and Taylor Procyshen, a graduate student who helped with the project, working in the laboratory together. Olaleye's father was a farmer in Nigeria. (Photo: Canadian Light Source)

USask scientists help farmers in West Africa improve crops

Derek Peak and Abimfoluwa Olaleye are using Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan (Usask) to help farmers in Nigeria and the Republic of Benin to grow vegetables less expensively and more sustainably.

By Canadian Light Source

The USask researchers and their team recently published a paper in Soil Systems that explores the effects of an innovative farming practice, fertilizer microdosing, on two vegetable systems in both countries.

“The overall idea was to scale up good, innovative ideas to solve food security problems in the regions,” says Peak. “We combine agricultural studies out in the field with socio-economic studies and development work.”

Olaleye’s interest in the project is both scientific and personal. “Anything agriculture always gets my interest, it’s something I’m passionate about. And helping people is a big bonus. My dad was a farmer back in Nigeria, so I picked up on that,” he says.

The work is part of a larger food security research project, MicroVeg, funded by IDRC and Global Affairs Canada’s Canadian International Food Security Research Fund. It is a multi-disciplinary research project that is scaling up indigenous vegetable production in Nigeria and Benin.

Normal agricultural practices involve spreading fertilizer across the field and irrigating, which can wash away much of the fertilizer used. The MicroVeg microdosing approach can produce similar yields with as little as one eighth of the fertilizer.

Using less fertilizer is also better for the environment. Fertilizer runoff can cause eutrophication in bodies of water, a serious environmental problem that supercharges algal growth to the detriment of animal life.

“Being able to help the security of 200,000 people while also applying the stuff you do at a synchrotron is pretty fantastic,” says Peak.

Read the full story at Canadian Light Source.