By Dr. Rafiq Islam
Soil, Water, & Bioenergy Program Leader
The overall goal of the Soil, Water, and Bioenergy program at The Ohio State University South Centers is to develop and manage economically viable, environmentally compatible, and socially acceptable climate-smart agriculture. We believe agriculture is an integral component of the solution, and not the problem.
To achieve the goal, the Soil, Water, and Bioenergy Resources program targets local, state-wide, and national farmers (youth and future farmers); agro-business and industry representatives; administrative and elected officials; civic, environmental, and non-profit groups; faculty, research staffs, and educators; state and federal agencies; mass communications and technology; international collaborators and institutions; and sister programs at The Ohio State University.
Applied Research and Demonstration
1. USDA Land Grant Institution Capacity Building Project on Aquaponics - Role of Water Quality and Soil Health in Sustainable Food Production on Urban Landscapes.
In this project, The Ohio State University (OSU) and Central State University (CSU) engaged in a collaborative partnership to address the challenge of optimizing water quality and quantity to maximize economically viable fish and vegetable production in aquaponics. The scientists and students at both institutes are investigating (via academic research, Extension, and outreach) whether aquaponics can be combined with water conservation and storm-water management for converting abandoned food deserts into sustainable green environments where communities can thrive again.
2018 was the first experimental year of the project. Dr. Rafiq Islam, Brad Bergefurd, and Matthew Smith are serving as the principal investigators of the project for a period of three years (2018-2021).
2. Mitsui Chemicals, Inc. (Japan) funded a project entitled “Evaluation of Mitsui Chemicals iCAST Crop Cultivation System in Specialty Crop Production.”
We are currently researching to evaluate the performance of 21st Century fertigation (iCAST technology) based on holistic and novel approaches with respect to state-of-the-art climate-smart fertigation techniques (high water and nutrient-use efficiency) to grow agronomic crops (corn and soybeans) in desert and arid conditions under rain-fed and protective culture systems.
Results showed that iCAST Technology is 50–60% more efficient in water and nutrient uses than highly efficient current drip systems.
2018 was the third experimental year of the project. Dr. Rafiq Islam and Brad Bergefurd are serving as the principal investigators of the project for a period of four years (2016-2019).
3. Civilian Research Defense Foundation (CRDF) US-Ukraine Competitive Research program funded a project entitled “Impact of Sustainable Agricultural Management Practices on Soil Quality and Crop Productivity.”
The goal of the research project is to develop suitable management practices based on novel and holistic approaches of cropping diversity with a plant stress alleviator (aspirin) under continuous no-till to help improve soil health, water- and nutrient-use efficiency, and economic crop productivity with enhanced agroecosystem services. A long-term collaborative research study by US-Ukrainian scientists was established on irrigated lands in the Southern (Kherson) Ukraine and at OSU South Centers.
First year results showed that aspirin significantly increased soybean yield by 14% and improved the nutritional quality of grains. Protein content and nutrient density have increased in response to aspirin application. An international workshop and field day was held to demonstrate the experimental fields and disseminate the results to more than 150 participants including farmers, scientists, students, and policy makers in Ukraine. Drs. Rafiq Islam and Tom Worley, and Alan Sundermeier, from The Ohio State University delivered several presentations. Details on the project events can be obtained from youtube.com/watch?v=86wI4fsDfLM.
2018 was the first experimental year of the project. Dr. Rafiq Islam is serving as the U.S. principal investigator of the project for a period of two years (2018-2019).
4. USDA NCR-SARE Partnership grant program funded a project entitled “Making Sense of Soil Health Reports – A partnership to develop recommendations for soil health testing and interpretation.”
Maintaining a healthy and productive soil is the foundation of sustainable agriculture. However, a majority of producers are not clearly informed about the importance of managing soil health. Soil health tests based on different approaches, indicators, tools, and scales offered by several university and private commercial labs often provide conflicting and confusing test results without any realistic interpretations or management recommendations.
The goal of this current research project is to develop a set of simple, common, widely applicable, consistent soil biological, chemical, and physical health measurements. This will allow lab technicians, scientists, and farmers the ability to compare these measurements with standard tests, scores, and ranks, and track over time in response to management practices. Currently, we are collecting composite soil samples from long-term experiments and farmer’s fields in Ohio, and analyzing them in different labs to select core indicators of soil health.
2018 was the first experimental year of the project. Alan Sundermeier, Vinayak Shedekar, and Dr. Rafiq Islam are serving as the principal investigators of the project for a period of two years (2018-2019).
5. American Councils for International Education funded a project entitled “Strengthening U.S. and Kazakh Scientific Capacity Through Joint-Institutional Agricultural Teaching, Research, and Outreach Development.”
The goal of this project is to share and exchange the most up-to-date approaches for academic education, applied research, and outreach capacity building between professionals at The Ohio State University and Kazakh National Agrarian University (KazNAU), and to equip the latter with science-based knowledge and tools to strengthen and sustain programmatic development in these areas.
To achieve our project goal with these specific objectives, the following activities will be performed during a one-week visit by the OSU team to KazNAU in the spring 2019. Proposed activities will be thoroughly discussed and planned with KazNAU prior to the visit to maximize productivity and success of the program. Collaboration and dialogue will continue after the visit and focus on strategically building upon the crosscutting discussions, priorities, and foundational trainings having occurred during the visit.
Drs. Rafiq Islam & Renukaradhya Gourapura, and Beau Ingle are serving as the principal investigators of the project for a period of one year (2019).
6. Soil, Water, and Bioenergy Resources program also conducted and/or maintained several projects on: (1) soil amendments and phosphorus pollution reduction; (2) long-term impact of no-till and cropping diversity on soil health and agroecosystem services; (3) organic production; (4) marginal land and bio-feedstock production.
Invention and Technology Transfer
A simple and user-friendly field test kit to evaluate soil health for farmers. Licensed by SoilOne Inc. (http://www.soil1.com), Springfield, Ohio in conjunction with The Ohio State University Office of Technology and Licensing. 2018.
A farmer’s friendly “Soil Organic Matter and Ecosystem Services Calculator (software).” Invention disclosure with The Ohio State University Office of Technology and Licensing. 2018.
SWBR Research Grants and Extra-mural Funding (seven grants)
- USDA-Capacity Building Program funded a project entitled “Role of Water Quality and Soil Health in Sustainable Food Production on Urban Landscapes.” 1/2018 -12/2021) $289,000.
- Mitsui Chemicals, Inc. (Japan) funded a project entitled “Evaluation of Mitsui Chemicals iCAST Crop Cultivation System in Specialty Crop Production.” 5/2016 to 12/2022, $650,000.
- American Councils for International Education funded a project entitled “Strengthening U.S. and Kazakh Scientific Capacity Through Joint-Institutional Agricultural Teaching, Research, and Outreach Development.” 12/2018 – 11/2019. $15,035.
- CRDF US-Ukraine Competitive Research program funded a project entitled “Impact of Sustainable Agricultural Management Practices on Soil Quality and Crop Productivity.” 2018 – 2019. $107,000.
- USDA NCR-SARE Partnership grant program funded a project entitled “Making Sense of Soil Health Reports – A partnership to develop recommendations for soil health testing and interpretation.” 2018 - 2019, $29,980.
- US State Dept. Mandela Washington Fellowship Reciprocal Exchange funded a project “Training Professionals and Educators on Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Health.” 2018. $5,260.
- CTTC funded mini-grant project entitled “Gypsum and Cover Crops Effect on Edge-of-Field Phosphorus Loss.” 2018. $3,000.
Certificate of U.S. Special Congressional Recognition for Outstanding and Invaluable Service to the World Community.
USDA-Borlaug Mentor Award for Burkina Faso.
OARDC International Research Travel Grant for Burkina Faso.
US Sate Dept. Mandela Washington Fellowship Mentor Reciprocal Award.
Visiting Scholar Award, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
Soil, Water, & Bioenergy Lab listing/recognition by the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations.
Students and Scholars Hosted/Mentored
Dr. Sergiy Lavrenko, visiting scholar, Dept. of Agronomy, Kherson State Agrarian University, Kherson, Ukraine. 9/15/2018 - 11/12/2018.
Prof. Yilmaz Bayhan, Tubitek post-doctoral scholar, Dept. of Biosystems Engineering, Nemek Kemal University, Turkey. 7/10/2017-6/30/2018.
Cai Lehjun (Cynthia), Visiting scholar, Sustainable Research Agricultural Technology, Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences-Jiamusi Branch, Heilongjiang, China. 11/1/2017-1/1/2018.
Aksakal, E.L., Barik, K., Angin, I., Sari, S., and Islam, K.R. (2019) Spatio-temporal variability in physical properties of different textured soils under similar management and semi-arid climatic conditions. Catena 172: 528-546.
Ortas, I., K.R. Islam (2018) Phosphorus fertilization impacts on corn yield and soil fertility. Commun. Soil Sci Plant Nutr. https://doi.org/10.1080/00103624.2018.1474906.
Gao, G.Y., Zhou, L., Harker, T., Lewis, W., Slaughter, M.R., Islam, K.R., Xia, Y., and Worley, C.T. (2018) Effects of high-tunnel and tile drainage on the yield and ripening time of mature Northern highbush blueberries in Ohio. Journal of the NACCA, 10(2): ISSN 2158-9429.
Batte, M.T., Dick, W.A., Fausey, N.R., Flanagan, D.C., Gonzalez, J.M., Islam, K.R., Reeder, R.C., VanToai, T., and D.B. Watts (2018) Cover crops and gypsum applications: Soybean and corn yield and profitability impacts. Amer. Soc. Farm Manager Rural Appraisers. 8: 47-71.
Ibrikci, H., G. Koca, M. Cetin, E. Karnez, Y.K. Koca, C. Kirda, H. Sagir, J. Ryan and K.R. Islam (2018) Considering residual soil mineral nitrogen in corn fertilizer recommendations in an irrigated Mediterranean area. Commun Soil Sci. Plant Nutr. 49(2): 202-214.
Professional Workshop/Meeting Organized and /Invited Presentations
21st Century – Climate-Smart Agriculture International Meeting and Field Day, at Institute of Irrigated Agriculture/Askanijske Farm, Ukraine. Sponsored by CRDF, Government of Ukraine, and The Ohio State University, Sep. 11-12, 2018.
Train the Trainer Workshop on “Climate-Smart Agriculture Systems in Ghana. Sponsored by US State dept. Mandela Washington Fellowship Program, CSIR-CRI of Ghana, and The Ohio State University. Kumasi, Ghana. July 2-6, 2018.
Soil Health Workshop in Burkina Faso. Sponsored by The Ohio State University, USDA-FAS Borlaug Program, and INERA-Burkina Faso. Feb 27-Mar 1, 2018.
Professional Workshop/Meeting Organized and /Invited Presentations (cont.)
Impact of Sustainable Agricultural Management Practices on Soil Quality and Crop Productivity. Professional presentation at the 21st Century – Climate-Smart Agriculture. International Meeting and Field Day, Kherson, Ukraine, Sep 11-12, 2018.
Advanced Soil Health Training for Farmers and NRCS Professionals. Wenning Farms, Greensburg & Brocksmith Farms, Vincennes, IN. July 24-26, 2018.
Rethinking Agriculture in the 21st Century: Growing Healthy Food with One Health Vision. Ohio One Health Symposium, Drake Performance and Event Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Nov 1-2, 2018.
The Ohio State University soil health test service. Farm Science Review, Molly Caren, London, Ohio, Sep 27-28, 2018
Soil quality test – Active carbon. Ohio No-Till Field Day, Wooster, Ohio, August 29.
Rethinking Agriculture in the 21st Century. Professional presentation at CSIR-Crops Research Institute, Kumasi – Ghana, July 6, 2018.
No-Till Cropping Diversity with Cover Crops. Professional presentation at CSIR-Crops Research Institute, Kumasi – Ghana, July 6, 2018.
Sustainable Agriculture Decision Tools (Soil quality test demonstration). Professional presentation at CSIR-Crops Research Institute, Kumasi – Ghana, July 6, 2018.
Brain storming session on current agricultural problems in Ghana. Professional presentation at CSIR-Crops Research Institute, Kumasi – Ghana, July 6, 2018.
Measuring soil health characteristics. In Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters Session, Professional presentation at CTTC Annual Meeting, Ada, OH. March 22-23, 2018.
Academic, Research and Extension Committees
Member, Graduate studies committee, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University.
Member, Midwest Cover Crop Council.
Academic Editor, PLOS ONE
Editorial Board Member, ISRN Agronomy Journal
Editorial Board Member, Journal of Agriculture Food and Development (JAFD)
Editorial Board Member, Botanical Research and Applications
Board of Directors
Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference
Ohio No-Till Council
Mentor/Supervisor/Technical Review Committee Member
Borlaug Young Scholar Program, World Food Prize
US State Dept. Mandela-Washington Fellowship Program
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicines.
External Examiner for M.S/Ph.D. dissertation
Dmitri Maksimov (2018) The productivity and quality of haricot beans depending on soil tillage, mineral fertilizers and row width under irrigation. M.S. /Ph.D. thesis, Kherson State Agricultural University, Kherson, Ukraine.
Natasha Didenko (2018) Investigation of soybean productivity depending on the main cultivation of soil in the south of Ukraine. M.S. thesis, Kherson State Agricultural University, Kherson, Ukraine.
Promotion and Tenure Committee
Dr. Mushtaq Hussain Lashari (2018), Dept. of Life Sciences, The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan. External expert evaluation for Assistant professor to Associate Professorship.