The harvest should be better. On a field in the Okavango region, the Namibian small farmer Markus Kamburu talking with Professor Barbara Reinhold from the University of Bremen.
Two people, one goal
Successful help from Bremen
Root nodulation of cowpea after „fertilization“ with bacteria.
Better nodule formation
In Namibian government farms, the research team carries out filed experiments with cowpea. Different plant varieties, nutrients and bacteria are tested.
TopSoil in a nutshell
"Towards Improving Food Security For Smallholders in Dry Southern African Climates" - that's what the acronym TOPSOIL stands for.
The project is an ideal example of how scientific expertise from Germany can lead to improved harvests in agriculture of African countries - and how the know-how is passed on to researchers there, but also to the rural population.
The project presented
Low crop productivity is a general problem of smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the Kavango and North-Western region of Namibia, agricultural production is dominated by smallholder farmers who produce very low yields without irrigation and due to lack of fertilizer or other inputs. Low yields are associated with declining soil fertility. Soil analyses indicate that agricultural productivity is particularly affected by a prevailing deficiency in plant-available nitrogen.
Pulses, forage legumes and other Fabaceae can access nitrogen from air by nitrogen-fixing nodule symbioses with rhizobia. They can provide protein- and nutrient-rich food and feed with good agricultural management practices. In addition, plant residues can be added to the soil to increase its nitrogen and organic matter content and thus also improve soil fertility.Consequently, nitrogen fixation by nodule symbioses could provide an important input of nitrogen and organic matter to local agricultural systems, but this management option is hardly targeted in our research region Namibia. In addition, the target region is expected to be severely affected by increases in temperature and decreases in precipitation as climate change progresses.
Therefore, an interdisciplinary team of soil scientists, microbiologists, molecular biologists, biotechnologists, and economists intends to introduce adapted rhizobial inoculant for legumes that should be suitable under projected drought and temperature increases.
Previous results suggest that some rhizobia in the target region are particularly well adapted to such harsh conditions. Field experiments with cowpea will test the efficiency of bacterial symbiont strains. Promising other legumes that are particularly drought resistant have hardly been tested or used in Kavango: chickpea and alfalfa. One aim is to test whether they are suitable for the climatic and soil conditions, and to find suitable symbiotic bacteria. To this end, master's students from Namibia will collaborate scientifically in the project and also visit the German partner laboratories. In order to foster anchoring the knowledge-based technologies in the target country, broad-participation courses are be held in Namibia. They are held jointly for students from both Namibian universities, UNAM (University of Namibia) and NUST (Namibia University of Science and Technology).
Bünger W, Sarkar A, Grönemeyer JL, Zielinski J, Revermann R, Hurek T, Reinhold-Hurek B. 2021. Root nodule rhizobia from undomesticated shrubs of the dry woodlands of Southern Africa can nodulate Angolan teak Pterocarpus angolensis, an important source of timber. Frontiers in Microbiology 12: 611704.
Grönemeyer JL, Kulkarni A, Berkelmann D, Hurek T, Reinhold-Hurek B. 2014. Identification and characterization of rhizobia indigenous to the Okavango region in Sub-Saharan Africa. Applied & Environmental Microbiology 80: 7244-7257.
Grönemeyer JL, Reinhold-Hurek B. 2018. Diversity of bradyrhizobia in Subsahara Africa: A rich resource. Frontiers in Microbiology 9: 2194. doi: 2110.3389/fmicb.2018.02194.
Luchen CC, Uzabikiriho JD, Chimwamurombe PM, Reinhold-Hurek B. 2018. Evaluating the yield response to bio-inoculants of Vigna unguiculata in the Kavango Region in Namibia. Journal of Plant Pathology and Microbiology 9: 456.
Sustainable Development Goals
TopSoil relates to Sustainable Development Goals 2 (No Hunger), 3 (Health and Well-Being), and 4 (Quality Education), and aims to transfer research to society through direct engagement with the community.