Healthy soil contains a good microbial community – but we don’t know that much about how soil microbes change over a growing season. Sandrine Makiela at CQU has been researching the topic for a while, studying soil communities and their change over the seasons in grain and in grazing. Now she’s looking at the horticulture industry using cucumbers as a model crop. This research netted her one of the 2013 ABARES/DAFF Science and Innovation For Young People In Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries awards – the Horticulture Australia Limited Award providing funding for research that will benefit the horticultural industry in Australia.
Sandrine is particularly interested in sustainable farming systems – which you can’t have without healthy soils – and in reducing the need for and dependence on fertilisers. She’ll be comparing the microbial status of soil under both organic and conventional practices and mapping what happens and what’s “healthy” throughout the growing season. This information will get spread out to producers for use in guiding their farming practices, and she hopes it will help free farmers from a heavy reliance on fertilisers.
I wrote about the RIRDC awards here, and you can find the full list of RIRDC award winners and their research topics here.