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19th Annual Soil and Water Sciences Research Forum The 19th annual Soil and Water Sciences Department Research Forum was held on October 15, 2018 at the J. Wayne Reitz Union, in Gainesville, Florida.

The 19th annual Soil and Water Sciences Department Research Forum was held on October 15, 2018 at the J. Wayne Reitz Union, in Gainesville, Florida. Dr. Jehangir Bhadha along with his students decided to travel to Gainesville to attend the event since his students were presenting posters and were keen on networking with fellow students in the department and faculty members. The event started with introductory comments from Dr. Thomas Obreza (Interim Chair – Soil and Water Sciences Department) followed by Dr. Jack Payne (Senior VP for Agriculture and Natural Resources). The Keynote speaker for the day was Dr. Johannes Lehmann (Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor, Soil and Crop Sciences, Cornell University). Dr. Lehmann talked about the soil organic matter formation and some of the past and present concepts and controversies associated with the subject matter. Soil organic matter is a vital ingredient in maintaining healthy soils, and Dr. Lehmann’s speech definitely captivated the 100 plus guests that were in attendance.

Dr. Lehmann’s speech was followed by three 20-minute research updates of new faculty members to the Soil and Water Sciences Department. These included (i) Dr. Hui-Ling (Sunny) Liao who spoke about Functional Diversity of Soil Microbiomes and their Consequences; (ii) Dr. A.J. Reisinger who spoke about Urban Ecosystem Ecology from a Watershed Perspective; and Dr. Gabriel Maltais-Landry who spoke about The potential Benefits of Agroecological Practices on Soil Fertility and Soil Health in Florida Agroecosystems. All three speakers did an excellent job of providing an insight into their research program and future plans.

At noon the forum took one-hour break for lunch. This was a great opportunity for Dr. Bhadha to stroll across campus with his students, and give a brief tour of the University. For some of his students this was their first visit to Gainesville, particularly two Brazilian student interns Matheus Angeli, and Izael Fattori.

After lunch the group convened back at the Reitz Union to attend oral presentations from graduate students in the Soil and Water Sciences Department. Students Alisheikh Atta, Andressa Freitas, Claire Friedrichsen, Peng Gao and Yan Liao presented a 15-minute talk about their research projects respectively. The topics ranged from nutrient accumulation on HLB affected citrus trees, to the use of biochar as phosphorus fertilizer, and determination of CO2 fluxes in North American wetlands.

The afternoon was dedicated to viewing posters. This year was a record 52 posters on display. The poster session was divided into three categories (i) Posters that would be judged, (ii) non-judged proposal posters, and (iii) general non-judged posters.

Representing the Soil, Water and Nutrient management Laboratory were five presenters:

Kelly Mahan-Percivall, who is a Master’s student researching the topic of Alginate/Glomalin Biobeads: An initial determination of Structural Cohesivity, Nutrient Remediation Ability and Reapplication Viability. Preliminary results from Kelly’s work suggests that the quick initial absorbance of orthophosphate by the 45/5% group suggests that there is a glomalin driven absorption factor which may achieve the desired reduction in the characteristic leaching of nutrients.

Nan Xu is a Ph.D. student, presented her research titled Application of Bagasse for Sugarcane Production on Sandy Soils in South Florida. Nan’s experiment is being conducted on commercial sugarcane production fields, where three bagasse application treatments with different rates, 2-inch bagasse, 4-inch bagasse, 4-inch bagasse plus split nitrogen application is being compared to one control with no bagasse application. Several soil properties including soil pH, bulk density, maximum water holding capacity, organic matter content, cation exchange capacity, active carbon, and nutrient content (specifically, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) are being evaluated before and after the bagasse application to quantify its effects on sandy soils. As she continues to monitor changes in soil quality, for the next three years, preliminary results look promising.

Yuting Fu is a Masters student research the feasibility of using aquatic plants as a soil amendment. Her poster was titled Aquatic Weeds: One Man’s trash is Another Man’s Treasure. Yuting’s project objectives are to study the allelopathic potential of aquatic plants, and apply it in the aspects of determining its use (i) as herbicides on terrestrial weeds, to test the inhibitory activity towards the seed germination and root growth of amaranth and nutsedge; (ii) as insecticides in sweet corn production; (iii) and as antimicrobial compound, that can eliminate certain harmful pathogens in soils.
Leandra Gonzalez is a Ph.D. student who will potentially be working on environmental aspects of rice cultivation in South Florida. Her poster was titled Digging a Little Deeper: An Analysis on Environmental Education in Soil and Water Science for Rice Production. Leandra’s efforts will provide vital information to stakeholders which will bring about the best management practices for rice production in Florida and contribute to closing the gap between scientific knowledge and environmental education.
Matheus Angeli is a student intern visiting from Brazil for a six-month joint internship between UF and U.S. Sugar Corp. This was Matheus’ first international presentation on the topic titled Sugarcane Response to Nitrogen Application: Comparing Brazil and Florida Sites. Matheus was able to show that sugarcane did not show response to higher doses and/or split applications of N, resulting in lowering the standard application rate from 2.4 lb N/tons to 2.0 lb N/tons of sugarcane produced. Izael Fattori who is also a visiting intern from Brazil on this trip was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the presentations.

The forum ended at 5 pm. My team and I are grateful to the organizers for putting the event together. It was indeed worth the trip from South Florida to Gainesville to learn about new and emerging research and connect with fellow scientists of the Soil and Water Sciences Department. As we drove back south that evening, we had four hours of reflection and discussions about the 19th Soil and Water Sciences Research Forum. Bottom line, we loved it and will be back again with another, bigger group in 2020.

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