NELSON MANDELA AFRICAN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, TANZANIA
Research focus: biodiversity and ecosystem management
Irish potatoes are one of the most cultivated and consumed crops worldwide, but are also one of the heaviest fertiliser-demanding crops, requiring a lot of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) fertilisers. The use of synthetic fertilisers in crop production has negative impacts on the environment. Most of the applied chemicals remain in soils and are either washed down into surface water or contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide (N₂O), whose global warming effect per unit weight is 10 times more than that of carbon dioxide. Additionally, these fertilisers have been associated with chemical residues and traces in food products while the demand for chemical-free food is increasing worldwide. Based on this knowledge, the use of rhizobacteria provides a viable alternative and it is for this reason that Becky’s focus is on researching on such a promising viability.
Her research has shown that rhizobacteria can contribute to improved plant health through the production of plant growth hormones, solubilisation of plant nutrients and enhancement of root surface area and development. It is also her intention that in the long run, the novel rhizobacterial isolates can be used to enhance the growth of Irish potatoes and possibly replace or reduce usage of chemical fertilisers. For this purpose she identifies, characterises, formulates and tests different rhizobacteria in order to enhance the yield and quality of Irish potato cultivars in Tanzania. Alongside this, she is planning to develop applicable bio formulations out of the promising rhizobacteria and test them for stability and viability in terms of Irish potato growth improvement. Other aspects of her work include the manipulation of potato rhizospheres through the introduction of rhizobacteria with unique properties to improve their growth. In her research, Becky is driven by finding unique and novel rhizobacterial isolates that can be formulated into biofertilisers and bio-stimulants and used in Irish potato production.
The jury acknowledged her approach of using the existing potential of the environment whilst protecting it at the same time. They see her research related to sustainability science work in Germany, which especially is of high concern to the field of bioeconomy, fertiliser management and nutrition technology.