LSU AgCenter soil scientist provides education, assessment in Haiti

Linda F. Benedict, Weindorf, David

News Release Distributed 08/27/09

An LSU AgCenter soil scientist is part of an effort to improve the water and soil quality in Haiti.

David Weindorf, assistant professor in the LSU AgCenter’s School of Plant, Environmental & Soil Sciences, traveled to Bayonnais, Haiti, Aug. 10-14, as part of a team of two soil scientists to provide some initial assessment and education to farmers. His partner was John Kruse, research agronomist with Georgia Pacific in Decatur, Ga.

Bayonnais is an isolated, mountainous farming region about 60 miles northwest of Port Au Prince, Weindorf said. The region is characterized by steep slopes, rocky soils, mixed shrubs, and plantain and mango trees. Water is channeled from mountain streams to the village via concrete aqueducts.

Farming in the area consists primarily of rice in the lowlands and corn on upland slopes, divided into small parcels. Planting and harvesting are conducted with hand tools.

“There is no access to commercial fertilizer, and there is no electricity in the valley,” Weindorf said.

The two scientists found the soil to be alkaline with moderate amounts of nitrogen and potassium but low in phosphorus – so low that area corn had a purplish tint.

The team identified natural sources of fertilizer from chicken, goat and hog manure, the latter showing high levels of phosphorus.

“We set up a composting demonstration as a means of concentrating available nutrient sources from the community, including food scraps, manure and green waste,” Weindorf said.

The local school invited Weindorf and Kruse to lecture to a group of 75 12th graders on agronomic principles where they discussed basic concepts in soil science, nutrient management and soil fertility.

In addition, Weindorf and Kruse met with a Haitian soil scientist, Dr. Myrlene Chrysostome, to plan a strategy for seeking funding for further research and outreach to benefit Bayonnais and Haiti as a whole. Initial efforts would be watershed management, reforestation, and collection of soil data, of which none is available now.

“We have the knowledge and technology to make a difference in the lives of these people. They have the desire to make advances in agronomic production. Combining the two reaps benefits for all involved,” Weindorf said.

Linda Foster Benedict

8/28/2009 2:03:18 AM
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