Our research made understandable : Potato school
The potato experiment in frame of our SolACE project has reached its next phase.
In June we counted the nicely growing potato plants located in the field trial plots of the educational farm in Soroksár. An irrigation system has been installed in the flowering stand, which waters half of the plots on an optimized level. The other half of the experiment is only irrigated if the plants would die without it. The reason for this is that are investigating which varieties and agrotechnical methods can be used to ensure proper productivity if combined stress is caused both by water and nutrient shortages.
In order to understand how plants react to various stress situations, and what the impacts of our treatments are, we analyzed, for example, the chlorophyll content of the potatoes, which correlates closely with nitrogen supply, by following the measurement protocols set by our project partners. Nitrogen is so important because it is also a major building element during the development of the vegetative parts of the plant, such as the root system, the stem, the leaves or the fruits. In short, it has a cell forming function, defines growth, slows down the aging of the leaves, and regulates yield quantity and quality. Consequently, the ratio of nitrogen in the plant does matter. Besides directly recording the state of the plants, thermal images will also soon be taken together with the measuring of chlorophyll activity from the air with the help of remote sensing drones. This will enable us to compare different methods when we are assessing the results.
As we have already reported, half of the complex trial uses three types of experimental inoculums, which is the mix of soil bacteria and fungi, are also used together with different potato varieties. These microbe consortia facilitate faster and more efficient nutrient uptake from the soil. Our Austrian project (Austrian Institute of Technology) partner is tracking the presence of inoculums by analyzing the soil samples of the Hungarian experiment. Soil and root samples are taken to study the settling ratio of microbes present in the inoculums.
The efficiency of the trial will be increased by the meteorological station and the sensor based on the plant production information system called Metagro, which associates from the University of Debrecen have installed on the research site. The station uses different data to calculate the daily water demand of the potatoes for the proper coordination of water supply. Through this system we can keep a close track of the water demand of plots with optimal water supply and also water shortages caused by the stress treatments.
The experiment is further complicated by the different level (optimal or suboptimal) nutrient treatments of the potato varieties and the preceding crop treatments (using legumes or cereals) carried out in the other half of the trial. Despite the details and the complexity of the research the ultimate purpose remains; to produce enough good quality staple food free of residues in a sustainable way. This is especially important in view of future challenges, especially climate change.