Award for best Soil Science paper to Dr Mbakwe

Posted on April 20, 2016

Dr Ikenna Mbakwe, a postdoctoral fellow in Soil Science at the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria, recently received an award from the Soil Science Society of South Africa for the best Soil Science paper on Emerging Agriculture.

The title of his presentation co-authored by Prof Richard Stirzaker and Prof John Annandale is 'Improving irrigation water and solute management using simple tools and adaptive learning'.  In sub-Saharan Africa, crop yields from smallholder irrigation farms have been markedly low, partly due to low skill levels in water and nutrient management. Technologies that guide irrigation management have been poorly adopted, because farmers generally favour experiential knowledge above the use of objective tools, many of which are difficult to understand. The solution to improving soil water management in sub-Saharan Africa as a precursor to increasing agricultural productivity can therefore be found in simple tools that build on farmers' existing knowledge, stimulate local experimentation and creativity, and assist with pattern recognition and intuitive decision-making. The authors presented findings of how the use of simple tools (the FullStop wetting front detector and the Chameleon soil water sensor) in an atmosphere of adaptive learning, has improved irrigation agriculture on smallholder farms in Southern Africa.

Dr Mbakwe is a Nigerian and obtained his MSc Soil Science degree from the University of Stellenbosch and his PhD in Soil Science from the University of Pretoria. He is currently conducting his postdoctoral research in Soil Science on a project sponsored by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. The title of his research is 'Increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through on-farm monitoring, adaptive management and agricultural innovation platforms'.


- Author Martie Meyer

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