Vital as it may seem, soil as we know it is not necessarily required to grow a plant. In fact, there are a number of benefits–such as resource and water management–to growing plants in substrate rather than traditional soil. However, the use of soilless techniques is still developing and research is ongoing.
On December 6th, 2018, Ferisca Purti, M.S. candidate in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering presented her research on soilless growth optimization and water treatment. The presentation is part of the on-going Fall Quarter Seminar Series hosted by Biological and Agricultural Engineering.
Ferisca described that, under new regulations, citrus nursery trees need to be grown inside a protective structure to avoid the spread of Citrus Greening Disease or “HLB”. Citrus Greening has become such an issue that, “even dogs were trained to sniff it out,” said Ferisca. Ferisca’s research was “specifically designed to combat issues with growing citrus nursery trees inside screenhouses in California.”
The research centered around two main areas. First, Ferisca took an in-depth look at shade intensity, type of substrate, and fertigation. By controlling for and evaluating each of these three areas, Ferisca was able to generate data to help inform growers about possible plant growth optimization techniques.
Secondly, Ferisca researched water treatment. Water in a soilless system is recirculated since there is more run-off than traditional soil. But, at some point, the water must be discharged, and this discharged water has a higher negative environmental impact. In her research, Ferisca biologically treated the water to find out which treatment works best. This research will also be used by growers to help optimize their soilless systems.
While Ferisca pointed out a small number of areas for improvement, overall her research helped move forward the understanding of soilless growing and again underscored the way that students in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering department are impacting the world on a daily basis.
Please note, the next seminar is on Friday, December 7th from 12:10-1PM instead of the usual Wednesday at 1:10-2PM time. Please join us for Mathew Paddock’s seminar on the Growth of Microalgae on Anaerobic Digestate for Wastewater Treatment and Biofuel Production