Monday, February 25, 2013

Jacob's Days in Namibia

Greetings from Namibia! It has been a hot, speedy and intriguing past month and a half for me in Southern Africa. My studies, under the theme of Nation Building, Globalization and Decolonizing the Mind (interpret that one for yourself), have taken me to Johannesburg and Pretoria South Africa and Windhoek and Swakopmund Namibia. Here we have learned about the apartheid legacy from those who lived it, from the sister of Hector Peterson to the man who named Namibia.

Now to the soil stuff. I am interning with a small NGO named "The Namibian Horticulture Trust" who serve disadvantaged communities throughout Namibia to grow food for themselves in the immediate with long-term plans for sustainable business and ecological models. I work at an orphanage called Hope Village (the panoramic below) where I help tend the veggie tunnels (small tunnels that provide shade and relief from grasshoppers) and implement new projects. We are conducting a somewhat informal test on an organic pesticide called "Agritrap" on aphids and red spider mites. I helped set this up and got compliments from some FAO folks thanks to my write-up skills and experimental design; thanks Grossman Lab! We just put together a small vermicompost site that will help with seedling mixes and hopefully be scaled up for some sales and local training in the subject. We will soon implement a dripline irrigation system and I continue to help write grants for them, mostly to the Finnish Embassy. I have had a lot of fun working with the other gardener, Emmanuel, who has some good hands on knowledge of gardening/farming but no institutional education whereas I am a bit of the inverse of him, making us a good team that can share quite a bit of knowledge between us. I recently gave him the entirety of my lecture material from SSC 427....I hope I don't get sued, but he was very appreciative and has already read halfway through "Building Soils for Better Crops" so hooray for knowledge!

I have found this land to be full of wisdom and intrigue; there are no vivid colors or revolutionary happenings, just rolling desert hills and endless nitrogen fixing acacia trees feeding the landscape. I am impressed with the peace of this country, being the second least dense in the world and having peaceful transitions in government.

Best wishes for NC and the pursuit of all good things,

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ciencia con Microbios!!

Amanda Roth ('14) working with Rhizobia cultures in the lab.  Congrats, Amanda!! She was just been accepted into her study abroad program in Valencia, Spain.  This summer she will study Spanish Art History.  Have fun in Spain!

Pretend Science?

We do a lot of real science.  But once in a while we have to do some "pretend science" for a photo shoot.  Our students are so popular that they are featured in magazines and articles all the time. I got a chance to photograph one recent lab photo shoot.  Our lab is very photogenic!

Suzi O'Connell (on the left) - a PhD student in Horticulture and Soil Science - was recently featured in the CALS Student Perspectives for her participation in a study abroad partnership with the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Agriculture in Croatia.  For some amazing photos of her trip to Croatia see:  NCSU Ag goes to Croatia

In the picture above:  Suzi O'Connell, her paparazzi, some actual Congo Red dye used in our petri dishes, and some real-life dirty lab dishes (not pretend)!

We Are The Grim Reaper

Watch out plants - the Grossman Lab is coming......  When folks hear that we are the "Soil Agroecology Lab"  the first thought that comes to mind is usually our ability to grow plants.  While we can grow some things, man, we are good at killing them too!  With spring around the corner (yes, even after today's ice storm, we are thinking of spring) we are fast planning our next kill.  Whether we use the disk, the mower, or this roller crimper (see video - thanks Matt!!), we can't stop talking about "termination" or "kill".  We sound like mad, murderous scientists.

The video is in thanks to and a part of Matt Brown's research studying the many ways to kill cover crops.  Who wouldn't want to play with this roller crimper?