African Soil Microbiolgy Project: addressing challenges facing Africa’s soil conservation and food security

19 Oct 2016 - 09:15

Sampling soil in Namibia

Of all the continents, Africa faces the largest challenges concerning soil conservation and food security, in the face of increasing populations and environmental change.

Scientists from seven sub-Saharan African countries met at the University of Pretoria last week to launch the African Soil Microbiology project,  This three year project, funded by USAID, aims to undertake a broad-scale survey of soil microbiology across the entire African continent, using the latest Next Generation DNA sequencing and computational technologies.

The African Soil Microbiology project team

This unique multi-national project, the first such study ever undertaken in Africa at this scale, is expected to unravel the complexities of soil microbiological diversity across sub-Saharan Africa.  The results of the research will contribute to our understanding of soil fertility, soil degradation and the future impacts of climate change, and important health issues such as soil-borne pathogens.

Sampling with the group from AfSM

Dr Frank Eckardt, from the Department of Environmental & Geographical Science at UCT has been brought into the project to provide the geologic, geomorphic, soil context for the 800 samples that are to be collected using GIS and existing Remote Sensing data. The countries involved in the project include continental SADC, Ethiopia and Ivory Coast. Samples will be collected by the national biologists of each of the countries.