Soil Nutrient Management in Tropical Soils

Progress report for ES20-152

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $69,335.00
Projected End Date: 07/01/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez
Region: Southern
State: Puerto Rico
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Daniel Bair
University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez
Co-Investigators:
Dr. Miguel Muñoz
University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez
Mario Rodriguez
USDA-NRCS Caribbean Area
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Project Information

Abstract:

The objective of this project is to provide soil nutrient management training for the agricultural agents of the Agricultural Extension Service (SEA) of Puerto Rico. The Agricultural Extension Service in Puerto Rico has been without a soils specialist for over 15 years. During this time there has been a lack of soils instruction and education for the agricultural agents across the island. In addition, there has also been an absence of soils publications within SEA. This has contributed to deficiencies in soils management, specifically soil nutrient management, at the farm level where under/over fertilization, due to lack of knowledge, is affecting crop production and soil sustainability. The SEA agents impact hundreds of farmers throughout the year, and provide informal education to improve their yield. They require adequate training by specialists to improve the information and education they provide to their target audience. The goal is to instruct the agents and provide them with the resources to then teach and support the farmers in their respective areas. 

Project Objectives:

The overall objective of this project is to provide soil nutrient management training for the agricultural agents of the Agricultural Extension Service (SEA) of Puerto Rico. 

The individual objectives of the project are the following:

  1.   Provide training in soil sampling, soil analysis interpretation, nutrient recommendation, soil nutrient management, and soil quality/health for the agricultural agents. This training will be given to each of the 5 regions (Arecibo, Gurabo, Mayaguez, Ponce, San Juan) of SEA that cover Puerto Rico.  SEA is comprised of 54 local offices with 60 Agricultural Agents that serve 1167 farmers throughout the island. 

The training will be comprised of three full-day sessions that will occur over the course of one year. A simple post- training questionnaire will be provided to participants using an online survey to confirm increase of knowledge on the subject.

  1.   Produce technical notes and at least three videos on soil related topics pertinent to tropical agriculture in Puerto Rico throughout the life of the project. Views will be reported as they are uploaded to the website. 
  2.   Develop a website where soils information, publications and videos can be accessed. One website and social media accounts (facebook, instagram) will be developed and the number of videos uploaded and watched will be reported to address accessibility and outreach.
  3.   Create an agricultural fertilizer calculator that can be used online or as an application on a phone. Provide different options of agricultural fertilizer calculator apps in Spanish and English (as available) to be posted on the website and social media for use by agents and farmers throughout the life of the project. 
  4.   Purchase soil sampling and field analysis instruments that each region can house and that both the agricultural agents and farmers can use, allowing for implementation of knowledge acquired through the proposed initiative. 

Education

Educational approach:

Workshops on soil sampling, soil analysis interpretation, nutrient recommendation, nutrient management and soil quality/health will be conducted in the first year. The target audience will be the Agricultural Extension Service (SEA) agents. The workshops will be comprised of classroom presentations and in-field instruction and will be given in each of the five SEA regions of the state of Puerto Rico. In addition to the workshops, technical notes and videos will be produced to supplement the workshop instruction. The goal is to instruct the agents and provide them with the resources to then teach and support the farmers in their respective areas.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Training: Analysis and interpretation of soils
Objective:

Provide training in soil sampling, soil analysis interpretation, nutrient recommendation, soil nutrient management, and soil quality/health for the agricultural agents.

Description:

Workshops on soil sampling, soil analysis interpretation, nutrient recommendation, nutrient management and soil quality/health were provided for the agricultural agents from the Agricultural Extension Service (SEA) in Puerto Rico. The workshops were comprised of classroom presentations and activities. SARE resources were used to facilitate the instruction. These resources include the interactive infographic: Soil Health, the manual Building Soils for Better Crops, and the videos Improving Soil Health Through Cover Crops and Visualizing Soil Properties. The goal is to instruct the agents and provide them with the resources to then teach and support the farmers in their respective areas.

This training has been given to 4 of the 5 regions (Arecibo, Caguas, Mayaguez, Ponce) of SEA that cover Puerto Rico with over 40 of the 60 SEA agricultural agents having participated. The training was provided virtually to the Caguas region due to COVID restrictions. The training for the San Juan region has been scheduled and also will be given virtually.

Training: Integrating the evaluation of soils from the field to the laboratory
Objective:

Provide field and laboratory training in evaluating soil properties, soil sampling, soil analysis and soil analysis interpretation for the agricultural agents.

Description:

Field and laboratory training was provided to agricultural agents from the Agricultural Extension Service (SEA) in Puerto Rico. Agricultural agents spent the first part of the day in the field at the Alzamora Farm (University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez) evaluating soil properties and sampling soil from a soil profile. The second part of the day was spent in Dr. Miguel Munoz’s soil chemistry laboratory where the agricultural agents ran physical and chemical soil analyses. In the lab the participants were divided into groups and rotated between stations, each covering a specific laboratory analysis. Seven undergraduate and graduate students from the department of Agro-environmental sciences at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez facilitated the training at each of the stations in the laboratory.

This training was provided to 2 of the 5 regions (Arecibo, Mayaguez) of SEA that cover Puerto Rico, with over 25 agricultural agents in attendance. The COVID pandemic prevented continuing the training with the other regions. These trainings will be held as soon as conditions permit.

Educational & Outreach Activities

6 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

40 Extension
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.