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United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2012

SEEKING FOOD AND ENERGY SUSTAINABILITY WITH SUCCULENT PLANT SPECIES IN THE HIGH DESERT OF THE NAVAJO NATION.

Succulent Plant Desert

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Research, Education & Economics Information System (REEIS)

Titre : SEEKING FOOD AND ENERGY SUSTAINABILITY WITH SUCCULENT PLANT SPECIES IN THE HIGH DESERT OF THE NAVAJO NATION.

Identification : ARZW-2012-02316

Pays : Etats Unis

Durée : Sep 1, 2012 à Aug 31, 2016

Mots clés : agave plants, opuntia plants, yucca plants, tribal college research,

Partenaire : NAVAJO NATION TRIBAL GOVERNMENT, THE 1 CIRCLE DR TSAILE,AZ 86556-9998

Objectifs
We hypothesize that select accessions of Agave, Opuntia, and Yucca plants will be suitable food and bioenergy crops for production in the extreme environmental conditions that characterize the high desert of the Navajo Nation. As our first objective, students at Dine College, in collaboration with students at New Mexico State University and Brigham Young University, will evaluate several Agave, Opuntia, and Yucca species to determine the survival and productivity of species at different sites that characterize the highly variable environmental conditions of the high desert found within the Navajo Nation. The second objective is for the students to determine the drought-stress tolerance of a subset of the field-site-evaluated species with an automated irrigation system, based on the design of Van Iersel et al. (2006), under greenhouse conditions. The third objective of this project is to incorporate this project into field labs and projects for four 4-credit courses taught by Prof. Margaret Mayer in the Science and Physical Education program at Dine College, including BIO 184 (Plant Biology), ENV 101 (Environmental Science), ENV 105 (Climate Change), and ENV 230 (Ecology : Sampling & Monitoring). A clear and important need exists to secure environmentally and ecologically sustainable sources of food and bioenergy due to the vulnerability of the Navajo Nation to erratic shortages and price spikes in both food and gasoline. Restoring traditional uses and developing innovative uses of native succulent species not only provides opportunities to develop cultural linkages between older and younger generations, but also a means of maximizing economic and ecological sustainability. Unlike the Midwestern U.S., the Navajo Nation cannot be characterized as a climate with abundant precipitation or an edaphic environment with high fertility. Instead, the region has a notable amount of marginal land and sunlight. With adequate irrigation, fertilizer, and other resource inputs, most conventional crops, such as corn (Zea mays), can be grown in the region, but without supplemental irrigation or fertilizer, they will quickly perish We postulate that after a period of establishment, a select number of Agave (A. utahensis, A. parryi, A. palmeri, and A. weberi), Opuntia (Opuntia engelmanii, O. ficus-indica, O. polyacantha), and Yucca (Yucca baccata) species will exhibit high productivity as both food and energy crops under field conditions representative of marginal lands in the Navajo Nation.

Descriptif
Study will take place at the Dine College (DC) Shiprock, NM ; Tsaile, AZ ; and Tuba City, AZ will be selected and prepared by DC students enrolled in ENV 230 in the fall of 2012. March 2013, vegetative offsets of Agave, Opuntia, and Yucca species will be established in field plots by students enrolled in ENV 105. Plant material will be purchased from regional nurseries. The undergraduate students from NMSU and BYU will provide additional assistance. To facilitate comparisons at intergeneric and interspecific levels, and account for inherent environmental variation at the field site, plants from each species from the three genera will be arranged in a randomly complete block design, each replicated 10 times (n = 10) and planted on 1-m centers. After a month of establishment with supplemental drip irrigation and fertilization, the experiment will be initiated in April 2013 and conducted over two growing seasons. Besides the treatments, which will be species and genus, all other variables will be held constant. Measured variables include leaf number, plant height, plant width, leaf area index, leaf water potential, final dry weight, nocturnal increases in acidity (used to calculate EPI), and number of surviving plants at the end of each growing season. Measurements will be made by DC interns and studnets and NMSU and BYU undergraduate students. Annual growth will be measured by measuring leaf length along the upper surface at the beginning and end of the experiment. These parameters will be used to calculate an environmental productivity index etc based on the methodology of Nobel and Valenzuela (1987). In October 2012 a companion experiment will also be initiated at the greenhouse in Tuba City conducted by students enrolled in DC BIO 184 to determine the effects of water stress on each species evaluated in the field-based experiments. The difficulty of imposing consistent levels of drought stress on plants in the field, an automated irrigation system will be used to impose water stress on the plants established in containers. The experimental design will be a completely randomized design. Each species will be replicated at least three times over the two-year period of the project. Each run will last for six months. Data will be analyzed through generalized mixed model analysis by DC student interns and students enrolled in ENV 230 using the R statistical software package. Dr. Stewart will train and guide students in conducting the statistical analysis. The project will prepare DC students for employment in academia, government, or industry. Evidence shown through completion of lab-based projects in the courses involved, the presentation of the results at a professional conference, and the publication of the results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. These data will build a foundation for further developing strategies to adapt local agricultural and natural resources to global climate change. Also, the facilitation of dialogue between DC students and tribal elders in informational meetings at chapter houses and other venues will allow for the strengthening of transmission of cultural heritage and values.

Présentation : USDA

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