6. Plans and proposals for 2010
  1. Nutrient management of vegetable crops in greenhouses. Clive Rahn (University of Warwick) with Chen Qing (CAU).

Dr. Rahn outlined the main elements of the proposal. It was proposed to build on approaches used in the recent revision of UK fertilizer recommendations. It would also include important elements of novel communications approaches for farmers. It is hoped that this proposal will be submitted to the Steering Group before the end of September 2009. A second proposal was possible, in 2010, based on approaches developed in an EU project led by Dr. Rahn, EU-ROTATE.

 2. Food security. Tong Yanan (Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University).

Prof Tong proposed a project based on maximising crop production as an element in food security. But the WG felt that virtually all SAIN activities involved food security in some form and that specific proposals needed to be more clearly focussed.
The following possibilities were discussed either during the meeting or informally during field visits:

 3. Nutrient budgeting at various scales as a guide for land use planning and   nutrient management. During the field visits it was learned that a degree of   land use planning was being practiced in the Tai Hu Lake region to protect   water quality. In some areas arable cropping was now prohibited within 1km of   the lake and other restrictions on manure applications. It was felt that   nutrient budgeting might provide a rational basis for future decisions of this   type. Dr. Christine Watson would be consulted on this.

 4. Combined management of water and nutrients to increase efficiency in the   context of dryland farming in low rainfall regions using developments of   traditional methods.

 5. Possible role of biochar for sustainable soil management. There are   indications that biochar added to soil may increase retention of nutrients,   retain water, improve soil physical structure and modify the microbial   population. There is growing interest in the topic in both UK and China. A   review of current knowledge, knowledge gaps and potential could be of value in   both countries. It could build on a review conducted by UEA assessing possible   biochar applications in the east of England and newly established experimental   studies in both countries being conducted by various groups.

 6. LCA of composting. The WG were impressed by the commercial scale composting   facilities seen during the field visits in which manures and various   plant- based ^wastes ̄ were composted aerobically to produce higher value   organic fertilizers. But it was felt that some assessment of nutrient losses   (especially gaseous N losses) during the composting process would assist in   better evaluating the environmental sustainability of the system, and perhaps   informing decisions on modifications.

7. Other matters

1. It was felt that a meeting of the WG during 2010 would be beneficial to further inform members of experience in nutrient management elsewhere. A suggestion was for a meeting in UK with travel and subsistence for Chinese members being funded by MOA, equivalent to funding for UK members to visit China for the 2009 meeting. A small amount of funding would be required from Defra to cover costs of travel and hospitality in UK. (This item was discussed by some WG1 members ouside the formal meeting).

2. Professor Powlson announced that he would stand down as WG1 Co-chair within the next 12 months, or preferably sooner if an appropriate replacement could be appointed. This was partly because he had become over-committed with work on specific funded projects ( as reported above) and partly because he now felt it would be healthy for the WG for a younger person to take on the role.

Field visits

The following visits were made:

  • Laboratories of NAU with outline of research in the University.
  • Laboratories of the CAS Institute of Soil Science (ISS).
  • Several commercial facilities for the composting of organic residues to produce organic and combined organic-inorganic fertilizers.
  • Laboratories of the Jiangsu Xintiandi Bio-fertilizer Engineering Center, a company in a joint venture with NAU.
  • Field research by ISS to decrease movement of N and P to surface waters in Jiangsu Province.
  • Tai Hu Lake to view and discuss issues of non-point source pollution from agriculture and urban activities
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