Uncovering the Biological Effects of Basalt Application in Vegetable Crops

1/17/2024 6:15:01 AM Hannah Wirth

Zumwalt Acres logoAcademic mentor: Esther Ngumbi

Community partner: Zumwalt Acres

Project description: 
Regenerative agricultural practices offer multiple benefits including restoring soil health, increasing the diversity of soil dwelling microbes, improving agricultural productivity, and offering additional revenue for farmers, all while providing opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. All these benefits ultimately improve the health and well-being of farmers, communities, and ecosystems. Among the recent regenerative practices that farmers are eager to adopt is basalt application. Recent research has suggested that adding basalt can boost crop production, increase nutrient availability, improve soil health, and help sequester carbon, thus, enhancing agriculture's ability to mitigate the climate crisis. However, the mechanisms underpinning basalt rock application benefits remain unclear. There is an urgent need for research to investigate how basalt application impacts biotic factors of agricultural land, specifically soil microbiome, and plant health via modifications of the plant metabolome and chemistry. The research question we will be investigating is: Does Basalt rock application in vegetable crops, specifically tomato, alter the plant metabolome, plant chemistry and secondary defensive metabolites that mediate interactions among plant associating communities including insects. In collaboration with Zumwalt Acres, this project will seek to uncover the biological effects of basalt application. A greenhouse experiment will be done. Tomato plants at 4-, 6-, and 8-weeks post planting in control and basalt treated soils will be sampled. Targeted metabolite analysis, and plant chemistry profiling will be done. Together, metabolome and plant chemistry data, will begin to uncover the mechanisms underpinning benefits gained from basalt rock application. 

Role of the Community-Academic Scholar:
The Community-Academic Scholar will be involved in this research from beginning to end. They will be involved in greenhouse experiments, assisting in planting, transplanting, and metabolites and plant chemistry sampling. They will also assist in putting together results from the study.