The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Ag

August 31, 2013

OSU student seeks to sustain the soil

Adam Cobb, the self-proclaimed “dirt worshiper” and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Natural Resources Ecology and Management (NREM) at Oklahoma State University, recently made life a little easier on himself.

Annie’s Homegrown, an organic and sustainable food products company, awarded Cobb a $10,000 scholarship for his efforts to cultivate a healthier and happier world through an ecologically friendly production of nourishing foods.

“Adam is extremely bright, self-motivated and passionate about sustainable resource management, especially improvement of soil-based management practices,” said Gail Wilson, an NREM professor. “Adam is focusing his research on harnessing beneficial soil organisms, such as mycorrhizal fungi, to decrease the need for fertilizer and water inputs for crop production.”

Cobb has a deep-rooted interest and passion for meeting the food and nutrition needs of a growing population, without disturbing the natural habitat.

“If we do not learn how to grow food in ways that regenerate and sustain the soil, we face shrinking food supplies,” Cobb said. “The potential to restore and manage is modeled in nature.”

Decreasing the need for greater inputs into the soil and protecting the natural vitality of the soil is the idea.

“Natural ecosystems display stability because of the symbiotic interactions and other soil dynamics,” he said. “Modern agricultural practices have tended to replace those ecological factors with chemicals and mechanics.”

His research is not limited to just the United States. Rather, Cobb is thinking big.

“Most of the world’s emerging croplands are in Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa, and these soils are fragile,” he said. “To best tackle this issue, I have been studying agriculture and ecology with an emphasis on international development and soil-plant interactions.”

The scholarship funding from Annie’s Homegrown allows Cobb to expand his research, and include travel to work with scientists in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. His ultimate goal is to help reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

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