Soil fertility assessments to improve taro production in Tonga

February 1, 2019

Two undergraduate research students, Shaun Krawitz and Brigette Small, travelled to Tonga at the end of 2018 to take part in a research project that involved assessing soil fertility and improving taro production. This was made possible with the support from Crawford Fund’s Victorian committee and complemented the ACIAR funded project “Soil management in Pacific Islands” led by Dr Ben Macdonald from CSIRO.

The research involved sampling and characterising Tongatapu soils across a range of soil types and to identify soil organic matter characteristics which are an important determinant for soil health.

Brigette Small (left) and Shaun Krawitz (middle) using push corer for sampling

The project developed the skills of Shaun and Brigette, both enrolled in BSc degrees in soil science, a small discipline in high demand. Understanding soils and developing skills in representative sampling of soils is critical to improving agricultural yields and food production.

The students developed independent research and field sampling skills in challenging conditions. They had to locate field sites, contact local landholders and resolve how to continue with the project when field equipment was broken. They sampled 23 sites and the samples were sent directly to CSIRO in Adelaide.

Shaun Krawitz (right) using bucket auger for sampling

Further analyses has been completed by Shaun Krawitz as part of his honours program.