Australian scientists working to help improve soils in Aceh following the Boxing Day tsunami.
Australian scientists working to help improve soils in Aceh following the Boxing Day tsunami.

Grafton ag scientists called in

By ADRIAN MILLER

amiller@dailyexaminer.com.au

A PROJECT team based at the Grafton Agricultural Research and Advisory Centre has been established to help farmers in Indonesia recover from the Boxing Day tsunami.

The group of four scientists from the NSW Department of Primary Industries will help farmers in the province of Aceh rebuild their farms and crops.

Project leader Dr Peter Slavich said the tsunami deposited huge amounts of salt onto farms, and teaching farmers to deal with the added acidity in the soil would be a major focus of the group's work.

Dr Slavich said another aspect of the team's work would be to assess the capabilities of the soil and determine which crops were best suited to the new conditions.

He said crops grown in the area included rice, soy beans, peanuts and vegetables. Teaching farmers how best to grow them was crucial.

He said soil salinity, poor soil structure from high sodium and low nutrient availability were the biggest soil problems facing the team and farmers.

As well as Dr Slavich, the team consists of technical officer Craig Hunt, from Wollongbar, research agronomist Natalie Moore, of Grafton and research hydrologist Malem McLeod, of Tamworth.

Dr Slavich said the project members were chosen because of their expertise in the area, and he was particularly pleased to have Mrs McLeod on board as she was originally from Sumatra, could speak the language and knew local farming practices.

The project will last for two years, and has received $400,000 funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.



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