This week, Dr. Bahram Asiabanpour and his senior design students at Texas State University’s Ingram School of Engineering hosted us to see what kinds of projects they have been working on. This work is being conducted as an international collaborative research project under the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Scientific Cooperation Grant that was awarded to TX State University and Terra Advocati for research being conducted at the Huasteca Regenerative Agriculture Center in 2022.
This research is investigating the on and off farm benefits of Vetiver Systems in the Panuco River Watershed as a means of mitigating pollution and erosion that contribute to gulf hypoxia, by planting double vetiver hedgerows on contour with plant spacings of 10 cm apart on sugarcane farmlands that border a river in the Tamasopo Valley of the Huasteca Potosina region of Mexico. The Huasteca Regenerative Agriculture Center is conducting this end of the research.
Bahram and his team at Texas State University are supporting the project with lab resources and by designing and building innovative equipment to help plant, harvest, and separate the tillers. They are also investigating various methods to extract oil from the vetiver roots.
When we visited them in April, we were able to see the beginning phases of the project, and the lab and greenhouse that they were starting to work with the vetiver in.
This week we were presented with 3 student project updates.
The students are busy designing a prototype device that will help us till the ground, and plant vetiver slips in a more efficient way using simple, lightweight equipment.
They are also using various devices, processes, and solvents to investigate which method yields the most oil, including sonic vibration.
In addition, they are also creating a heat map with all of our field collected data, and using machine learning they will develop an algorithm that will allow us to calculate production and growth in advance based on various climate models and our own customizable inputs.
We are collecting data at 4 sites where we have strategically planted vetiver hedgerows in sugarcane fields, less than 100 meters up slope from the river.
The growth data being weekly collected in the field:
Observed plant health
Soil moisture (probe reading)
Supplemental irrigation or rain
Organic material accumulation
Soil chemistry and infiltration data being collected quarterly:
Soil moisture (checked with probe)
Soil nitrite/ nitrate
Soil phosphorus/ phosphate
Infiltration rate at, above, and below the hedgerows
All of this data will get fed into the software along with our detailed weather station data, and should provide us with an interesting frame of reference to approach future plantings with.
We will keep you posted as this project progresses.
Look for more frequent updates coming soon.