Ibrahim Mohammed

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: PhD

Project: Assessing the influence of Functional and Structural Complexity of Organic Matter on Phosphorus Mobility, Crop Production, and Soil Health

Department: School of Environmental Sciences (SES) (OAC)

What inspired you to pursue your current degree? 

I have a desire to find sustainable solutions to the problem of food production and distribution around the world. According to Maria -Helena Semedo of the FAO, the world will run out of topsoil by the year 2080 due to soil degradation. What does this mean for food production given that “the soil is and will remain the source of human nutrition”. My goal is to find a sustainable answer to this question.

What about your research area excites you? 

Using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy, my research will explore the structure of organic matter derived from various organic amendments and will clarify the mechanistic role of the functional groups and structural components of organic matter in enhancing soil health.

What challenges do you find in your research, and how do you try to overcome them? 

The process of observing soil organic matter in the laboratory subjects the material to some alteration, which could be significant, depending on the type of tools or procedure adopted. By incorporating Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy into my methodology, I will be able to perform analysis of a wider range of samples and whole soils and be able to observe soil organic matter with minimum alteration of the original material.

Through the application of state-of-the-art techniques of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, such as direct polarization, in observing soil processes, I will be able to build models at molecular levels that will translate my research findings into solutions at the macro level where farm operations take place and soil health management is carried out.

How would you describe your research and the implications of your project? 

My research will evaluate how the molecular level composition of organic matter derived from various organic amendments influence the accumulation and stabilization of soil organic matter, the complexation of plant nutrients, the improvement of plant growth, and the enhancement of soil health.

My research will produce comprehensive information on the macromolecular composition of organic amendment inputs to soils. This information is necessary for understanding soil organic carbon dynamics, especially in the calcareous soils of Ontario, and for improving the parameters for modelling soil organic matter and nutrient interactions. Also, it will serve as a baseline for extrapolating organic carbon input data to global issues such as climate change. At the farm level, the outcome of my research will help improve recommendations for the effective use of organic amendments for grain production in the calcareous soils of Ontario.

What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab? 

Cycling, writing poetry and flash fiction, philosophy.

What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic? 

Worry only pretends to be necessary, it solves nothing.