Leonardo Bastos is a postdoctoral researcher in the Digital Tools, Geospatial, and Farming Systems Consortium (DGFSC), funded by Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL).
He leads a project called "Variety and management selection to optimize pearl millet yield and profit in Senegal." The aim is to assess the effect of dual-purpose pearl millet varieties, planting density, and nutrient rates on biomass, grain yield, and farm profit magnitude and responsiveness.
This work will ultimately inform smallholder farmers of the best combination of production strategies that optimize crop yield and farm profitability in the face of local environmental constraints.
Leonardo explained that farmers normally use low plant density and nutrient rates to avoid economical risks associated with low and erratic rainfall. One of the hypothesis of the study is that a higher plant density would increase yields, and they want to understand which combination of practices maximizes yield and profit.
This study was conducted in three locations in Senegal: Nioro du Rip, Bambey, and Sinthiou Malem. To carry out this project, they planted low and high amounts of seeds to create different plant densities. Then, they applied different amounts of nutrients with inorganic and organic sources, and by the end of the season, they measured biomass and grain yield.
The dataset comprises nine environments because the same study was realized for three different years in the three locations. From a scientific perspective, it is one of the most intensive management studies that has been conducted in Senegal up to this day.
Leonardo explained that the most challenging part of this project was to analyze an experiment that has hundreds of various treatments simultaneously.
"Having to analyze this type of experiment creates a limitation because it is one big study in only three locations." As a researcher, Leonardo suggests doing a simpler study in multiple places with the same resources. Implementing this will be more impactful and beneficial to create data from more sites and years.
Even though it is a challenge to work with this extensive study, he highlighted that they could process very complex data and simplify it into something more understandable.
To conclude, Leonardo emphasized, "it was fascinating to work with a different crop and country. One of the most valuable things about the DGFSC is that our skills to turn something very complex into something simpler that may help farmers by providing them useful information that can improve their farm and their country".