Last April, the Soils and Landscapes for Sustainability Research Area at CIAT, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota (UMN) and the National University of Colombia at Palmira, held a training course entitled “Soil Ecology: Methodologies for the Assessment of Agroecosystems”. Forty participants, most of them from Colombia, but also from Ecuador, the United States, Canada, and The Netherlands, took part in the first version of this course, which was organized by Doctors Julie Grossman (UMN), Mirjam Pulleman (CIAT), and Marina Sánchez De Prager (UN).

The theoretical-practical course was of an interactive nature, with an emphasis on:

  1. Understanding the biogeochemical cycles supporting sustainable agroecosystems, with an emphasis on carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, physical properties of soils, and their interactions.
  2. Learning and practical application of integrated methodologies to assess the quality of soils that could contribute to meet the objectives of sustainable agriculture.
  3. Conducting field research (at “Finca Vetiver”, an agroecological farm in the village of La Castilla, and at the Soils Laboratory at CIAT).
  4. Applying individual and collective knowledge in the analysis and interpretation of data and the discussion of lessons learned for the sustainable management of agricultural soils, reflecting the views of students, researchers, as well as agricultural technicians and professionals.



“This event was organized to share with students the complex concepts of soil ecology, which offers valuable tools for a comprehensive assessment and understanding of the processes taking place within agroecosystems, based on the perspectives of biology, physics, soil chemistry, and their interactions. I believe researchers need to ask structured research questions that seek the answer to hypotheses built on a theoretical-practical knowledge derived from a local, regional, and/or global reality, which are the subject of analysis”.

Julie Grossman

Professor of Soil Agroecology at the University of Minnesota

Similarly, Wilson Benavides, a doctoral student from the National University, stated that “articulating the work on soils being developed at CIAT and the University of Minnesota is important for our university, because of the connection and synergy forged between producers and academia to develop methodologies and to create indicators useful in the assessment soil processes”.

By completing this course, students will be able to understand the bases of soil ecology and the methodologies to assess soils within agroecosystems. In addition, they will be able to apply knowledge in their thesis works and universities. “It is a first pilot and we are looking forward to the results to seek more funding”, Grossman says.


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