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K-State Today

June 13, 2011

Climate change exchange: Carbon sequestration research draws visiting Chinese scientist to K-State

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

Kansas State University's international reputation as a center of research on agriculture and climate change has attracted a visiting scholar from China.

Zhangliu Du, a postdoctoral scientist, has been studying advanced research methods at K-State since early May as an outcome of a collaborative scientific exchange between the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, or USDA-ARS, and China's Ministry of Science and Technology.

Du said he was attracted by Kansas State's leading role in the study of soil carbon sequestration and agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation, led by Chuck Rice, university distinguished professor of soil science. Du recently received his doctorate in soil science from China Agricultural University.

Soil organic carbon sequestration plays an important role in mitigating climate change and improving soil quality, Du said. He wanted to come to K-State for a three-month program of intensive study to better understand the mechanisms of stabilizing soil organic matter under conservation tillage practices in wheat-corn cropping systems in China.

"In the Northern China Plain, the mechanism of achieving higher and more stable forms of soil organic matter when using conservation practices in a wheat-corn double-cropping system is poorly understood," Du said. "I wanted to learn more about some of the methods we might be able to use in studying this issue in China."

In particular, Du said he wanted to further understand the critical role of microbial community structure and function in the soil nitrogen and carbon cycles. He also learned some nitrogen management modeling techniques to help him develop strategies to reduce nitrous oxide emissions in his home country.

"Overall, the key objective of my visit with Dr. Rice and his group was to learn relevant technologies and policies concerning climate change mitigation through the adoption of improved soil and crop management practices," he said. "I learned physical fractionation and microbial methods, and learned about nitrogen management modeling and mitigation strategies. It has been a very valuable experience at K-State."

The experience has been valuable to Rice and his team at K-State as well.

"We always learn as much as we teach when working with international scientists who come here to study agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation," Rice said. "Zhangliu Du has been an asset for all of us, and has added to our understanding of soil and environmental conditions in North China. We now have a deeper knowledge of the possibilities for soil sequestration and agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation in that region of the world."

This kind of interaction between scientists is the main goal of the USDA-Ministry of Science and Technology program, said Steven Shafer, deputy administrator of the USDA-ARS.

"We can better solve global problems by coordinating research information and understanding conditions in different regions of the world," Shafer said.