Teresa Fuertes-Mendizábal (Berango, Basque Country, 1978), PhD holder in Biological Sciences of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), was a runner-up in the 13th Edition of the Fertiberia Awards for best PhD theses on agricultural subjects. The awards seek to promote rational, responsible use of fertilizers compatible with sustainable development criteria. Fuertes’ PhD thesis is entitled Fisiología del cultivo de trigo y calidad del grano bajo diferentes regímenes de fertilización nitrogenada (Wheat crop physiology and grain quality under various nitrogen-based fertilizing regimes.) The award-giving ceremony took place yesterday at the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment and was presided over by the Minister Miguel Arias-Cañete.
In her research, Fuertes conducted “an integrated study, from the physiological as well as agronomic perspective, of the effect of nitrogen-based fertilizers on wheat crops. The aim was to determine all the physiological processes involved in the assimilation of this fertilizer, and ultimately in the translocation of the nitrogen towards the grain”. Following an initial phase of basic research, “a more applied part of the research was sought to study whether changes had taken place in the final quality of the grain, and that is what can really interest farmers," explains Fuertes.
The managing of the nitrogen inputs is the most important factor when it comes to increasing the yield and quality of the wheat crop. The thesis set out to study the physiological and agronomic effect of the dose of nitrogen-based fertilizer, as well as its fractioning and moment when it is applied to the wheat crop. The study was carried out on a reference plot under real conditions in Alava.
“We saw that, in actual fact, by fractioning the fertilizer throughout the cycle we managed to maintain the crop yields, in other words, the kilos per hectare that the farmer was producing” through his/her normal fertilization system and, what is more, we achieved an improvement in grain quality.”
In view of the results, “we would advocate a later application of fertilizers,” explains the researcher. These results could be applied to the cereal-growing zone of the humid Mediterranean climate where the study was conducted. Unlike the “large cereal areas of Spain, like Andalusia or Castilla la Mancha, this late application of fertilizer in the humid Mediterranean climate zone can be allowed, because the spring is very wet and the plant is able to absorb it."
The Fertiberia awards, which are given every year and are now in their thirteenth edition, are sponsored by Fertiberia and the Juan Miguel Villar-Mir Foundation and have the collaboration of the Professional Association of Agronomists of the Centre and Canary Islands. The awards seek to promote a rational, responsible application of fertilizers that is compatible with sustainable development criteria. These awards are prominent in the world of research not only because of their cash prizes amounting to 36,000 euros —the highest for a research award in Spain—, but also because of the quality of the theses submitted.
In the 13th edition of the Fertiberia awards first prize went to Isabel Díaz de la Torre, an agronomist and PhD holder of the University of Córdoba, for her thesis entitled Relación entre la clorosis férrica de la vid y las propiedades de los suelos calcáreos. Corrección con vivianita. (Relationship between iron-induced chlorosis of the vine and the properties of limestone soils. Correction by means of vivianite.) At the same time, apart from the runner-up prize awarded to Teresa Fuertes, another one was also awarded to Juan José Rios-Ruiz, PhD holder in Biology of the University of Granada for his work entitled Biofortificación con Se en plantas de lechuga: estudio de la producción, calidad y estado nutricional (Biofortification using Se in lettuce plants: study of production, quality and nutritional state).
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