IALC Peace Fellowship Report
South Dakota State University
Predicting Seed Bank Germination in Semiarid Rangelands
Under Grazing Management
The International Arid Lands Consortium Peace Fellowship Program allowed
me to travel half way around the world and to broaden my outlook on world
agriculture, as well as my cultural background. I spent the month of June
in Rehovot, Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Agriculture,
working under the direction of Dr. Jaime Kigel on a project that focused
on predicting seed bank germination in semiarid rangelands under grazing
management. I was accompanied on my trip by Rachel Mehlhaf, another Peace
Fellowship participant and student at South Dakota State University. She
also studied under Dr. Kigel.
The purpose of Dr. Kigel's project is to improve the standards on which
management of semiarid rangeland is based. Researching the relationship
between the seed bank and the resulting annual vegetation affected by
grazing and the seasonal and yearly variation in climatic conditions,
and understanding the patterns of seed bank dormancy loss and germination
in response to rainfall and temperature variation, will help to develop
improvements for management practices. This project is scheduled over
two years and should be completed in May of 2000.
The month of June is one of the warmest months in Israel, and we spent
very little time in the field. Instead we worked in a brand new facility
called the Phytotron, a state-of-the-art greenhouse in which many of the
controlled experiments dealing with the seed bank germination project
take place. Each room to the Phytotron can be completely controlled and
manipulated to facilitate a given climatic condition. Dr. Kigel and a
graduate student took samples of the upper soil level from different areas
of the Negev Desert and placed them in the Phytotron to be studied. These
studies were being conducted to determine the amount of germanitive and
dormant seeds, as well as species diversity and biomass production.
Only spending one month at the Agricultural Faculty in Rehovot, I was
merely able to wet my lips with the two-year project; however, I assisted
in several different aspects of the research. Rachel and I spent a considerable
amount of time in the Phytotron planting different species of seeds from
all over the globe. We sowed the seeds into a plant medium and were responsible
for caring for the germinating seeds during the duration of our stay.
After germination hopefully takes place, Dr. Kigel will send the plants
out to a research station where studies will be conducted on the plants'
vigor in semiarid conditions. We did spend a small amount of time in the
field helping collect seeds of a short, annual plant. The seeds were to
be used for research on the dynamics of dominant annual species and temporal
patterns of germination.
Spending time with Dr. Kigel proved to be informative than I had hoped.
Aside from the work on the seed bank germination project, I was introduced
to several of the research projects that the ever-so-busy Dr. Kigel was
involved in. We took a couple of days to travel around to different research
stations and view scientific research being conducted on everything from
roses to tomatoes. A couple of the projects that really caught my eye
involved concepts that I had never thought about before. One experiment,
funded by a company that produces plastic, was using different types of
plastic to enclose several greenhouses. Each plastic covering was produced
to allow only a certain part of the light spectrum to pass through, and
studies were being conducted to understand the effects of different types
of light on plants ranging from flowers to bell peppers. The second project
that I found interesting dealt with biological water purification for
irrigation uses. Different species of plants were grown with the roots
of the plants completely submerged in wastewater from kitchens or showers.
Many of the plants thrived in the impure water, especially the banana
trees. After three or four stages with different species of plants, the
water was tested to understand how many of the impurities, such as nitrates,
had been extracted. Understanding which species of plants help purify
waste water the quickest would be valuable information in Israel, where
water is a precious commodity.
During the weekends of my month-long excursion to Israel, Rachel and
I traveled to different parts of the country to experience some of the
many wonderful sights it offers. I felt this to be very important to receive
a real understanding of the culture of Israel and its people. We traveled
south to the Dead Sea at Ein Gedi, Masada, Jerusalem, Eilat, and the Sinai
Peninsula on the Red Sea in Egypt. We also spent some time in Tel Aviv
on the Mediterranean Sea, Haifa, Acre, and the Carmel Mountains National
Park. These travels allowed me to observe and meet the people of Israel
and to gaze at Israel's natural beauty. In meeting and conversing with
different people I was able to finally understand the tension that lingers
between Israel and the surrounding countries.
The experience I received through the International Arid Lands Consortium
Peace Fellowship Program has given me a much deeper understanding of the
people and culture of Israel. I have to admit that I had many stereotypical
views of Israel before I left, but I am fairly sure every one of those
views was changed tenfold. Israel is a beautiful country varying from
rich vegetation in areas to barren desert to metropolitan Tel Aviv. The
people of Israel are kind and hard working, innovative, always thinking
on a global basis, and constantly producing new opportunities to expand
Many people in our country have the same stereotypical views (war-stricken
barren desert) that I had about Israel. My Peace Fellowship experience
has maintained my interest in global agriculture and will enable me to
aid in correcting the views of those people I will meet, both in my personal
life and my career in international agriculture.
[edited for the Web by Elaine Cubbins]