|The shores of Lake Malawi.|
Iodine is an essential micronutrient involved in the production of thyroid hormones. Approximately one-third of the world’s population has inadequate iodine intake, and this causes a spectrum of clinical and social issues, collectively known as Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD). Dietary supplementation, by means of iodised salt, is commonly used around the world to reduce the prevalence of IDD. However, iodine biofortification represents an area of active research as a cost effective strategy to address global iodine deficiency without the limitations associated with iodised salt. Despite this a much greater understanding of soil-plant uptake is required.
I’ve had a busy year becoming familiar with the extensive literature surrounding iodine geodynamics and plant uptake/availability, working on a review paper and planning/starting various experiments. One of my current experiments includes investigating the uptake mechanisms of iodine in spinach and tomato plants. These are two crops which have been shown to respond well to iodine treatments and have great potential for biofortification programmes. A series of experiments have been designed to investigate the uptake, translocation (from root to foliage and foliage to root) and storage in the mature plants. These experiments will include the use of stable radioactive iodine (I-129), by using multiple isotopes it will be possible to observe potential changes in chemical speciation (conversations between iodide and iodate) as the plant interacts with the iodine. Over the summer I was able to conduct an experiment to investigate where mature spinach and tomato plants predominately store iodine. I have now harvested and prepared the samples; I will perform the ICP-MS analysis very soon.
|Peat bogs of Hautes-Fagnes.|
I also participated in a 2 week Africa-UK doctoral training network capacity strengthening exercise. The network, established between the UK, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, held their annual meeting in Lilongwe, Malawi this year. After the official opening meeting, which included multiple presentations from our various guests of honour and a brief appearance on national TV, it was time to get to work. The network is aimed at providing sustainable capacity strengthening in soil geochemistry and associated disciplines (see previous blog by Michael Watts). It was great to see all the Royal Society - Department for International Development (RS-DFID) PhD students, local scientists and lab technicians and catch up with their progress again after they visited the UK in May. The first week was based at the Department for Agricultural Research Services in Chitedze for training in soil chemistry, quality assurance and preparation of reference materials via lectures and participatory demonstrations from Dr. Charles Gowing and Dr. Michael Watts (BGS). I was also fortunate enough to visit Lake Malawi following a lecture in the field from Malawi’s leading pedologist Prof. Max Lowole and try some of the Lakes famous Chambo fish after a hot day in the African sunshine. The second week, based at LUANAR: Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources, focused on generic training and included statistical analysis, GIS, ethical awareness and presentation skills, the sessions were run by Dr. Murray Lark (BGS), Prof. Amon Murwira (UoZ), Dr. Kate Millar (UoN) and Prof. Martin Broadley (UoN).
|Prof. Max Lowole providing a lecture to the research group on a Malawian vertisol.|
The PhD is supervised under the umbrella of the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry:
Dr Scott Young, Dr Liz Bailey and Professor Neil Crout (University of Nottingham) and
Dr Michael Watts and Dr Louise Ander (BGS)