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Institute of Resource, Ecosystem and Environment

Date: 2018-10-19

The Institute of Resource, Ecosystem and Environment of Agriculture (IREEA) of Nanjing Agricultural University, was founded under the authority of Ministry of Agriculture in 1992. The institute is based on the discipline of soil science, a national key discipline granted firstly by the Ministry of Agriculture of China in 1999 and by the Ministry of Education of China in 2001. Focusing on soil quality and functioning for sustainable agriculture of China, the research at the institute covers a wide range of studies on soil fertility and quality, soil environment pollution and food security, soil carbon stock and cycling, greenhouse gas emission and mitigation agriculture, biochar and green agriculture as well as climate change impacts on agriculture. Working in soil science and biogeoscience as well as environmental science of the institute are a number of full professors, associate and assistant professors as well as 2 staff members. Under training in soil science, environmental science and climate change science as well as biochar science and technology are over 20 Ph D candidates, over 40 MS graduates as well as visiting fellows and exchange students from China and abroad. Currently, the institute is led by professor Genxing Pan, a senior soil scientist and expert in biochar science and technology in agriculture.

Research Areas of Particular Interest at IREEA

Soil organic matter and carbon sequestration. Research on soil organic matter (SOM) and soil carbon cycling has been a priority area of soil studies at the institute. Focusing on rice paddies from China, the studies explore the roles of soil organic matter in crop production and ecosystem functioning, the SOM dynamics with soil development, with agricultural management practices as well as with land use changes. Biophysical mechanism of accumulation in croplands is characterized by particle fractionation for physical protection, by chemical fractionation for chemical protection and by molecular/humeomic binding for chemical recalcitrance as well as molecular microbiological fingerprinting for biological stabilization. The importance of SOM accumulation in croplands for soil quality and ecological benefits is currently pursued by linking to soil microbial abundance/biodiversity and biochemical activities with novel assessment tools. In addition, SOM decomposition/soil respiration is being studied with experimental warming under different agricultural management/environment scenarios. The institute hosted 3 national workshops on SOM and carbon sequestration in agricultural soils, the 4th international Symposium of SOM dynamics (Nanjing, 2013) and a national summer school of soil C and N cycling and Greenhouse gas in agriculture. The Institute has been a contributor to the SCOPE Rapid Assessment Report of SOM Co-Benefits (2014).

Greenhouse gases mitigation and carbon management in agriculture. Mitigating greenhouse gases (GHGs) emission has been an urgent demand for China’s sustainable agriculture. Changes in GHGs emission have been examined at the institute with land use change, with crop production as well as agricultural management practices including moisture regime, fertilization and tillage practices. Effects of organic/inorganic compound fertilization, conservation tillage as well as nutrient balancing fertilization have been investigated mainly through field emission monitoring. Recently, modeling methane emission from rice paddies is developed coupled with DAYCENT model, in cooperation with Colorado State University. Carbon footprints of crop production and livestock sector of China are under assessment by approaches of integrating statistical data archive and case studies of questionnaire surveys in rural area. Methodology for quantifying CF for mitigating projects in agriculture and the associate software/calculators are developed, under review for public release. Tools for MRV of agricultural sectors and rural activities are under construction for voluntary mitigation activities and carbon trading in China. The institute has contributed to National Climate Change Assessment Report (2012), the scientific Report of Climate Change of China (2013) as well as UNEP Emission Gap 2013.

Metal pollution and impacts on soil quality and food safety. For a long time, the institute has been strived for understanding metal pollution in croplands, mainly in rice paddies from South China. After earlier works on changes in metal loading in soils with industrial development, levels of toxic metals particularly of Pb and Cd and their ecotoxicity to rice and soil microbes have been the main topics at the institute. Cd accumulation in soil and transfer through soil-plant-food, especially of rice grain has been demonstrated with special reference to soil acidification, exotic metal pollution and high metal affinity crop cultivars. Great efforts have been made on quantifying and modeling health risks through food exposures for subsistence diet farmers. Recently, ecological engineering approaches using biochar-based material for sustainably tackling Cd-tainted rice have been developed under field trials across South China. In addition, metal impacts on soil microbial community, carbon and N cycling as well as soil GHGs emission are under study by field monitoring of soil respiration, GHGs emission in metal polluted croplands.

Biochar science and technology. Biochar production has been a novel sector of biowaste treatment in China’s agriculture. Since 2009 when a first biochar field experiment was initiated in China, the institute has been leading bicohar science and technology in China’s agriculture. Biochar science and technology is becoming a hot area of the current studies at IREEA, which is now mainly conducted through a joint center of Biochar and Green Agriculture.

Climate Change impact on agricultural production and the mitigation. China is facing a serious challenge of climate change. For the last 5 years, the institute has been active in the merging area of climate change impact on agriculture and leading a multi-disciplinary group within the NJAU university system to address climate change and agriculture. This is now a research target for the new center of Climate Change and Agriculture, affiliated to the institute.

Research Centers Affiliated

Center of Biochar and Green Agriculture

The Center of Biochar and Green Agriculture was launched in September 21-23, 2012 during the International Workshop on Biochar and New Green Agriculture of China opened by Dr Johannes Lehmann, the chairman of IBI. This center is a multi-discipline research and technology development unit with special focus on issues with biochar production from crop straw and applications in agriculture. Working together at the center are soil scientists, material scientists, bio-engineers and environmental engineers as well as fertilizer experts. As a visiting professor, Dr Stephen Joseph, an IBI founder, has been working at the center as an advisor for biochat technology since 2011. The center has been conducting studies on biochar production and applications in agriculture under sponsorships by the Ministry of Agriculture of China and the Ministry of Education of China. The center has been very active in innovating new biochar production systems, biochar production from various biomass feedstocks and biochar- based products for use in different sectors of agriculture, through a live cooperation with China’s large biochar producers. Since 2009, a cross-site networked field trial has A mobile pyrolyser (Plate 1) producing 100kg biochar per hour (Plate 2) is ready to launch developed in cooperation with Beneve Environmental Machinery Co Ltd, Jiangsu; Affiliated with the center, a demonstrating pilot biochar factory (Plate 3) for commercial biochar production (Plate 4) from a wide range of biomass, producing 300 kg biochar per hour. First generation of biochar compound fertilizer (Plate 5) and the store in a cooperation fertilizer company (Plate 6) as a new fertilizer brand issued (Plate 7) been initiated with rice, maize, wheat and cotton over a number of locations across China mainland, dealing with sustainable biochar effects on soil fertility and crop productivity, greenhouse gas emissions as well as soil moisture preservation and soil pollution control. The center is also performing demonstration projects on reclamation and fast recovery of salt-stressed soils, restoration and resilience of abandoned or despoiled soils due to mining, environmental restoration of polluted croplands as well as on low carbon production of good quality of agro-products, through the extension centers located in different regions of China.

In cooperation with foreign partners, the center has been hosting an international biochar training program since 2012. Besides the domestic students over 50, the center is now hosting a group of international scientist, including some brilliant Ph D and MS students from Europe, Africa and Russia. The center is now also engaged in the National Green Energy Project of China initiated in 2010, in which biochar production from agro-biowastes is among the top priority projects for new energy in rural area of China.

Center of Climate Change and Agriculture

Affiliated to the Institute of Resource, Ecosystem and Environment, a Center of Agriculture and Climate Change was established under the NAU authority in 2010. Jointly working in this multi-disciplinary center, a number of key professors are from agronomy, plant protection, livestock and agricultural management and economics as well as soil and ecological science from the different colleges of NAU. The center is coordinating a national project on climate change and agriculture, jointly conducted by research groups from major crop production sectors and livestock sectors from Chinese Agricultural academy and universities. Coordinated by the center, an assessment report of climate change impacts on agricultural production and a monograph of 200 questions of practices mitigating climate change impacts have been completed (Plate 8 and 9). Key information of climate change risks on agriculture and the potential countermeasures have been delivered to the ministry of agriculture of China.

As a research base of the center, a field platform is established with the project of “Impact of climate change on agricultural production and mitigation” (2009-2013) sponsored under a grant from the State Public Benefit Research Funding Program for Agriculture under the auspices of Ministry of Agriculture, China. The field site is located in the Kangbo village, Guli Township, Changshu Municipality, Jiangsu. It is also a joint monitoring system for the state pilot farm of innovation rice farming and of the municipal demonstration farm of modernized agricultural production of Suzhou, Jiangsu managed by the Jiangsu Tianniang Agricultural Technology Company. Design and Constructed by Beijing Yisheng Taihe Technology CO., LTD, the system simulates climate change conditions of warming of canopy air by 2 centigrade, CO2 enrichment up to 500 ppm and interactive warming and CO2 enrichment, over the ambient. Since March of 2011, the changes in soil fertility, crop performance and yield under the simulated climate change condition have been monitored for addressing the climate change impacts on crop production and farm ecological functioning. Some pilot experiments will also be conducted with mitigation practices and low carbon agriculture technologies within the field base.

The experiment system is among the largest open field experiment with a ring are of 50 m2 each treatment plot under rice-wheat rotation. It is anticipated that the base will be an open base for field studies on climate change and agriculture, and on low carbon agriculture technology development, and for national and international exchanges, student training and agricultural technology development.

Principle research scientists at IREEA

Professor Dr. Genxing Pan, acting as the director of IREEA, is a science leader in soil science, climate change and agriculture at Nanjing Agricultural University. Prof. Pan’s research interests range from SOM and soil carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas mitigation and carbon management in agriculture, bicohar science and technology as well as climate change and agriculture.

He has been actively involved in exchange and cooperation activities under IPCC, UNFCCC and UNEP as well as China’s national panels on climate change.

Contact: Tel.: +86 25 84396027; Email: pangenxing@aliyun.com

Field experiment statio