Radish fertiliser project earns top student award - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Radish fertiliser project earns top student award

23 Apr 2020

A second-year USC Environmental Science student has won a statewide award for a project that found introducing a type of algae to fertilised soil could boost the growth of radishes.

Ren Holz, of Petrie, investigated the effects of a liquid diatom (single-celled algae) product on a commercially available topsoil and Sparkler radish growth over a period of eight weeks.

She won the Undergraduate Award for Excellence in Soil Science at the Soil Science Australia (Queensland) student presentation night last month at the EcoSciences precinct at Boggo Road in Brisbane.

The 39-year-old former childcare teaching assistant is studying at USC to pursue her passion for research focusing on soil health for restoration and conservation.

Her supervisor, USC Lecturer in Earth Sciences Peter Davies, said: “Ren did a fabulous job competing and presenting her work along with students from other major southeast Queensland universities.”

Ren said the influence of diatoms on soil properties and plant growth was not well known, but they had the potential to assist in nutrient management.

“My research has shown that the application of a liquid diatom product to soil can increase the soil’s water holding capacity, change its acid and oxidation levels, and increase radish bulb yield,” she said.

“These findings highlight the need for further research on soil diatom augmentation for the potential use in agriculture and bioremediation.”

Ren said she was thrilled to win the award, with a cash and book prize.

“A science degree was always a dream for me. When I stayed at the K’gari Research and Learning Centre (Fraser Island) at Dilli Village, I discovered USC and was inspired to follow my dream and enrol,” she said.

“I’m happiest looking down a microscope or outdoors taking samples, and this Bachelor of Environmental Science combines my love for ecology, science and problem-solving.”

The industry partner for the project was Dr Simon Tannock from Algaenviro, which supplied the Diatomix product.

Ren has also enjoyed voluntary field work and data entry for programs that monitored frogs and stormwater, and educated the community on water cycles.

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