We are Tropics: Shagufta Gaffar

Shagufta Gaffar

Agricultural intensification goes hand-in-hand with pesticide use. Mounting evidence of their harmful impacts has forced scientists to explore ways to correct negative effects stemming from crop production. FIU Tropics Ph.D. student, Shagufta Gaffar, is focusing on mitigating agroecosystems, and soil scientists are noticing her.

Originally from Bangladesh, Gaffar is pursuing a degree in Earth Systems Science, in the Department of Earth and Environment. As part of the Agroecology Program, Gaffar’s research focuses on biochar – a product of organic materials made by pyrolysis. Application of biochar to soil has many advantages, including improvements in plant growth and reduced need for pesticides.

Guided by the program’s co-director, Krishnaswamy Jayachandran, her work centers in the use of biochar to remove atrazine, the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. and the most frequently detected in drinking water. Biochar’s capability to hold pesticides plays a crucial role in the fate and availability of these toxic substances in the environment. Specifically, Gaffar works to identify the best biochar composition to aid in the removal of atrazine in soils.

During the latest Soil Science Society of America meeting in San Diego, Cali., Gaffar’s research was recognized with third place in the poster competition. Being acknowledged among hundreds of soil scientists is a highlight for Gaffar.

“It makes [me] feel that what [I am] doing is worth it,” Gaffar said.

Gaffar hopes that her work sheds light on the effects of food production.

“People should take some time to reflect on how food is coming to us, as it’s one of the most important factors of human survival.”

If you are interested in Gaffar’s or additional research on sustainable agriculture, contact the Agroecology Program.