APOPKA, Fla. — Debalina Saha, an environmental horticulture graduate assistant at the University of Florida, has always wanted to study how different mulches and herbicides affect weed growth. Her tenacity has paid off: Saha placed first in the International Plant Propagation Society Southern Region graduate student research competition at its 42nd annual conference.
“Measuring light under different mulch depths was something that had never been done before,” said Saha, who is based at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka. “Before this project, there were only theoretical concepts but now we can apply this information to the mulch area index.”
Saha, a doctoral student in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, placed first in the graduate student research section for her work in weed science. The competition awards students with travel grants to attend the conference as well as scholarships.
In the future, Saha hopes to build upon this experiment to better understand weed-mulch interactions.
“Now that we understand how mulches affect growth, we want to understand why,” Saha said. “The next phase of this research will focus on how mulches keep weeds away, exploring what, how and why they effect each species.”
Saha began her studies in Gainesville and relocated to work as a graduate assistant at MREC in the summer of 2016. Since transferring, she has worked alongside Chris Marble, assistant professor of ornamental, landscape and invasive weed management. She has focused her research on understanding weed science and management for ornamental crop production in nurseries and landscapes.
“At the end of my program, I hope to have developed an entire guide on how different mulch types and depths impact weed growth for nursery growers,” Saha said.
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