Republic of Poland

Biostrategist – money for innovative economy

April 6, 2017

BIOSTRATEGIST is a strategic programme of scientific research and development work in the area of natural environment, agriculture and forestry. Financed by the National Centre of Research and Development, it aims at improving Poland’s international position in science and transferring innovative solutions created within the project to the socio-economic environment. It is supposed to stimulate the growth of innovativeness and competitiveness of Polish economy through creating new products, techniques and technologies and preparing them for implementation. That is why not only scientists but also business entrepreneurs shall take part in each project.

In the recent qualification for the programme WUELS and its partners received positive evaluation and finance recommendation for five joint applications (out of all 16 which received the funding) – three from the Faculty of Environmental Engineering and Geodesy and two from the Faculty of Life Sciences and Technology. In all, over 50 million PLN have been allocated to our research.

Improving Reservoirs

Professor Mirosław Wiatkowski and professor Krzysztof Pulikowski from the Institute of Environmental Engineering have come up with a project idea called: “Innovative method of water quality improvement in multifunctional reservoirs”, which became the third best-assessed application (with the final grade only 0.6 point lower than the best one). Professor Wiatkowski is the science director of the project and the research team will be joined by professor Ryszard Polechoński from the Faculty of Biology and Animal Science.

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Prof. Mirosław Wiatkowski
/fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

– Pyrocat Catalyse World company is the project leader and WUELS – the science leader. The president of PCW himself looked for contacts with scientists and wanted to cooperate in the field of scientific and research projects. We met him over two years ago and that’s how our cooperation began. After a number of subject-related meetings and conversations about our targets we decided to prepare and submit the application. The company owns a water purification technology and brings in its own financial contribution indispensable in the project. We have knowledge and skills to effectively use, improve and implement this technology – says professor Wiatkowski.

The model reservoir in the project will be the Turawa Reservoir with the capacity of about 100 million m3, located in Opolskie voivodship and – as scientists admit – notorious for its extreme pollution and thus ideal for the research aims. As most reservoirs in Poland are in terrible condition, improvement of their quality will bring benefits to tourism and recreation (which seems to be the greatest opportunity for the commercialization of the invention) and water management. In order to achieve that, the scientists are planning to combine the efforts in the catchment, i.e. research and improve water in watercourses feeding the reservoir and the reservoir itself.

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Prof. Krzysztof Pulikowski
/fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

Professor Wiatkowski will research the water in the reservoir which will make it possible to compare the present quality of water, its quality during the work of the system and after its operation finishes. Professor Polechoński will examine the ecological state of the reservoir during the system’s operation and Professor Pulikowski will lead the efforts to create a method for the reservoir’s protection and revitalisation. The University of Opole and the Wrocław branch of the Institute of Technology and Life Sciences will also participate in project.

Precise fertilization and irrigation

Professor Grzegorz Janik form the Institute of Environmental Protection and Development will lead a project called: “Mobile system of precise injection system of irrigation and fertilization fulfilling individual needs of plants” which will be led by the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences.

– During plant irrigation pressure sprinklers and surface driplines cause significant water loss. Better efficiency may be obtained with the use of subsurface driplines, however in Polish conditions their use is, in most cases, not sufficiently justified. Our project aims at creating a mobile machine which will at the same time water and fertilize a plant by way of injection. Delivering as much water as is needed and exactly when it is needed, we will limit the loss caused by surface evaporation of water or its penetration into deeper soil layers that root systems cannot reach. And appropriate fertilization will minimize the threat of polluting surface waters, ground waters and soil itself – explains professor Janik who will be aided by, among others, doctoral students – Małgorzata Dawid and Amadeusz Walczak.

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Prof. Grzegorz Janik (z prawej) i doktoranci: Małgorzata Dawid i Amadeusz Walczak
/fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

The consortium carrying out the research will also consist of: Wrocław University of Technology, Institute of Agrophysics at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra and companies: Tomasz Kaniewski AGRO-TOM, Klaudiusz Matejka Farm, E-Test, Grupa Azoty Group. And, as professor Janik points out, the application would not have been submitted without the participation of any of the abovementioned partners.

The following members of the Faculty of Life Sciences and Technology will also take part in the project: professors Katarzyna Adamczewska-Sowińska, Józef Sowiński and Karol Wolski. Plants involved in the project will have to be such that are able to generate significant revenue e.g. vegetables, so that the use of the machine is simply profitable.

Innovative grain drying

Another project led by WUELS belongs to professor Leszek Romański from the Institute of Agricultural Engineering. It is called: “Creating an innovative method of air-cleaning in grain and seed dryers while limiting the amount of pollution”.

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Prof. Leszek Romański
/fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

– We’ll focus on rape and, above all, corn, as wheat is now dried less and less frequently. Depending on the region, weather and current humidity, corn is harvested between late September until the end of November or even the first days of December. Since grain moisture significantly exceeds 15%, it has to be dried as quickly as possible in order to prevent mold growth and grain spoilage. Because of considerable weight of the grain, drying is carried out in large dryers with an air stream directly heated with natural gas (drying medium). We want to build a dryer where the medium will be least polluted. – explains professor Romański. – Another issue is to decrease energy consumption of our drying process compared to other, already existing dryers. If we manage that, we may bring about the change in European Law concerning allowable pollution in the drying medium.

In the dryer designed jointly with our partners (Wrocław University of Technology, Lublin University of Life Sciences, Institute of Technology and Life Sciences and Expert Solutions company) and built probably in Research Farming Facility Swojec, gas will be used only to initiate the heating process. And as we decrease the amount of fossil fuel used for heating the drying air, pollution will decrease too.

Fighting herbicide-resistant weeds

Professor Danuta Parylak from the Department of Agroecosystems and Green Areas Management will lead the main task in the project: “Strategy for preventing herbicide-resistance of weeds as a significant factor of agroecosystem’s balanced development”.

– The phenomenon of weed resistance to herbicides is becoming increasingly common. Within the project we will deal with three ubiquitous species of weed: silky bent grass, field poppy and slender meadow foxtail. In order to prove their actual resistance to certain active substances we will use biotypes found in farming fields whose resistance we suspect and we will carry out biological tests with the use of different herbicides with different concentration. Next they will undergo molecular diagnostics in search of the resistance gene – explains professor Parylak. – We will examine features which make particular specimens difficult to remove from the field and we will also learn about the relationship between weeds and crops. Controlling condition of crops we can, without the use of chemicals, limit if not the presence of weeds, then at least their proliferation. We will also deal with the consequences of the existence of resistant biotypes and the economic side of limiting this phenomenon. Scientists will also carry out innovative tests with the use of herbicidal ionic liquids which are non-volatile and thus not dangerous for the environment and they allow the traditional herbicide to increase its activity which makes it possible to use smaller doses of the substance. The project will also involve many popularization efforts such as creating information materials and a website which will help farmers to identify resistant specimens. The research results are also likely to force an introduction of new legal regulations in the area of agricultural environment protection and, in particular, biodiversity of crop fields.

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Prof. Danuta Parylak
/fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

Professor Parylak will be assisted by dr hab. Roman Wacławowicz, dr Ewa Tendziagolska, dr Agnieszka Lejman as well as a doctoral student Elżbieta Pytlarz from the Department of Agroecosystems and Green Areas Management. The team also includes dr Magda Podlaska from the Department of Botany and Plant Ecology. Besides WUELS there are 13 partners taking part in the project: the leader – the Institute of Plant Protection – National Research Institute, the Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation – NRI, Poznań University of Technology, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Lublin and Poznań Universities of Life Sciences, University of Agriculture in Kraków, University of Science and Technology in Bydgoszcz, West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin, the Centre of Farming Consultancy and three phytopharmaceutical companies – BASF Poland, Bayer and Syngenta Poland.

Precise water management

The project “Technological innovations and system of monitoring, forecasting and operational planning of land improvement for precise water management in a drainage facility” is an overall topic consisting of 8 tasks carried out by 6 entities. They are: Institute of Technology and Life Sciences, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Geofabryka and Agrocom Poland. The project is led and coordinated by professor Leszek Łabędzki from The Institute of Life Sciences and Technology in Falenty. WUELS participates in two tasks of the project.

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Prof. Andrzej Żyromski
/fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

The task called: “Creating methods of ground monitoring and short-term agro-hydro-meteorological forecasting” will be led by professor Andrzej Żyromski from the Institute of Environmental Protection and Development. – It’s about optimal use of water for irrigations and, at the same time, catching all possible water that flows away unproductively in order to use it during, for example, a drought. And of course framing it in a simple model possible to use by farmers or communes – explains the coordinator who will do the research together with dr Małgorzata Biniak-Pieróg.

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Dr Małgorzata Biniak-Pieróg
/fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

The scientists from WUELS will create methods and a prototype of monitoring and agro-hydro-meteorological forecasting system. They will examine, among other things, soil moisturization, water resources in soil and plants’ use of water in several drainage facilities in three voivodships (Mazowiecke, Kujawsko-Pomorskie and Wielkopolskie) and the methods thus created will be verified by the Observatory of Agro- and Hydrometeorology of the Faculty of Environmental Engineering and Geodesy at WUELS. On the basis of the data short-term (up to 10 day) forecasts will be made which will enable us to plan irrigation and dehydration in the fields and increase the efficiency of water use. The forecasts will also reduce surface water pollution with nitrogen and phosphorus compounds.