Student researches alternative way to grow plants

FIU Environmental Studies student Nall Moonilall would like to see food and plants grown in a more environmentally sustainable way, and he’s doing something about it.

Moonilall is a senior agroecology student conducting research into the use of new compost materials made from the waste of insects reared for various scientific and agricultural purposes. He hopes to contribute to the growing body of knowledge about the potential applications of these materials in organic agriculture and growing ornamental plants.

“Much of the traditional methods we use for growing plants now have detrimental effects on the environment,” said Moonilall. “If we can find alternative ways to grow plants, we’re moving toward a more sustainable future for the environment.”

Senior agroecology student Nall Moonilall at FIU’s Organic Garden at Modesto A. Maidique Campus.

Moonilall has recently completed a year-long study into the recycling of insect-rearing waste and its use in compost for growing plants. After insects are grown, he explained, the insect colony waste is usually discarded, often in landfills. His research explores the use of this waste as an additive to plant-growing soil.

This research has broad implications, said Moonilall, since insect-rearing waste could join other by-products as more environmentally sensitive materials to make compost. “This could be used throughout the world,” he said. “We can look at different materials that could be used as a compost to grow plants in, such as landscaping waste, pruning waste, by-products from agricultural commodities such as rice and sugar cane, just to name a few.”

A Miami native, Moonilall volunteered at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden while at Coral Reef Senior High School. He is a recipient of a scholarship from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Multicultural Scholars Program, and he conducted his research at the USDA’s Subtropical Research Station. He has recently submitted a paper on his research to the American Society for Horticultural Science journal HortTechnology for possible publication.




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