Thematic Research Areas
Urban and Controlled-Environment Crop Production:
This is Dr. Saha's primary research area. He is interested to study the best management practices/BMPs (of fertilizer, water, soil) and organic production of vegetable, herb, and ornamental/landscape plants (Saha et al., 2005 and 2007). AT Georgia Southern University (GSU), he has conducted several undergraduate research projects on radish, tomato, onion, cabbage, medicinal plants, and pea cover crop. With the changing climatic patterns, water scarcity, and land degradation/shortages, he has developed an interest in alternative horticultural crop production systems such as Hydroponics and Aquaponics. These climate-smart soilless production systems require 80 – 90% less water compared to traditional agriculture and might be very timely and appropriate for the Virgin Islands. In Georgia, he conducted two different internally-funded controlled-environment studies comparing hydroponic and aquaponic production of lettuce cultivars, basil, sweet pepper, and parsley (Saha et al., 2016). He also conducted an externally-funded (Southern Company, 2017 – 2018) project on controlled-environment production of basil and lettuce comparing soil-based and hydroponic systems. Along with yield comparison, this study involved assessment of water requirement, plant growth & physiology, air quality, and energy & economic analyses.
Climate-smart Horticulture and Soil Carbon Management:
Soil carbon sequestration is a major strategy for soil quality improvement and climate change mitigation. Dr. Saha's doctoral dissertation focused on assessing the correlation between plant diversity & carbon stocking in tropical agroecosystems (Saha et al., 2009, and 2010). As a postdoctoral researcher, he was involved in an UNFCCC consultancy project on bioenergy crop cultivation & soil carbon stocking in degraded lands (Nair et al., 2011). As a visiting scientist, he studied soil carbon dynamics in Central European agroecosystems (Germany). He collaborated with CATIE, Costa Rica and under his supervision, a graduate student from GSU conducted a soil management study in tropical coffee agroforestry systems in Turrialba, Costa Rica. Soil carbon management is an important area of research, especially in small islands such as Virgin Islands, where soil quality & organic matter is often a limiting factor and the need for climate change mitigation is critical. A fairly new area of carbon management is a horticultural soil amendment ‘biochar’. Due to its water & nutrient-holding capacity and carbon sequestration potential, biochar has been recognized as a popular soil amendment for sustainable horticultural management. He has written grants and conducted several studies on biochar, one of which is effects of biochar on sunflower production, conducted by a graduate student under his supervision (Pfister and Saha, 2016). Despite the rising acceptance of biochar, there are several knowledge gaps in its applicability and efficacy for landscape management. He plans to investigate how effectively biochar can contribute to water conservation and increase the quality & productivity of marginal soils.
Dr. Saha's horticultural soil management research extends to landscape-level studies. As part of a Georgia Dept. of Transportation (GDOT) funded project (2016 – 2019), they tested the roadside production potential of switchgrass, sunflower, and big bluestem grass. They investigated the nutrient and water requirements, impacts on plant physiology (chlorophyll content and NDVI), plant vigor, soil carbon stocking, and overall economy of adopting these crops in urban and peri-urban landscapes. He is interested to continue my research to develop environmentally sound and economically feasible best management practices for diverse landscapes. This may include studying and developing the water-efficiency/low-water usage landscapes by using novel soil amendments and native landscape plants and by installing improved ecological interactions. He is interested in increased environmental sustainability and decreased resource usage (Baker and Saha, 2018). The water-efficient best management practices for the Virgin Islands region could be a very timely approach.
Integrated Farm Sustainability and Diversity:
While working on homegarden agroforestry systems during his Ph.D., Dr. Saha developed an interest in integrated farm diversity and management (Saha et al., 2011). Collaboratively (with UC Davis, CA and RKMVU, India), they studied the resource integration in smallholder farms for sustainable livelihoods (Goswami et al., 2016 and 2017). The lessons learned from the integrated small farms have great implications on the management of diversely planted landscape and farms in the Virgin Islands.