The bridge between research and practice

Since January 2022, employees in the Agri Research & Development unit have been supporting projects along the product development chain, contributing to the further development of our core business. One of them: Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani

It's Friday, a day Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani works from home. She puts on her lab coat, prepares her notes, and examines the growth progress of sugar beets. For Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani, working from home means not the desk in her own apartment, but the greenhouse at the Institute of Applied Plant Nutrition (IAPN). The IAPN is a public-private partnership between the Georg-August University of Göttingen and K+S Minerals and Agriculture GmbH.

From Tehran to Northern Hesse

Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani grew up in Tehran. She completed her bachelor's degree in horticulture at the University of Tehran. She finally came to Germany in September 2014 for her master's degree in 'Crop Protection'.

"After my master's degree, I made the decision to do a doctorate; I really wanted to learn more," says Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani, with a smile. She applied to a doctoral program and was accepted. She completed her doctoral studies in 'Plant Nutrition and Plant Physiology' in the international doctoral program in agricultural sciences within 3.5 years, also at the Georg-August University of Göttingen.

Through the international master's program 'Crop Protection' at the Georg-August University of Göttingen, she already had contact with the IAPN. The path to K+S began through her doctorate, which was supported by K+S. As a postdoc, she got to know apl. Prof. Dr. Jóska Gerendás through joint projects, who recruited her for a position in his unit. Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani has now been working as a product developer at K+S for exactly one year. “Here at K+S, we work fantastically together as a team. It's a lot of fun for me and it helps me to advance professionally."

From the idea to the market launch

The young R&D Agri unit, headed by apl. Prof. Dr. Jóska Gerendás, bundles various functions. Together with her colleagues, Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani initializes, and coordinates R&D projects, deals with product and technology scouting, and prepares assessable proposals for product developments. For scouting, the team attends trade shows and conferences to expand their network. Their knowledge is supplemented by regular literature research. "We are a team of experts: Dr. Patrick Lawson, Dr. Sven Gönster-Jordan, and I are agronomists, but with different focuses. Gerlinde Minkel is our research coordinator and Thorsten Hanebut is responsible for field trials."

The topic of regulatory issues in fertilizer products is also covered. "Dr. Giuliana Beck is responsible for regulatory issues and association work. Monitoring legislative proposals can have an impact on the demand and profitability of certain products and thus on our future business," explains Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani.

The unit's work does not take place in isolation from the Agriculture customer segment. The responsible employees from R&D Agri and the CSA form a tandem. R&D Agri creates an evaluation basis so that decisions can be made in the CSA about further processing and market launch based on prototypes. "R&D Agri is part of the R&D department headed by Dr. Ludger Waldmann, which also includes the Analytics and Research Center in Unterbreizbach," adds Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani.

Collaboration with strong partners

The work of the experts pays strategic dividends in the expansion of the core business and the development of new business areas. The further development of the portfolio, the stronger expansion of liquid fertilization, but also the cooperation with strong partners are reflected in the projects.

"Our job is to address farmers' concerns before they arise through research and field trials." Another major field is carbon farming, which is managed by Dr. Sven Gönster-Jordan. "We are looking at measures to use remote sensing to verify and quantify CO2 sequestered in the soil and develop a standard for it. The vision would be that at some point we buy our required CO2 certificates from the farmers who also use our products."

Biostimulants research project
Biostimulants research project
Employee Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani
Employee Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani

Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani's current focus: water-soluble fertilizers and micronutrients. "Together with Dr. Patrick Lawson, I am working on improving foliar fertilizer efficacy through adjuvants. He has a lot of experience and can draw on a network of external partners." Adjuvants - adjuvants that boost efficacy - are usually originally developed for crop protection and therefore not necessarily suitable for mixing with salt-based fertilizers. "Based on various candidates, we are looking for the optimal adjuvants that retain their typical character even when they come into contact with salt."

Current field trials are taking place in Germany, France, and Turkey to test the effect in different environments and under varying field conditions. "Little by little, we're building a network of collaborators who do the field trials for us, and sometimes they send us the samples, or they do the in vitro measurements themselves and we get the results."

Promote collaboration

As a communicator between the IAPN and K+S, she promotes the transfer of knowledge into practice. Good cooperation between K+S and the IAPN is essential for Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani. The dialogue not only identifies new research fields, but also strengthens basic and application-oriented research in plant nutrition.

"At the moment, I am working on a project on biostimulants, among other things. We are investigating which biostimulants can be a useful supplement to our product portfolio in crops under drought stress." Biostimulants stimulate natural growth processes that increase nutrient uptake and efficiency and improve stress tolerance.

It's important to her to conduct the experiments with bachelor's or master's students whenever possible. "I like it when students understand what they have to do - when individuals learn something." Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani makes it a point to prepare the experimental results afterwards and share them with the researchers.

The biggest challenge for her: translating results into German. "German is my third language. For me, it is sometimes difficult to prepare my results so that everyone understands them."

In conclusion, Dr. Setareh Jamali Jaghdani says with a laugh, "I know how much better it is in the company. The insights into the market, as well as the contact with producers and farmers, are very exciting. You really have to love research to work in it for years."

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