A group of researchers from the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences (CANS) have advocated the use of biochar in vegetable production.
Biochar is a charcoal product that is produced from plant matter and stored in the soil.
According to the researchers, biochar is widely known to improve water, reduce soil acidity and retain soil nutrients for plant and crop utilization. They made this known during a one-day Farmer Field Day held at the UCC Technology Village.
The ongoing research, led by Dr. Kwame Agyei Frimpong of the Department of Soil Science, is being funded by the Directorate of Research, Innovation and Consultancy (DRIC). The researchers noted that when farmers adopt biochar, deforestation would become a thing of the past.
Presenting partial findings of the research to some selected Small Holder Farmers, a member of the team, Dr. Martin Bosompem, said that the use of charcoal to improve soil fertility started in some parts of Brazil several years ago. He added that biochar could be created from a wide variety of feed stocks, including corn cobs, rice husk, cocoa husk, cow dung, poultry manure, saw dust, among others. He pointed out that residue of household charcoal could also be used for the production of biochar.
Consequently, he explained to the farmers that since biochar could be made from numerous feedstock and in different ways, its characteristics and impact on plant health could vary. He indicated that the effects of biochar on farmlands would be felt for many years and farmers could enjoy its immense benefits for a long time, stressing that “Biochar is cost effective as compared with the price of chemical fertilizer”. He took participants through the process of creating biochar and later took them to the farm at the Technology Village to show them crops with biochar application and crops without biochar.
However, it was observed that crops planted on the same day with biochar had grown better than those without biochar. He advised farmers to use safety tools such as nose masks, goggles, gloves, among others, when applying biochar on their farmlands.
The lead Researcher, Dr. Kwame Agyei Frimpong, said the aim of the research was to educate farmers on the need to maintain soil fertility with the use of biochar.
At the end of the research, Dr. Frimpong said the team hoped to find out the rate of biochar that would be applicable to different soils under different conditions and variety of crops. He said the team would also assist farmers on how they could produce biochar cheaply and apply them easily on their farmlands.
He called on farmers to take soil fertility seriously and seek professional guidance on fertilizer, compost and biochar applications. He appealed to them to form an association to champion their cause.
The participants also expressed gratitude to the research team for the eye opener and appealed for more education on how to preserve the land with biochar.