Less popular farming methods could help farmers fight against climate change

New research from Ghana shows less popular methods of biochar application are more effective in promoting cowpea growth and yield. The article, "Method of biochar application affects growth, yield and nutrient uptake of cowpea" was published in the De Gruyter open access journal Open Agriculture.

Cowpea is widely cultivated in sub-Saharan Africa and in warm regions around the world. The crop is an important source of human food, livestock feed, and green manure, and generates income for smallholder farmers. It is valued for its ability to boost soil fertility by fixing nitrogen.

But West African farmers - under pressure from climate change, drought, pests, and low soil fertility - have struggled to optimize the yield of this valuable crop. Conventional mineral fertilizers remain expensive for smallholders and can cause soil degradation.

Biochar is a charcoal-like substance made by burning waste plant matter. Adding biochar to soil is a relatively new approach, which has been shown to improve crop yields in many ways. It can increase the soil's water-holding capacity, reduce acidity, increase nutrient supply and retention, and promote the growth of beneficial microbes. But to date, there has been little research into the best method of applying biochar to soils to optimize its benefits.

Scientists tested out the different methods of biochar application on fields at Ghana's CSIR-Soil Research Institute. They planted cowpea seeds in the site's sandy soil and tested out the broadcasting, spot, and ring methods of applying biochar, comparing them to a control.

The broadcasting method sees biochar spread uniformly across the surface and worked into the soil using a hoe. For the spot method, biochar is placed into a small hole and covered with soil. For the ring method, biochar is dug into the soil in a ring around the place where the seed is to be planted.

The research team confirmed that biochar improved plant height and girth, the number and weight of nitrogen-fixing nodules on the cowpea, pod number, shoot and seed yield as well as nitrogen and phosphorus uptake. The spot and ring methods significantly improved these various measures of crop success.

We've shown the traditional method of broadcast and incorporation to be less effective, whereas the spot and ring methods of biochar application show tremendous benefits for sustainable soil management. Smallholder farmers can now improve their livelihoods by focussing on spot and ring application of biochar for maximum benefit."

Edward Yeboah, Lead Researcher

The team hope to carry out research to explore the effect of different methods of biochar application on different soil types, and on the growth and yield of other crops, such as maize, cassava, and vegetables.

Journal reference:

Yeboah, E., et al. (2020) Method of biochar application affects growth, yield and nutrient uptake of cowpea. Open Agriculture. doi.org/10.1515/opag-2020-0040.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoLifeSciences.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
New Research Sheds Light on the Evolution of Skin Appendages