News and knowhow for farmers

Charcoal dust improves farmer yields, saves cost & bolsters soils

Through mixing inorganic fertiliser and charcoal dust, farmers in Oyugis, Homa Bay County have been able to improve their crop yields, cut down on fertiliser use and bolster the long-term health of their soils.

According to agronomist David Winyo, charcoal dust serves as homemade biochar that provides potassium crucial for root development in crops. It also improves the soil’s moisture and nutrient retention capacity greatly raising its fertility. Through nitrogen immobilization, charcoal also reduces the weeding rate for farmers.

It also helps lighten the often low-density black cotton soils of Homa Bay encouraging better root growth.

“Previously, local coal traders would have no use for the accumulated charcoal dust. Through our efforts they now realise that it is just as valuable,” added Winyo who runs the Center of Agriculture & Integrated Innovation Technology based in Oyugis.

The charcoal is mixed in with chemical fertiliser at a 1:1 rate with a spoonful of the mixture being fed per hole during the planting of maize for example. Fertiliser alone is used during top dressing.

The diploma in general agriculture graduate who previously worked as a Field Officer for five years at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), responsible for bringing push-pull technology, points out that farmers are the best agri-scientists and with their adoption or rejection of any new technology they offer insights as to its effectiveness. “When I visit the homes of farmers we have been evangelising to I’ll see a mound of charcoal dust waiting to be used come planting time. Farmers also inform us that their crops are as lush green as they’ve ever been while their yields have only gotten better.”

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