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Farmbiz awards biochar farmer as study shows burnt waste lifts yields 4x

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FarmbizAfrica this week awarded its biochar prize to Boniface Mwangi as new evidence shows that farmers can increase yields fourfold by burning waste farm material. 

The farmer based in Mwea, Kirinyaga County, was gifted Sh5,000 for making biochar by burning dried maize stalks from his previous harvest from the October to December rains.

A study in Embu, Kwale, and Siaya found that spreading homemade biochar led to an instant increase in maize yield of up to four times.

Biochar can be made by burning farm waste such as maize stalks and cobs, coffee husks, coconut shells, etc.

This biochar should be dug into at a depth of 6-12 inches with one kilogram of the charcoal waste being applied to every one-meter by one-meter portion of the farm.

Biochar has the added benefit of neutralising the soil’s pH allowing plants to take up more nutrients and saving farmers from expensive purchases of lime.

Boniface made his biochar by digging up a shallow pit on an unused portion of his two-acre farm, cutting the maize stalks into shorter pieces, and lighting the pile from the top. It is advised not to light the fire from the bottom as this creates a lot of smoke and reduces the quality of your biochar.

“It took about 50 minutes for the fire to burn through all the maize stalks as not all of them were well dried. We also set the fire at multiple points which created a lot of smoke. I’d advise farmers looking to make biochar to ensure that the material they are using is well-dried so that it can more easily burn through,” Mwangi said.

Despite it taking time, the material should be left to burn through.

Once everything was completely burnt and turned black he poured water over the remains. 

When everything was completely cold he mixed in dried rabbit manure which had been mixed with compost into the completely burnt maize stalks. Experts recommend a half-and-half mixture of the burnt remains and manure together with compost. To make the mix even better you can add old bones and broken pottery to improve it.

“I let it stay in the pit for a week then put it into my plot of maize and beans,” he said.

Ideally, farmers are advised to let the mixture sit for two weeks before digging it into the soil.

Biochar makes the soil rich and its effects last for thousands of years. In the Amazon in South America, soils that were added biochar over 2,000 years ago were found to still be highly fertile today, compared with very poor soils around them.

Read more:

Make Biochar, increase your yields 5X, and enter our Sh5,000 Biochar competition

Charcoal dust improves farmer yields, saves cost & bolsters soils

Research shows domestically produced biochar quadruples maize yield

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1 thought on “Farmbiz awards biochar farmer as study shows burnt waste lifts yields 4x”

  1. Great way to make biochar. Boniface makes it more difficult than it needs to be. Make a pile of maize stalks shoulder high. No need to cut the stalks. Light on top. Quench the embers with dirt or water when the fire gets low. Don’t let the embers burn to ash. Charge the biochar with manure or urine.

    Here is a video :

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