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Research shows domestically produced biochar quadruples maize yield

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Findings from Sweden’s research university Lund, have shown that a single addition of domestically produced biochar increased crop yields over several seasons and years for Kenyan farmers.

On-farm trials in Kwale, maize yields increased from ten 90-kilogram bags per hectare to a whooping 49 bags a hectare.

At a location in Siaya, the addition of 2,800 kilograms of biochar resulted in an increase of ten 90 kilogram bags per hectare to 42.2 90 kg bags.

The research showed that microbes in biochar-enriched soils had fewer fungi when compared to regular soil without biochar. These fungi were also found to be better at searching for food in the soil. Biochar-enriched soils also had more single-celled organisms, protists, that enhance plant growth and improve plant health, than soil without biochar. 

Despite agriculture contributing to 22.4 per cent of Kenya’s GDP and being the main source of employment in the country, productivity, especially for cereals, remains low. 

The average production of maize in Kenya has stagnated at 1.7 tonnes per hectare (18.89 bags of 90 kilograms) below the world average of four tonnes under the same acreage

According to the researchers, the systematic application of biochar on small-scale farms— which constitute 75 per cent of Kenya’s total agricultural output– offers suitable opportunities to close yield gaps across Kenya and in similar agro-ecological environments. 

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