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Exploring the potential of biochar to help farmers and the environment in India

Rice paddy harvest in India (Bishnu Sarangi/Pixabay)
“We hope this research will realise the value of crop residues and result in better air quality, reduced degradation of soils, improved crop production and additional income to farmers”

An international research team featuring scientists from the James Hutton Institute is exploring the potential of biochar - a carbon-rich type of charcoal - to address air pollution, climate change, food security and farmers’ incomes in India.

The Asian nation is facing long-term soil degradation issues due to the increased use of chemical fertilisers for crop production, in detriment of the use of traditional fertilisers such as organic waste. At the same time, farmers routinely burn crop residues to clear their fields, which adds to growing air quality issues across Delhi and many parts of India and South Asia.

Dr Jagadeesh Yeluripati, a scientist based at the James Hutton Institute’s Information and Computational Sciences department in Aberdeen and part of the research team, said the main focus of the project is to assess the potential of biochar to improve farming systems in India, with positive consequences for air quality, reduced soil degradation and improved crop production.

“Around 500 mt of crop residues are produced every year across India, of which approximately 16% is burnt, resulting in increased air pollution. Using these residues to produce a biochar-based organic fertiliser could reduce the need to apply chemical fertilisers and burn crop residues.

“We hope this research will realise the value of crop residues and result in better air quality, reduced degradation of soils, improved crop production and additional income to farmers,” he said.

For farmers with limited financial resources, researchers propose the use of a low-cost cook-stove to use crop residues as a source of household energy and to produce their own organic fertiliser, for use on their field or sale to neighbours. This would represent a potential step on the ladder towards clean energy that is more affordable than gas stoves.

Funded by the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund, the project is led by India’s Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), with support from University of Aberdeen, Edinburgh University, Nanjing Agricultural University and the James Hutton Institute.

The Institute has been involved in several initiatives in India, including the launch of the Hydro Nation International Fellows Programme, research on the potential of nitrogen fixation to improve food security, the introduction of Scottish potato varieties to the country, the development of a low-cost wastewater treatment system for schools, and a collaboration which looks into the potential impact of zero-budget natural farming on food production.

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Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/exploring-potential-biochar-help-farmers-and-environment-india on 07/04/20 07:43:06 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.