Biochar boost for organic farming

Participants of the knowledge transfer programme known as ‘Biochar For Agricultural Sustainability’ organised by Universiti Malaya in Merryganic Farm, Cameron Highlands.

Universiti Malaya (UM) researchers organised a community-based knowledge transfer programme called “Biochar For Agricultural Sustainability” at Merryganic Farm in Cameron Highlands, Pahang.

The programme was aimed at helping organic farmers increase their vegetable yields.

“Biochar is the latest agricultural technology that is produced by burning agricultural waste in a controlled process known as pyrolysis,”said Rosazlin Abdullah, who is chief researcher at the Institute of Biological Sciences under UM’s Faculty of Science.

“Biochar increases the fertility of acidic soil, increases crop yields and protects against soil-borne diseases.

“Organically grown crops do not use chemical fertilisers. Therefore, organic matter is the main supplier of nutrients to crops,” she added.

The innovation of biochar as a microbial host for sustainable agriculture was introduced to the organic farmers by Aaron Avit Ajeng, who is pursuing a doctorate under Rosazlin’s supervision.

Aaron, who recently received the Rising Star Scientist award at an international conference in Langkawi, said the biochar innovation was based on good microbial reproduction for plants and soil in the biochar cavity space so that adhesion of bacterial biofilms occurred.

“Mature biofilms will release these bacteria immediately upon application into the soil and act to fertilise the soil, thus increasing yields.

“Biochar is suitable for use in challenging environments such as extreme temperatures and problematic soil because of the nature of this biofilm, which is resistant to environmental stress,” added Aaron.

Merryganic Farm operator Tan Teik Kiang said the UM programme was a great initiative as organic innovations shared could benefit farmers in terms of quality and volume of their crop yields.

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