Originally published at: http://humidtropics.cgiar.org/an-environmentally-friendly-innovation-turns-maize-residue-into-fertilizer-in-thailand/
Humidtropics researchers and partners from Chiang Mai University (CMU) and Chulalongkorn University (CU) in Northern Thailand are testing a more environmentally-friendly method to process maize residue. Driven by the Humidtropics Research for Development (R4D) Platform in Nan, Thailand, this initiative is part of a project aiming to improve natural resource management.
Researchers preparing for the trial with the biochar kiln. Photo by Wolfram Spreer/CMU.
Towards the end of the dry season, Northern Thailand was covered with thick smoke originating from fires all over the area and the neighbouring countries. The smoke is partially from forest fires, but also originates from burning of crop residues. Even though it is against the law in Thailand, many farmers practice burning, as they lack suitable alternatives to manage crop residues. In their opinion, fires help control pests and the remaining ash fertilizes the soil.
Dr Pimsiri Tiyayon from CU and I have been testing a biochar kiln in the field, which was designed by Stuart Boyd at Mae Jo University (Chiang Mai). It was shown that the production of biochar in such a kiln is an excellent way to avoid emissions and at the same time, the biochar produced is a better soil amendment than the ash that remains after uncontrolled burning. After mixing the biochar with compost or manure, it can be used as a valuable natural fertilizer.
Testing the biochar kiln is part of the Humidtropics R4D project Assessment of different opportunities for agricultural diversification in Nan. The project researches different strategies for agricultural diversification in an area dominated by maize mono-cropping. Strategies include the introduction of home gardens as an additional source of healthy diet, small-scale mushroom production of substrates from harvesting residues, and the introduction of vegetable and fruit tree inter-cropping to reduce erosion problems on the sloping lands of Nan.
Workshop participants selected suitable vegetables for their home gardens.
Also as part of this research project, a workshop on improved vegetable cropping was organized from March 26 to 29, 2015. Dr Greg Luther and Dr Mandy Lin, experts from the World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC), taught 33 farmers from different growers’ groups in Nan about vegetable crop selection, improved seedling production, and integrated pest management. Farmers were also trained in record keeping and the training was followed up by personalized interviews to assess the impact of the training activity.
Researchers of CMU, Mae Fa Luang University (in Chiang Rai) and CU’s Nan Campus are working together with local farmers on methods to improve rural livelihoods and make agricultural production sustainable.Blog by Wolfram Spreer, Agricultural Engineer, CMU. Blog edited by Mai Thanh Tu, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer, Humidtropics/ICRAF, Lisa Hiwasaki, Central Mekong Flagship Manager, Humidtropics/ICRAF, and Valérie Poiré, Communication Officer, Humidtropics.