Unconventional farming methods could help smallholders fight back against climate change

Credit: CC0 Public Domain New research from Ghana shows less popular methods of biochar application are more effective in promoting cowpea growth and yield. The article, "Method of biochar application affects growth, yield and nutrient uptake of cowpea" was published in the De Gruyter open access journal Open Agriculture. Cowpea is widely cultivated in sub-Saharan Africa and in warm regions around the world. The crop is an important source of human food, livestock feed , and green manure, and generates income for smallholder farmers . It is valued for its ability to boost soil fertility by fixing nitrogen. But West African farmers—under pressure from climate change, drought, pests, and low soil fertility —have struggled to optimize the yield of this valuable crop. Conventional mineral fertilizers remain expensive for smallholders and can cause soil degradation. Biochar is a charcoal-like substance made by burning waste plant matter. Adding biochar to soil is a relatively new approach, which has been shown to improve crop yields in many ways. It can increase the soil’s water-holding capacity, reduce acidity, increase nutrient supply and retention, and promote the growth of beneficial microbes. But to date, there has been little research into the best method of […]

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