A research by scientists at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) has shown using charcoal to improve soil quality can quadruple productivity on maize farms.
According to one of the researchers Prof. Kwame Agyei Frimpong of the Department of Soil Science at UCC, adding a particular type of charcoal – biochar – to farming soils could substantially improve farmer profits.
Without irrigation, biochar increased yield from 1.5 tons per hectare to 2.5 tons per hectare while under irrigated conditions biochar increased yield to approximately 8 tons per hectares.
Biochar is a type of charcoal that can be used to improve soil fertility and ability to hold water. It is produced when plant and animal waste are subjected to a high amount of heat under limited access to oxygen.
“Our study has demonstrated that biochar application is a sustainable approach to increase maize yields. This also means that farmers’ income and livelihoods could be improved by using biochar,” Prof. Agyei Frimpong explained in a statement.
The research was conducted over a three-year period.
Maize is the most important cereal that feeds millions of people in Ghana but yields are very low due to declining soil fertility.
It is the main staple food crop of more than 300 million Africans. Maize occupies approximately 24% of farmland in Africa and the average yield stagnates at around 2 tons/hectare/year.
A conscious effort to quadruple the productivity on maize farms is likely to highly improve food security in Ghana.