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Give bokashi a chance April 3rd, 2022 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

I admit that I once took a dim view of bokashi, a hand-crafted organic fertilizer made from barnyard manure and some store-bought materials, like molasses, bran, yeast, or even yoghurt (recipes vary). It takes work to make it, because it has to be stirred every day or two. I once wrote about a bokashi factory I saw in Nepal that impressed me, because I thought it might be easier for busy farmers to buy bokashi, and skip all the work of mixing it.

But this past February I met an innovative farmer, Héctor Casa, in Tunicuchí, in the Andes of central Ecuador. Don Héctor does not have a lot of time or money, but he is able to use bokashi on his small, mixed farm of pigs, guinea pigs, potatoes and vegetables. He graciously took time off from his job in a plywood factory to let Marcella and Paul film him for a video on seed potatoes.

Don Héctor starts his bokashi by making compost from his animals’ manure. He adds soil, rice husks, rock phosphate, lime, molasses and whey. He also adds microorganisms: a water solution that includes a few handfuls of forest soil. For good measure he puts in some biol, a fermented, liquified manure which is also rich in beneficial germs.

I watched as don Héctor deftly stirred each ingredient one at a time into a pile, shoveling it all over again with each addition, thoroughly blending it. It’s hard work, but he makes it look easy. But when he turned over a large, plastic sheet, I realized he had a second pile, with about five tons of finished bokashi. I’ve rarely seen that much of the stuff in one place, because it is requires some patience to make, and some store-bought materials.

Don Héctor had made his five tons of bokashi over two weeks, shoveling it over thoroughly every day, but now his work was about to pay off. It was ready to take to the field, and he was pleased that his bokashi was more than fertilizer; it would also protect his crops from pests and diseases. He explained that the good microbes he cultured in the bokashi would help to control potato diseases. “The microorganisms eat the bad fungi. They eliminate them.”

Then don Héctor took us to see his potato crop, not a garden, but a commercial field of healthy potatoes. These are some of the few potatoes grown in an environmentally-friendly way in the whole of highland Ecuador, where chemical fertilizer is commonly used along with fungicides and insecticides.

Don Héctor does use bokashi to keep the soil fertile. But bokashi also acts as a fungicide of sorts, as it adds good microbes to the earth, which help to keep down soil-borne diseases.

Bokashi alone would not be enough to keep pests and diseases away. To manage the Andean potato weevil and the potato tuber moth, don Héctor hills up the potatoes. Three times per season he and his helpers heap soil up around the base of each potato plant. The third time, they pile the soil really high, just as the potatoes are flowering and the plants have reached their full height.

“The tuber moth lays its eggs at the base of the potato plant, and when the worms hatch, they move down into the potato,” don Héctor explains. “By hilling up lots of soil I make a barrier that protects the potatoes from the moths and its worms.” As an added advantage, the extra soil around each potato plant gives the tubers room to grow. They can’t develop unless they are blanketed in soft earth.

We visited don Héctor with Ecuadorian seed researcher Israel Navarrete, who was especially taken by rows of maize that Héctor had planted around his crop. Don Héctor said that the rows of corn formed a barrier that kept disease out of the potato crop. Israel called it positive deviance: “being odd, but in a good way.”

The idea may be odd, but it also seemed to be working. We saw that the neighboring fields were not doing as well as this healthy one. One neighbor sprayed insecticide on his potatoes, and the leaves were damaged by the potato tuber moth, while don Héctor’s crop had little visible insect damage. Other nearby potato plants were stunted by herbicides, where farmers tried to spray to avoid the work of weeding and hilling up their crop. Don Héctor’s organic potato plants were larger, and a healthy green.

I used to doubt the value of bokashi, because I saw it as fertilizer, expensive and tedious to make. But in reality, bokashi also acts as a fungicide, replenishing some of the good microorganisms that conventional agriculture kills. Innovative farmers combine bokashi with other techniques, like carefully hilling up the potatoes, and encircling them with a protective crop of maize. This integrated approach seems to be working, and is worthy of formal study by researchers.

Related Agro-Insight blog stories

The bokashi factory

Friendly germs

Encouraging microorganisms that improve the soil

Farmers know how to keep seed healthy

Soil for a living planet

Related videos

Good microbes for plants and soil

Healthier crops with good micro-organisms

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Ing. Victoria López (Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias—INIAP), and Ing. Nancy Panchi and Dr. Israel Navarrete (both of the International Potato Center—CIP) for introducing us to innovative potato farmers in Cotopaxi, Ecuador. Victoria, Israel and Paul Van Mele read a previous version and made valuable comments

BOKASHI ES MÁS QUE FERTILIZANTE

Jeff Bentley, 3 de abril del 2022

Yo antes veía con escepticismo al bokashi, un abono orgánico hecho a mano con estiércol y algunos materiales comprados en la tienda, como melaza, salvado, levadura o incluso yogurt (las recetas varían). También requiere trabajo, porque hay que removerlo cada día o dos. Una vez escribí sobre una fábrica de bokashi que vi en Nepal y que me impresionó, porque pensé que sería más fácil para los atareados agricultores comprar bokashi y evitar el trabajo de mezclarlo.

Pero el pasado febrero conocí a un agricultor innovador, Héctor Casa, en Tanicuchí, en los Andes centrales de Ecuador. Don Héctor no tiene mucho tiempo ni dinero, pero logra usar el bokashi en su pequeña granja mixta de cerdos, cuyes, papas y verduras. Él amablemente tomó un tiempo libre de su trabajo en una fábrica de madera para dejar que Marcella y Paul le filmaran para un video sobre la semilla de papa.

Don Héctor empieza su bokashi haciendo compost con el estiércol de sus animales. Añade suelo, cáscara de arroz, fosfato de roca, cal, melaza y suero. También añade microorganismos: una solución de agua con unos puñados de tierra del bosque. Además, agrega un poco de biol, un estiércol fermentado y licuado que también es rico en microbios beneficiosos.

Observé cómo don Héctor revolvía hábilmente cada ingrediente, de uno en uno, en un montón, removiéndolo todo de nuevo con cada adición, mezclándolo completamente. Es un trabajo duro, pero él lo hace parecer fácil. Me sorprendió que, al destapar un bulto que había tapado con un toldo de plástico, tenía unas cinco toneladas más de bokashi terminado. Rara vez he visto tanto, porque hacerlo requiere cierta paciencia y algunos materiales comprados en la tienda.

Don Héctor había hecho sus cinco toneladas de bokashi durante dos semanas, moviéndolo cada día, pero ahora su trabajo estaba a punto de dar sus frutos. Estaba listo para llevarlo al campo, y se alegró de que su bokashi fuera más que un fertilizante: también protegería sus cultivos de las plagas y enfermedades. Explicó que los microbios buenos que cultivó en el bokashi ayudarían a controlar las enfermedades de la papa. “Los microorganismos se comen los hongos malos. Los eliminan”.

Luego don Héctor nos llevó a ver su cultivo de papas, no un huerto, sino un campo comercial de papas sanas. Estas son algunas de las pocas papas que se cultivan de manera amigable con la naturaleza en todo el altiplano ecuatoriano, donde suelen usar fertilizantes químicos junto con fungicidas e insecticidas.

Don Héctor sí usa el bokashi para mantener la fertilidad del suelo. Pero el bokashi también actúa como una especie de fungicida, ya que añade microbios buenos a la tierra, que ayudan a evitar las enfermedades transmitidas por el suelo.

El bokashi solito no es suficiente para evitar las plagas y enfermedades. Para controlar el gorgojo de los Andes y la polilla de la papa, don Héctor aporca las papas. Tres veces por campaña, él y sus ayudantes aporcan suelo alrededor de la base de cada planta de papa. La tercera vez, amontonan la tierra muy alta, justo cuando las papas están floreciendo y las plantas han alcanzado su máxima altura.

“La polilla de la papa pone sus huevos en la base de la planta de la papa, y cuando los gusanos nacen del huevo, bajan a la papa”, explica don Héctor. “Al poner mucha tierra hago una barrera que protege a las papas de la polilla y sus gusanos”. Como ventaja adicional, la tierra extra alrededor de cada planta de papa da a los tubérculos espacio para crecer. No pueden desarrollarse si no están cubiertos de tierra blanda.

Visitamos a don Héctor con el investigador ecuatoriano en semillas Israel Navarrete, a quien le llamaron especialmente la atención las hileras de maíz que Héctor había plantado alrededor de su cultivo. Don Héctor dijo que las hileras de maíz formaban una barrera que mantenía las enfermedades fuera del cultivo de papas. Israel lo llamó desviación positiva: “ser raro, pero en el buen sentido”.

La idea podría parecer extraña, pero por lo visto, funcionaba. Vimos que a los campos vecinos no les iba tan bien como a este sano. Un vecino fumigó sus papas con insecticida y las hojas fueron dañadas por la polilla de la papa, a diferencia del cultivo de don Héctor. Otras plantas de papa cercanas están marchitadas por los herbicidas, donde los agricultores intentaron fumigar para evitar el trabajo de deshierbar y aporcar su cultivo. A cambio las plantas de don Héctor eran grandes y un verde exuberante.

Yo antes dudaba del valor del bokashi, porque lo veía como un fertilizante, que costaba trabajo y dinero. Pero en realidad, el bokashi también actúa como fungicida, reponiendo algunos de los microorganismos buenos que la agricultura convencional mata. Los agricultores innovadores combinan el bokashi con otras técnicas, como aporcar cuidadosamente las papas y rodearlas de un cultivo protector de maíz. Este enfoque integrado parece funcionar, y merece ser estudiado formalmente por los investigadores.

También del blog de Agro-Insight

The bokashi factory

Microbios amigables

Fomentando microorganismos que mejoran el suelo

Manteniendo la semilla sana en Ecuador

Soil for a living planet

Videos de interés

Buenos microbios para plantas y suelo

Healthier crops with good micro-organisms

Agradecimientos

Gracias a la Ing. Victoria López (Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias-INIAP), y a la Ing. Nancy Panchi y al Dr. Israel Navarrete (ambos del Centro Internacional de la Papa-CIP) por presentarnos a los innovadores productores de papa de Cotopaxi, Ecuador. Victoria, Israel y Paul Van Mele leyeron una versión previa e hicieron comentarios valiosos.

 

Farmers without borders February 6th, 2022 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

Blanca Chancusig is a dynamic woman who manages a diverse farm in the village of Yugshiloma, in Cotopaxi province, at 2,800 meters above sea level in the Ecuadorean Andes. As we film doña Blanca for a farmer-to-farmer training video, she talks about all the benefits of living hedgerows and flowering plants, which she uses not just for medicine and to feed her guinea pigs, rabbits, her two cows and a pig, but also to attract beneficial insects that pollinate and protect her crops.

Winding up our visit, Jeff and I tell Blanca that the video in which she will feature will be ready in a few months. On the ballpoint pen that we give her we point to the Access Agriculture website address, where she can find over a hundred different training videos in Spanish.

“Also on biofertilizer and good microbes,” she replies. I interpret it as a question, but soon find out that it actually was a statement. She guides me to a little shed behind her house from where she brings out a plastic drum. As she opens the lid, I see she has prepared liquid biofertilizer.

“We learned a lot through the video on good microbes for the soil and the plants. It is very easy to do and not very costly. The only thing that is hard for me to get is broad bean flour, only that. Everything else I have at home,” Blanca says.

Two years ago, Diego Mina and his wife Mayra Coro, our local collaborators from IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) who manage the AMIGO project on agroecology, showed several women’s groups a video on good microbes that was made with farmers in India (and which was translated into Spanish). The women liked the video so much that Diego sent them a copy of it through their WhatsApp group.

In a follow up visit, Diego and Mayra decided to organize a live demonstration on how to make the mix of good microbes, with cow urine and raw sugar and other locally available ingredients, which the women provided. While the video shows chickpea flour as one of the ingredients, Diego and Mayra bought broad bean flour to use instead of chickpea flour, which is not available in Ecuador. The broad bean is a pulse which many of the women grow at this high altitude.

A year after the demonstration, at least some of the women are still experimenting with this new technology, which they learned through the video from fellow farmers in India. With a big smile on her face, Blanca tells me that she already tried it once on her maize and lupine crop, and that the results were good, so this planting season she has again prepared another 10 litres to try on her field for a second year.

Unlike what most researchers and extensionists think, smallholder farmers deeply appreciate learning from fellow farmers, even if they are thousands of kilometres away, on other continents, especially if the technologies work well, are easy to apply, and cost little money.

Related Agro-Insight blogs

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Trying it yourself

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Encouraging microorganisms that improve the soil

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Translate to innovate

Acknowledgements

The visit to Ecuador to film various farmer-to-farmer training videos with farmers like Blanca, as well as the video translations into Spanish, were made possible with the kind support of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) of the McKnight Foundation.

Videos on how to improve the soil

See the many training videos on soil management hosted on the Access Agriculture video platform.

 

Boeren zonder Grenzen

Blanca Chancusig is een dynamische vrouw die een diverse boerderij beheert in het dorp Yugshiloma, in de provincie Cotopaxi, op 2.800 meter boven de zeespiegel in de Ecuadoraanse Andes. Terwijl we doña Blanca filmen voor een ‘boer-tot-boer’ trainingsvideo, vertelt ze over alle voordelen van houtkanten rond haar veld en bloeiende planten, die ze niet alleen gebruikt voor medicijnen en om haar cavia’s, konijnen, haar twee koeien en een varken te voeden, maar ook om nuttige insecten aan te trekken die haar gewassen bestuiven en beschermen.

Ter afsluiting van ons bezoek vertellen Jeff en ik Blanca dat de video waarin zij te zien zal zijn, over een paar maanden klaar zal zijn. Op de balpen die we haar geven wijzen we naar het adres van de website van Access Agriculture, waar ze meer dan honderd verschillende trainingsvideo’s in het Spaans kan vinden.

“Ook over bio-meststoffen en goede microben,” antwoordt ze. Ik interpreteer het als een vraag, maar kom er al snel achter dat het eigenlijk een constatering was. Ze leidt me naar een schuurtje achter haar huis van waaruit ze een plastic vat tevoorschijn haalt. Als ze het deksel opent, zie ik dat ze vloeibare bio-meststof heeft klaargemaakt.

“We hebben veel geleerd via de video over goede microben voor de bodem en de planten. Het is heel gemakkelijk te doen en niet erg duur. Het enige waar ik moeilijk aan kan komen is tuinbonenmeel, alleen dat. Al het andere heb ik thuis,” zegt Blanca.

Twee jaar geleden hebben Diego Mina en zijn echtgenote Mayra Coro, onze plaatselijke medewerkers van het IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) die het AMIGO-project over agro-ecologie beheren, aan verschillende vrouwengroepen een video over goede microben getoond die met boeren in India was gemaakt (en die in het Spaans werd vertaald). De vrouwen vonden de video zo goed dat Diego hen er een kopie van stuurde via hun WhatsApp-groep.

In een vervolgbezoek besloten Diego en Mayra een demonstratie te organiseren over hoe de mix van goede microben gemaakt kan worden, met koeienurine en ruwe suiker en andere lokaal beschikbare ingrediënten, die de vrouwen ter beschikking stelden. Hoewel op de video kikkererwtenmeel als een van de ingrediënten wordt getoond, kochten Diego en Mayra tuinbonenmeel om te gebruiken in plaats van kikkererwtenmeel, dat niet verkrijgbaar is in Ecuador. De tuinboon is een peulvrucht die veel van de vrouwen op deze grote hoogte verbouwen.

Een jaar na de demonstratie experimenteren ten minste sommige vrouwen nog steeds met deze nieuwe technologie, die zij via de video hebben geleerd van collega-boeren in India. Met een grote glimlach op haar gezicht vertelt Blanca me dat ze het al een keer heeft uitgeprobeerd op haar maïs- en lupinegewas, en dat de resultaten goed waren, dus dit plantseizoen heeft ze weer 10 liter klaargemaakt om het een tweede jaar op haar akker te proberen.

In tegenstelling tot wat de meeste onderzoekers en landbouwvoorlichters denken, stellen kleine boeren het zeer op prijs om te leren van collega-boeren, zelfs als die duizenden kilometers ver weg zijn, op andere continenten, vooral als de technologieën goed werken, gemakkelijk toe te passen zijn, en weinig geld kosten.

Capturing carbon in our soils December 12th, 2021 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

Participants at the recent climate summit in Glasgow (COP26) spent considerable energy discussing about ways to further reduce carbon emissions and improve regulation of carbon markets. For the first time in history, fossil fuels have been officially recognised as the main cause of heating our planet. While investments in renewable energy have been long overdue, agriculture continues to be a net polluter and contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Yet, with some relatively modest investment agriculture could even become a net absorber of GHGs.

Few people realise that more carbon can be captured by soils than what is stored in the wood of trees. So, paying attention to what we do with our soils is as important as protecting our forests.

A high level of organic matter is the main indicator of soil health, determining the level of resilience of farms to cope with the effects of disruption in the climate. Carbon-rich soils are essential to secure future food production, because carbon feeds soil microorganisms and helps soils to retain water and nutrients, which are all essential for growing plants.

Adding compost to soils is one common way of enriching the soil with carbon. When plants die and decompose, the living organisms of the soil, such as bacteria, fungi or earthworms, transform the plants into forms of organic matter that the earth can absorb. But also living plants transfer lots of carbon from the air to the soil in a remarkable way. In the daytime, plants absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air through the pores of their leaves. During photosynthesis, plants use water and sunlight to turn the carbon into leaves, stems, seeds and roots. However, as one third of the CO2 captured is released as sugars by plant roots to the soil, one may wonder why the plants are “leaking”.

Plants, like all living creatures, cannot live in isolation; they need others to survive. The liquid sugars released by plant roots are part of a symbiotic relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and 90% of all plants, an arrangement that has developed over the past 420 million years. In fact, plants cannot survive without these soil fungi and vice versa.

Mycorrhizal fungi cannot live without a host plant and, in exchange for the plant’s sugar, the fungi will absorb and transport nutrients and water back to its host.  For every cubic meter of soil, these fungi will send out as much as 20,000 km of fungal threads, also called hyphae, so that they infiltrate every area of soil.  Fungi can access nutrients and water unavailable to the larger plant roots.

Fungi can also use their acids to release nutrients from soils and even rocks — transforming rock minerals into formats that the plant can use. The complexity of interactions between plants and soil organisms goes even further. Certain nutrients can only be extracted from soils by bacteria and fungi will exchange sugar for the nutrients requested by the plant in a complex symbiotic exchange.

Studies have shown that soils under mature, perennial crops contain more available nutrients than soils treated with agricultural chemicals, which kill soil microbes, resulting in the net loss of soil carbon. Policies that promote agroecology, regenerative farming and organic agriculture are therefore directly contributing to soil carbon sequestration and hence help to fight against climate change. But more can be done.

It has long been thought that most of the soil carbon was contained in the top 30 centimetres of the soil in the form of the organic matter in humus. In 1996, Dr. Sara Wright discovered in the USA that soils contain large amounts of carbon up to more than a meter deep. Carbon is stored in the form of glomalin, a highly persistent protein produced by mycorrhizal fungi. As the mycorrhizal fungi go deeper into the soil to mine nutrients and water for the plant, they deposit more and more carbon in the form of glomalin. The more mature this relationship is between plant and microbe the more volume of soil is accessed on behalf of the plant and the better the crop will produce and be able to cope with harsh weather conditions.

Ploughing destroys soil organic matter by oxidation and releases much of the carbon stored in the top soil as CO2, which finds its way to the atmosphere. Ploughing also depletes the micro-organisms in the soil. Reduced tillage and ensuring more permanent soil coverage by plants is therefore crucial to build up a healthy soil life and keep carbon stored in the soil.

Permanent pasture soils with healthy microbial life have been increasing the amount of carbon that they sequester beneath the grasses each year. Practices such as agroforestry and establishing field hedges are other low-cost strategies that can help turn the tide of our warming planet.

In fact, an annual increase of soil organic carbon by 0.4% would neutralise the human-caused emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere. This scientific insight was at the basis of the “4 per 1000” initiative to which many governments, research institutes, civil society and companies already subscribed during the climate summit in Paris in 2015. While the European Green Deal has set a target to be climate-neutral by 2050, the increasing natural calamities we witness year after year shows us that we have no more time to lose.

Illustration credit

Mycorrhiza by Nefronus, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80931388

Read more

The Liquid Carbon Pathway (LCP): http://www.carbon-drawdown.com/liquid-carbon-pathway.html

The 4 per 1000 Initiative: https://www.4p1000.org/

Related Agro-Insight blogs

Community and microbes

Experiments with trees

From Uniformity to Diversity

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Inspiring knowledge platforms

Access Agriculture: https://www.accessagriculture.org is a specialised video platform with freely downloadable farmer training videos on ecological farming with a focus on the Global South.

EcoAgtube: https://www.ecoagtube.org is the alternative to Youtube where anyone from across the globe can upload their own videos related to ecological farming and circular economy.

 

Koolstof vastleggen in onze bodem

Deelnemers aan de recente klimaattop in Glasgow (COP26) besteedden veel energie aan het bespreken van manieren om de koolstofemissies verder te verminderen en de regulering van koolstofmarkten te verbeteren. Voor het eerst in de geschiedenis zijn fossiele brandstoffen officieel erkend als de belangrijkste oorzaak van de opwarming van onze planeet. Hoewel investeringen in hernieuwbare energie al lang op zich lieten wachten, blijft de landbouw een netto vervuiler en bijdrager aan de uitstoot van broeikasgassen (BKG). Maar met relatief bescheiden investeringen zou de landbouw zelfs een netto absorbeerder van broeikasgassen kunnen worden.

Weinig mensen realiseren zich dat er meer koolstof door de bodem kan worden vastgelegd dan er in het hout van bomen wordt opgeslagen. Aandacht besteden aan wat we met onze bodem doen, is dus net zo belangrijk als het beschermen van onze bossen.

Een hoog gehalte aan organische stof is de belangrijkste indicator voor de gezondheid van de bodem en bepaalt de mate van veerkracht van bedrijven om de effecten van verstoringen in het klimaat het hoofd te bieden. Koolstofrijke bodems zijn essentieel om de toekomstige voedselproductie veilig te stellen, omdat koolstof de bodemmicro-organismen voedt en de bodem helpt om water en voedingsstoffen vast te houden, die allemaal essentieel zijn voor het kweken van planten.

Het toevoegen van compost aan de bodem is een veelgebruikte manier om de bodem met koolstof te verrijken. Wanneer planten afsterven en uiteenvallen, transformeren de levende organismen van de bodem, zoals bacteriën, schimmels en regenwormen, ze in vormen van organisch materiaal dat de aarde kan opnemen. Maar ook levende planten brengen op opmerkelijke wijze veel koolstof uit de lucht naar de bodem. Overdag nemen planten koolstofdioxide (CO2) op uit de lucht via de poriën van hun bladeren. Tijdens de fotosynthese gebruiken planten water en zonlicht om de koolstof om te zetten in bladeren, stengels en wortels. Echter, aangezien een derde van de opgevangen CO2 als suikers door plantenwortels aan de bodem wordt afgegeven, kan men zich afvragen waarom de planten “lekken”.

Planten, zoals alle levende wezens, kunnen niet geïsoleerd leven; ze hebben anderen nodig om te overleven. De vloeibare suikers die door plantenwortels vrijkomen, maken deel uit van een symbiotische relatie tussen mycorrhiza-schimmels en 90% van alle planten, een arrangement dat zich in de afgelopen 420 miljoen jaar heeft ontwikkeld. Sterker nog, planten kunnen niet zonder deze bodemschimmels en vice versa.

Mycorrhiza-schimmels kunnen niet leven zonder een waardplant en in ruil voor de suiker van de plant zullen de schimmels voedingsstoffen en water opnemen en terugvoeren naar de gastheer. Voor elke kubieke meter grond sturen deze schimmels maar liefst 20.000 km schimmeldraden, ook wel hyfen genoemd, uit, zodat ze in elk gebied van de bodem infiltreren. Schimmels hebben toegang tot voedingsstoffen en water die niet beschikbaar zijn voor de grotere plantenwortels.

Schimmels kunnen hun zuren ook gebruiken om voedingsstoffen uit de bodem en zelfs uit rotsen vrij te maken, waardoor gesteentemineralen worden omgezet in nutrienten die de plant kan gebruiken. De complexiteit van interacties tussen planten en bodemorganismen gaat nog verder. Bepaalde voedingsstoffen kunnen alleen door bacteriën uit de bodem worden gehaald en schimmels wisselen suiker uit voor de voedingsstoffen die de plant nodig heeft in een complexe symbiotische uitwisseling.

Studies hebben aangetoond dat bodems onder volgroeide, meerjarige gewassen meer beschikbare voedingsstoffen bevatten dan bodems die zijn behandeld met landbouwchemicaliën, die bodemmicroben doden, wat resulteert in het netto verlies van bodemkoolstof. Beleid dat agro-ecologie, regeneratieve landbouw en biologische landbouw bevordert, draagt ​​daarom rechtstreeks bij aan de vastlegging van koolstof in de bodem en helpt zo de klimaatverandering tegen te gaan. Maar er kan meer gedaan worden.

Lange tijd werd gedacht dat de meeste bodemkoolstof zich in de bovenste 30 centimeter van de bodem bevond in de vorm van de organische stof in humus. In 1996 ontdekte Dr. Sara Wright in de VS dat bodems grote hoeveelheden koolstof bevatten tot meer dan een meter diep. Koolstof wordt opgeslagen in de vorm van glomaline, een zeer persistent eiwit dat wordt geproduceerd door mycorrhiza-schimmels. Naarmate de mycorrhiza-schimmels dieper de grond in gaan om voedingsstoffen en water voor de plant te ontginnen, zetten ze steeds meer koolstof af in de vorm van glomaline. Hoe volwassener deze relatie tussen plant en microbe is, hoe meer grond er voor de plant wordt aangesproken en hoe beter het gewas zal produceren en bestand is tegen barre weersomstandigheden.

Ploegen vernietigt organisch bodemmateriaal door oxidatie en geeft veel van de koolstof die in de bovenste bodem is opgeslagen vrij als CO2, dat zijn weg naar de atmosfeer vindt. Ploegen put ook de micro-organismen in de bodem uit. Minder grondbewerking en zorgen voor een meer permanente bodembedekking door planten is daarom cruciaal om een ​​gezond bodemleven op te bouwen en koolstof in de bodem vast te houden.

Bodems van blijvend grasland met gezond microbieel leven verhogen de hoeveelheid koolstof die ze elk jaar onder de grassen vastleggen. Praktijken zoals agroforestry en het aanleggen van heggen en houtkanten zijn andere goedkope strategieën die kunnen helpen het tij van onze opwarmende planeet te keren.

In feite zou een jaarlijkse toename van de organische koolstof in de bodem met 0,4% de door de mens veroorzaakte uitstoot van CO2 in de atmosfeer kunnen neutraliseren. Dit wetenschappelijke inzicht lag aan de basis van het “4 per 1000”-initiatief waar veel overheden, onderzoeksinstituten, het maatschappelijk middenveld en bedrijven al op intekenden tijdens de klimaattop in Parijs in 2015. Terwijl de Europese Green Deal een doelstelling heeft klimaat-neutraal te zijn tegen 2050, laten de toenemende natuurrampen waar we jaar na jaar getuige van zijn, ons zien dat we geen tijd meer te verliezen hebben.

Community and microbes December 5th, 2021 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

“In grad school they taught us budding plant pathologists that the objective of agriculture was to ’feed the plants and kill the bugs,” my old friend Steve Sherwood explained to me on a visit to his family farm near Quito, Ecuador. “But we should have been feeding the microbes in the soil, so they could take care of the plants,”

When Steve and his wife, Myriam Paredes, bought their five-hectare farm, Granja Urkuwayku, in 2000, it was a moonscape on the flanks of the highly eroded Ilaló Volcano. The trees had been burned for charcoal and the soil had been stripped down to the bedrock, a hardened volcanic ash locally called cangahua that looked and felt like concrete. A deep erosion gulley was gouging a wound through the middle of the farm. It was a fixer-upper, which was why Steve and Myriam could afford it.

Now, twenty years later, the land is covered in rich, black soil, with green vegetable beds surrounded by fruit trees and native vegetation.

The first step to this rebirth was to take a tractor to the cangahua, to break up the bedrock so that water and compost could penetrate it. This was the only time Steve plowed the farm.

To build the broken stone into soil, Steve and Myriam added manure, much of it coming from some 100 chickens and 300 guinea pigs – what they describe as the “sparkplugs of the farm’s biological motor.”

By 2015, Urkuwayku seemed to be doing well. The farm has attracted over 300 partners, families that regularly buy a produce basket from the farm, plus extras like bread, eggs, mushrooms, honey, and firewood, in total bringing in about $1,000 a week. Besides their four family members, the farm also employs four people from the neighborhood, bringing in enough money to pay for itself, so Steve and Myriam don’t have to subsidize the farm with their salaries, from teaching. The nasty gulley is now filled in with grass-covered soil, backed up behind erosion dams. Runoff water collects into a 500,000-liter pond, used to irrigate the crops during the dry season.

But in 2015 Myriam and Steve tested the soil and were surprised to see that it was slowly losing its fertility.

They think that the problem was too much tillage and not enough soil cover. Hoeing manure into the vegetable beds was breaking down the soil structure and drying out the beds, killing the beneficial fungi. As Steve explains, “the fungi are largely responsible for building soil particles through their mycelia and sweat, also known as glomalin, a carbon-rich glue that is important for mitigating climate change.” The glomalin help to remove carbon from the air, and store it in the soil.

Then Steve befriended the administrator of a local plywood factory. The mill had collected a mountain of bark that the owner couldn’t get rid of. Steve volunteered to take it off their hands. The two top advantages of peri-urban farming are greater access to customers, and some remarkable sources of organic matter.

So the plywood factory started sending Steve dump-truck loads of bark (mostly eucalyptus). To get the microbes to decompose the bark, Steve composts sawdust with some organic matter from the floor of a local native forest. The microbe-rich sawdust is then mixed with the bark and carefully spread in deep layers between the rows of vegetables, which were now tilled as little as possible. The vegetables are planted in trays, and then transplanted to the open beds.

No matter how much bark and sawdust Steve and his team lay down, the soil always absorbs it. The soil seems to eat the bark, just as in a forest. The soil microbes thrive on the bark to create living structures, like mycelia: fungal threads that reach all the way through the vegetable beds, in between the bark-filled paths. Steve and Myriam have learned that the microbes have a symbiotic relationship with plants; microbes help a plant’s roots find moisture and nutrients, and in turn, the plant gives about a third of all of its energy from photosynthesis back to the microbes.

Myriam and Steve have seen that as the soil becomes healthier, their crops have fewer problems from insect pests and diseases. In large part, this is because of the successful marriage between plants and the ever-growing population of soil microbes. Urkuwayku is greener every year. It produces enough to feed a family and employ four people, while regularly supplying 300 families with top-notch vegetables, fruits, and other produce. A community of consumers supports the farm with income, while a community of microorganisms builds the soil and feeds the plants.

Previous Agro-Insight blog stories

Reviving soils

A revolution for our soil

Enlightened agroecology, about Pacho Gangotena, ecological farmer in Ecuador who influenced Steve and Myriam

The guinea pig solution

Living Soil: A film review

Dung talk

A market to nurture local food culture

Experiments with trees

Related training videos on the Access Agriculture platform

Good microbes for plants and soil

Turning fish waste into fertiliser

Organic biofertilizer in liquid and solid form

Mulch for a better soil and crop

COMUNIDAD Y MICROBIOS

“En la escuela de posgrado nos enseñaron a los futuros fitopatólogos que el objetivo de la agricultura era ‘alimentar a las plantas y matar a los bichos’”, me explicó mi viejo amigo Steve Sherwood durante una visita a su granja familiar cerca de Quito, Ecuador. “Pero deberíamos haber alimentado a los microbios del suelo, para que ellos cuidaran a las plantas”.

Cuando Steve y su esposa, Myriam Paredes, compraron su finca de cinco hectáreas, Granja Urkuwayku, en el año 2000, era un paisaje lunar en las faldas del erosionado volcán Ilaló. Los árboles habían sido quemados para hacer carbón y del suelo no quedaba más que la roca madre, una dura ceniza volcánica llamada “cangahua” que parecía hormigón. Una profunda cárcava erosionaba un gran hueco en el centro de la granja. La propiedad necesitaba mucho trabajo, y por eso Steve y Myriam podían acceder a comprarla.

Ahora, veinte años después, el terreno está cubierto de una rica tierra negra, con camellones verdes rodeados de árboles frutales y nativos.

El primer paso de este renacimiento fue meter un tractor a la cangahua, para romper la roca para que el agua y el abono pudieran penetrarla. Esta fue la única vez que Steve aró la finca.

Para convertir la piedra rota en suelo, Steve y Myriam añadieron estiércol; mucho venía de unas 100 gallinas y 300 cuyes, lo que la pareja describe como las “bujías del motor biológico de la granja.”

En 2015, Urkuwayku parecía ir bien. La granja ha atraído a más de 300 socios, familias que compran regularmente una canasta de productos de la granja, además de extras como pan, huevos, champiñones, miel y leña, en total aportando unos 1.000 dólares a la semana. Además de los cuatro miembros de su familia, la granja también da trabajo a cuatro personas locales. Ya que los ingresos a la granja pagan sus gastos, Steve y Myriam no tienen que subvencionarla con los sueldos que ganan como docentes. Barreras de conservación han llenado el barranco con tierra, ahora cubierta de pasto. El agua de escorrentía se acumula en un estanque de 500.000 litros, usado para regar los cultivos durante la época seca.

Pero en 2015 Myriam y Steve analizaron el suelo y se sorprendieron al ver que lentamente perdía su fertilidad.

Creen que el problema era el exceso de labranza y la falta de cobertura del suelo. La introducción de estiércol en los camellones hortalizas estaba rompiendo la estructura del suelo y secando el suelo, matando los hongos beneficiosos. Como explica Steve, “los hongos se encargan en gran medida de construir las partículas del suelo a través de sus micelios y su sudor, también conocido como glomalina, un pegamento rico en carbono que es importante para mitigar el cambio climático”. La glomalina ayuda a eliminar el carbono del aire y a almacenarlo en el suelo.

Entonces Steve se hizo amigo del administrador de una fábrica local de madera contrachapada (plywood). La fábrica había acumulado un montonazo de corteza y el dueño no sabía cómo deshacerse de ello. Steve se ofreció a quitárselo de encima. Las dos grandes ventajas de la agricultura periurbana son un mayor acceso a los clientes y algunas fuentes fabulosas de materia orgánica.

Así que la fábrica de contrachapados empezó a enviar a Steve volquetadas de corteza (sobre todo de eucalipto). Para hacer que los microbios descompongan la corteza, primero Steve descompone aserrín con un poco de materia orgánica del suelo de un bosque nativo local. Luego, el aserrín rico en microbios se mezcla con la corteza y se esparce cuidadosamente en capas profundas entre los camellones de hortalizas, donde ahora se mueve el suelo lo menos posible. Las hortalizas se siembran en bandejas y luego se trasplantan al campo abierto.

No importa cuánta corteza y aserrín que Steve y su equipo pongan, la tierra siempre la absorbe. El suelo parece comerse la corteza, como en un bosque. Los microbios del suelo se alimentan de la corteza para crear estructuras vivas, como micelios: hilos de hongos que llegan hasta los camellones, entre los senderos llenos de corteza. Steve y Myriam han aprendido que los microbios tienen una relación simbiótica con las plantas; los microbios ayudan a las raíces de las plantas a encontrar humedad y nutrientes y, a su vez, la planta devuelve a los microbios la tercera parte de toda la energía que obtiene de la fotosíntesis.

Myriam y Steve han comprobado que a medida que el suelo se vuelve más sano, sus cultivos tienen menos problemas de plagas de insectos y enfermedades. En gran parte, esto se debe al exitoso matrimonio entre las plantas y la creciente población de microbios del suelo. Urkuwayku es más verde cada año. Produce lo suficiente para alimentar a una familia y emplear a cuatro personas, al tiempo que provee regularmente verduras, frutas y otros productos de primera calidad a 300 familias. Una comunidad de consumidores apoya a la granja con ingresos, mientras que una comunidad de microorganismos construye el suelo y alimenta a las plantas.

Previos blogs de Agro-Insight

Una revolución para nuestro suelo

La luz de la agroecología, acerca de Pacho Gangotena, agricultor ecológico en el Ecuador quien ha sido una influencia para Steve y Myriam

Experimentos con árboles

Reviving soils

The guinea pig solution

Living Soil: A film review

Dung talk

A market to nurture local food culture

Videos sobre temas relacionados en la plataforma de Access Agriculture

Buenos microbios para plantas y suelo

El mulch mejora el suelo y la cosecha

Turning fish waste into fertiliser

Organic biofertilizer in liquid and solid form

 

Dung talk August 1st, 2021 by

Nowhere in the world do take people dung more seriously than in South Asia. For ages cow dung has been a valuable resource. In the countryside people collect fresh dung by hand, shape it into small balls and press it against the walls of houses to allow it to dry. Sometimes the dung balls are skewered onto one-meter long sticks. The dried dung is used as fuel to cook meals. In dryland areas where fuelwood is scarce, these dung sticks are especially important.

Dung is also used as fertilizer, and in India people prepare it in various ways. Sometimes they mix the dung with cow urine, chickpea flour, molasses and water and let it ferment for about a week to allow the microorganisms to multiply. Farmers use the solid or liquid preparations as a seed coating, to keep pests away and to help the seed to grow. Applied to crops as a fertilizer, the dung preparations also help to revive the soil. These and other traditional practices add organic matter to the soil while supporting a cover of vegetation year-round. This is increasingly seen as a way to achieve food security and cool our planet. The Community-Based Natural Farming Programme in Andhra Pradesh, India, has embraced these technologies and is promoting them to millions of smallholder farmers, setting an example to the world.

However, when sharing ideas between countries, sometimes deeply held practices need to be re-examined. As I mentioned in my previous blog it is important to understand the scientific principles underpinning technologies, so that farmers can then adapt these to their own context.

For example, a few years ago one of our Indian partners was developing a video on good microbes, and I insisted that he asked local experts if other dung could be used, not just from cows. A few weeks later he reported back that everyone had agreed, only cow dung should be used. Sheep or goat dung would be no good.

This set me thinking a lot. While we were still making that video, I was able to fix a meeting with Camilla Toulmin, former Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development. While her focus had been on policy research about agriculture, land, climate and livelihoods in dryland regions of Africa, I knew that her PhD research on natural resource management in Mali had touched on the use of manure. After an hour on skype, we had shared a lot of information, but were still unsure if sheep dung was as good a source of beneficial microbes as cow dung.

As I mulled over my conversation with Camilla, I kept thinking back to one time in a village in northern Ghana when we had screened a video about using animal manure in farming. A woman in the audience had asked, “Why do you only show cow manure? Cows belong to men! As we women, do not have cows, but only sheep and goats, can we not do anything with this dung to fertilize our land?”

That was a few years ago. Now that I have a few sheep of my own, and can try out things myself, I have some new insights. Microbes need food and water to grow. In dryland areas, or when animals graze on dry pasture, their droppings dry out pretty fast. The good micro-organisms in the dung may start to die. On lush vegetation, the droppings of my sheep are much larger than the typical small balls one imagines when thinking of sheep droppings. When I prepare my solution of good microbes I collect the dung when it is still fresh.

Indian farmers and experts may be right about cow dung being the most suitable resource in the drylands. Sheep droppings may just dry out too fast to keep the good microbes alive. But in the rainy season or in more humid countries, sheep dung may have lots of beneficial micro-organisms. And for women in northern Ghana, who don’t have cow dung, sheep and goat droppings may still add much needed nutrients to their soil. As soil microbiologist Walter Jehne said: “We should promote the principles and not be dogmatic about it. If you only have reindeer, you may as well make organic manure from their dung, and do not need cow dung.”

Communicating technologies to farmers cross-culturally requires that we move beyond time-honoured recipes. We need to understand the underlying principles and explain them as well as we can. There is gold in more than one type of dung.

Related blogs

Principles matter

Trying it yourself

Reviving soils

Effective micro-organisms

Friendly germs

Earthworms from India to Bolivia

A revolution for our soil

Related videos

Good microbes for plants and soil

Organic biofertilizer in liquid and solid form

Coir pith

Mulch for a better soil and crop

Vermiwash: an organic tonic for crops

Making a vermicompost bed

Inspiring platforms

Access Agriculture: hosts over 220 training videos in over 90 languages on a diversity of crops and livestock, sustainable soil and water management, basic food processing, etc. Each video describes underlying principles, as such encouraging people to experiment with new ideas.

EcoAgtube: a social media video platform where anyone from across the globe can upload their own videos related to natural farming and circular economy.

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