Biochar Helps Combat Nematodes And Increases Yields


A biochar-based soil improver, enriched with species of mycorrhizal fungi, actinomyces bacteria and trace elements is helping to combat the root-knot nematode – significantly increasing yields for organic tomato growers in Portugal.
Biochar is a highly porous, high carbon form of charcoal used to improve soil nutrition, growing conditions and soil structure. It is made from any waste woody biomass that has been charred at a low temperature with a restricted supply of oxygen, a process called pyrolysis. This process results in a stable form of carbon that is removed from the atmospheric carbon cycle when added as a soil amendment.

“Where we have incorporated Carbon Gold Soil Improver in the very sandy soil at our Portuguese nursery we have seen a 7% yield increase and a lower level of nematode infestation than areas that were not treated.” – Paul Howlett, Head of Agronomy at Vitacress Tomatoes

Vitacress Tomatoes (formerly Wight Salads) trialled Soil Association and SKAL approved enriched biochar from UK biochar company, Carbon Gold, from June 2013 to April 2014 in order to improve the sandy soils at their Portuguese nursery. They applied 2kg per square meter to a 5 hectare trial plot taken to a depth of 30cm, analysing the outcomes against a 5 hectare control area with the same crop.

The increase in crop yield was significant. By week 24 they realised a 7% higher yield, (an additional 0.9kg per m2) compared to the 5ha control plot. This equated to an additional 2,600kg Piccolo Cherry on the Vine tomatoes.

In the Vitacress trial plots it became evident that the colonies of mycorrhizal fungi, using biochar as a refuge in the soil, were able strike out at parasitic Meloidogyne nematodes, enticing and devouring the microscopic pests and protecting the plant roots from attack.
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Neem Cake Pest And Disease Resistance


Interesting little study concerning the positive effects this product can have on pests and diseases. Neem cake is a by-product from cold pressing of neem tree fruits and kernels and the solvent extraction process for neem oil. It’s often used as a natural source of macro (NPK) nutrients and other essential micro nutrients, it also acts as a “nitrification inhibitor” which prolongs the availability of nitrogen in the soil. I always add this to my potting mix in very small amounts, it goes a lot way, I think it’s great stuff. I’ve also started using it as a soil dressing on my allotment too. Nice permaculture product too, multifunctional uses, “recycled/reused” and organic.

“The effects of neem cake, a nutrient-rich organic material derived from neem seed, on plant-parasitic nematodes, Verticillium dahliae, and seedling damping-off diseases caused by Rhizoctonia solani and Pythium aphanidermatum were investigated. In greenhouse trials, 1% neem cake (mass/mass soil) caused a 67%–90% reduction in the number of lesion (Pratylenchus penetrans) and root-knot (Meloidogyne hapla) nematodes in tomato roots grown in three different soils. In the field, 1% neem cake (mass/mass soil) reduced the number of lesion nematodes by 23% in corn roots and 70% in soil around roots. Population densities of free-living nematodes were either enhanced or not affected by neem cake treatment. In laboratory tests, addition of 3% neem cake (mass/mass soil) to soil killed V. dahliae microsclerotia and increased soil pH from 5.2 to 8.7. Killing of microsclerotia appeared to be caused by generation of ammonia during decomposition of neem cake. In growth room assays, addition of 2% neem cake (mass/mass peat-based mix) to R. solani -infested peat-based mix 28 days before planting radishes reduced damping-off severity. In a sandy loam soil artificially infested with R. solani and a muck soil naturally infested with damping-off pathogens, addition of 0.5% neem cake (mass/mass soil) had no immediate effect on damping-off, whereas incubation of the amended soil for 7 days before planting radish or cucumber reduced damping-off severity. This suggested that neem cake was not directly toxic to the damping-off pathogens but that during incubation neem cake may have created a biological climate that was suppressive to disease.”

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