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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