Household biomass ash as a fertilizer to sustainability improve soil nutrition to enhance rice yields

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences

Abstract

This proposal is to improve the lot of the subsistence farmers of Bangladesh by giving them sustainably higher yields of rice, through recycling of agronomic and natural environment wastes, primarily as ash from household cooking fuels. Bangladesh agronomic soils are over cropped as they tend to be harvested twice a year, with the heavily application of NPKS and Zn fertilizers to maintaining this cropping intensity. This leaves the nutrients not fertilized (B, Ca, Co, Cu, Mg, Mo, Ni, Se, Si) being removed year on year in the crop. In Bangladesh rice straw is fed to cattle and the resulting cattle dung used for fuel in the home. Only sporadically is household ash added back to land. Domestic fuel is also collected from the interspersed semi-natural forests and orchards that typify the Bangladesh agronomic landscape, with this ash providing additional mineral resource. Along with composted household waste, rice-mill waste, animal bedding and horticultural crop waste, there are many nutrient rich waste streams to be tapped with respect to use as paddy field fertilizers. If these streams are redirected back to the land enhanced yields of rice can be obtained sustainably, giving more wealth and resources to subsistence rice farmers throughout Bangladesh. This recycling approach developed for Bangladesh can be used throughout the world, adapting to local rice growing management and societal practices.

The proposal has four stages. The first is to characterize the nutrient content and quantity of waste streams flowing through Bangladeshi substance rice farming villages. The second task is to maximize ways in which to redirect these waste-streams back to the land. The third is to trial, through both wet and dry season rice cultivation, across 20 geographically separated Bangladeshi villages, the utility of these wastes for building up soil health and increasing rice yields, testing common Bangladeshi rice cultivars. Fourthly, and finally, a management protocol will be derived for dissemination across the rice farms of Bangladesh to educate what are the best ways to sustainably manage paddy fields using local recycled resources.

Technical Summary

The proposal will investigate how household ash can be used to enhanced the soil sustainability & rice crop yields in Bangladesh. The soils of Bangladesh are being stripped of nutrient elements through overcropping combined with the practice of burning biomass waste from agriculture (straw, husk, cow dung etc.) for household field. Traditionally, before the green Revolution, waste biomass would have been recycled back to land but the increase in population size since then has negated this practice. We have calculated that the quantity of household ash available to farmers, which combines agronomic waste ash with arboreal collected sources, is available in quantities to makes a significant difference to crop yields if collected and used as a fertiliser.

The proposal looks at the quantity and quality of waste available throughout Bangladesh and the impact it has on rice yield and on soil health. Soils and rice will be characterised for their nutritional content, while state-of-the-art NGS approaches, supported by visual assessment, will be used to characterise pathogen infection and insect predation to exam if silicon, a major component of ash, improves rice health, and thus yield.

We calculate that as well as silicon, ash will greatly contribute to potassium and phosphorus requirements, saving the farmers money through sustainable recycling of resources.

Planned Impact

This proposal is to improve the lot of the subsistence farmers of Bangladesh by giving them sustainably higher yields of rice, through recycling of agronomic and natural environment wastes, primarily as ash from household cooking fuels. Bangladesh agronomic soils are over cropped as they tend to be harvested twice a year, with the heavily application of NPKS and Zn fertilizers to maintaining this cropping intensity. This leaves the nutrients not fertilized (B, Ca, Co, Cu, Mg, Mo, Ni, Se, Si) being removed year on year in the crop. In Bangladesh rice straw is fed to cattle and the resulting cattle dung used for fuel in the home. Only sporadically is household ash added back to land. Domestic fuel is also collected from the interspersed semi-natural forests and orchards that typify the Bangladesh agronomic landscape, with this ash providing additional mineral resource. Along with composted household waste, rice-mill waste, animal bedding and horticultural crop waste, there are many nutrient rich waste streams to be tapped with respect to use as paddy field fertilizers. If these streams are redirected back to the land enhanced yields of rice can be obtained sustainably, giving more wealth and resources to subsistence rice farmers throughout Bangladesh. This recycling approach developed for Bangladesh can be used throughout the world, adapting to local rice growing management and societal practices.

The proposal has four stages. The first is to characterize the nutrient content and quantity of waste streams flowing through Bangladeshi substance rice farming villages. The second task is to maximize ways in which to redirect these waste-streams back to the land. The third is to trial, through both wet and dry season rice cultivation, across 18 geographically separated Bangladeshi villages, the utility of these wastes for building up soil health and increasing rice yields, testing common Bangladeshi rice cultivars. Fourthly, and finally, a management protocol will be derived for dissemination across the rice farms of Bangladesh to educate what are the best ways to sustainably manage paddy fields using local recycled resources.

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