Visit to Nanjing (May 2017)

In May 2017, Ruy Anaya de la Rosa visited Nanjing Agricultural University (NAU) to discuss the progress of biochar research and implementation activities in China with Dr Xiaoyu Liu, the local coordinator of the B4SS project. About three weeks before Ruy’s visit, the Chinese government published the guidelines for managing crop straw during and/or after harvest. The ten different pathways mandated by the government provide alternatives to straw burning in open fields since this polluting activity has now been banned in China. For example, there are red bands placed around the fields with various warnings, such as: “You are responsible for not burning straw in your field, otherwise you will be punished”. The guidelines for straw management include direct incorporation into soils, mulching, feeding it to animals, using it for growing mushrooms, using it in biodigesters, and converting it to biochar for soil amendment – among others.

“You are responsible for not burning straw in your field, otherwise you will be punished”

Ruy also gave a presentation to students and lecturers at NAU on the progress and lessons learned so far in the other five participating countries of the B4SS project. Similar to China, all countries in the B4SS project are designing and evaluating biochar formulations, which are mixed with nutrient-rich materials, such as manure (in Peru), compost (in Ethiopia), bokashi (in Indonesia), diammonium phosphate (in Kenya), and NPK fertilisers (in Vietnam). However, China leads the production of biochar-compound fertilisers and is now scaling it up to an industrial scale.

We also had the opportunity to visit a biochar demonstration site where wheat will be harvested soon. It should be noted that significant differences between the biochar-amended plots and the control (regular application of NPK fertiliser) across the whole field were not easy to see with the naked eye. Nevertheless, just for fun, Ruy cut two heads of wheat, one from the biochar-amended area and another from the control plot and he could see a benefit. Dr Xiaoyu Liu mentioned that differences of ≤20% between treatments are difficult to observe in the field. Therefore, we have to wait for the results from the lab analyses in order to provide a scientific output from this experiment.

Ruy is very grateful to Dr Xiaoyu Liu, Prof Genxing Pan and Prof Lianqing Li for all the efforts made to advance biochar research, development and implementation in China, for their work in the B4SS project, and for their friendly and enthusiastic collaboration.