Pepper is regarded as one of the important spices in the world and a major component of the daily food intake for most households in Nigeria. Pepper is produced in almost all agro-ecological zones of Nigeria and yet its production is not sufficient to meet its demand, hence a bulk of pepper consumed in the country is imported from neighbouring countries. This, coupled with the fact that getting pepper in some seasons of the year is always costly got me thinking and has become a major concern to me.
This led me to making inquiries as to the cause of this problem. I gathered that the low productivity has been attributed to both living and non-living factors. However there has been enough strategies over the years to protect the crop against the plant disease pathogens (living factors) which is heavily dependent on the use of chemical pesticides both on field and in store.
As good as these strategies look, the continuous application of pesticides has resulted in the development of adverse effects, including environmental pollution, death of non-target organisms, and health hazards in man and animals, and development of resistance to such pesticides by the pathogens.
In order to meet the food demand of the ever increasing Nigerian population while reducing the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides has therefore necessitated the development of alternative strategies of plant growth improvement and plant disease management such as soil amendment, especially organic soil amendments, including the use of Biochar
Biochar is a solid, carbonaceous, low density co-product of incomplete, anaerobic combustion of organic biomass by a process known as pyrolysis. Biochar amendment has been attributed to its nutrient content and several indirect effects, including neutralization of phytotoxic compounds in the soil, promotion of mycorrhizal fungi and alteration of soil microbial populations and a host of other advantages.
There are three 3 major types of biochar namely: Wood biochar, Agro waste biochar; forestry wastes, crop residues and animal waste biochar; poultry liter, cattle manures.
The increase in plant growth using biochar has received attention over the years but a little has been done on plant resistance or plant protection against pathogens using biochar. I decided to take this up for my M.Sc. research and continue with this to Ph,D level in other to get a more concise result, which can easily be adopted by farmers.
For this research; the latter two (agro waste and animal waste) are being considered as they are known to contain more organic matter and to discourage deforestation. It will be carried out for 3 growing seasons using 3 treatments which are: (1) Rice husk (2) Poultry waste and (3) Combination of 1 and 2.
Since the half-life of biochar in soil is estimated to range from tens to thousands of years; and as such it releases organic matter for a long period of time this helps in sustainable crop protection. At the end of the research it is expected that the amendments of soil with biochar will help increase plant growth, suppress plant diseases thereby help in meeting the crop production target and help stabilize the organic matter in soil thereby reducing the use of inorganic chemicals.
The beneficiaries for this project will include:
- Household consumers, this research will make pepper readily available in the market and also improve human’s life as it leaves no residue effect on the consumer.
- Farmers because of its cost effectiveness.
- Nigerians; as agro-waste products will be used to reduce environmental pollution.
Finally I believe attending the IUPAC Next generation Agric Summit will afford me an opportunity to broaden my horizon on Crop Protection, help to network with other researchers and make a better scientist of me.
Dorcas Olufunke Alade, Nigeria