|Agricultural and Biochar Projects in the Philippines|
Author: Jochen Binikowski
My name is Jochen Binikowski, from Hamburg, Germany. I am the consignee of Tigaon Handicraft, a small, family owned and run, handicraft business, based in Tigaon, Camarines Sur, Philippines, which is owned and managed by the family of my Filipina wife. Since 1980 I have regularly visited the Philippines.
First as a sideline we have been conducting some trials in the local agricultural sector. Since February 2007 we have been experimenting with rice husk charcoal, with a view to improving local soils (Terra Preta) and the production of briquettes. The most common cooking fuels in Tigaon (42.000 inhabitants) are firewood, charcoal and liquified gas. The huge consumption of firewood and charcoal has resulted in the dramatic deforestration of the local rainforest at nearby Mt. Isarog. In the event that we are successful, these problems could become significantly reduced and hence, we are very willing to share our experience with others.
We are exclusively using agricultural waste as our raw material (biomass stream). So far we have experimented with rice husk, corn cobs, corn stems, coconut shells, coconut trunks, bamboo and waste wood from local carpenters. In order to dispose of this “waste”, these materials are typically burnt by local farmers.
Since July 2009 I am back in the Philippines. My brother in law, Elmer L. Orfanel is working with me on these experiments. He is an engineer and very creative in designing new equipment. In the meantime we are testing already our semi-commercial briquette press and charcoal production in drums, the kiln method. Both tests are very promissing so far. At current , the construction of a permanent site for pyrolysis is in the first stage. At the video subpage you will find more informations.
In 2006 and 2007 we tried to plant several vegetable species in fields which where prepared using compost and charcoal. We had very confusing results: What was growing well in 2006, suffered drastically in 2007 and vice versa. In 2008 we where able to develop a method to minimize most of the common problems in vegetable farming:
Since we have an abundance of different raw materials , i.e. charcoal, ashes, compost, animal waste, lahar (volcanic stones and ashes) etc. we developed a special soil mixture in which almost all vegetable and corn varieties have been growing so far without problems and in the absences of commercial fertilizers.
Main Problems in Agricultural
1. Soil mixture in old rice sacks and individual planting. We tried also to grow 2 different varieties in one sack but these experiments are still ongoing.
2. Separating the regular soil with old plastic bags etc. and then hilling up floods from our soil mixture. The effect is almost the same as when planting in sacks while it is much cheaper.
Another target is to harvest out of season when prices are high. Due to the La Nina effect in 2008 there was no dry season. Always rainy and cloudy. There have been less than 10 really sunny days within that year. Despite of this unfavorable wheather conditionens we where able to harvest at our experimental farm about 15 varieties in perfect quality and reasonalble or good yields per plant.
For most of our experiments we had control plantings in regular soils in open fields. Almost all of them failed. It seems that this planting methodes (sacks, soil separation) are preventing rampant problems like stagnant water, fungi and soil borne deseases. The latter is very important because most of the soils in our area are infested with bacterial wilt. It seems that our soil mixture does have a sterilizing effect.
3. Intercropping of different varieties. At present we do have ongoing experiments with
A. Sweet Corn - Beans - Squash
B. Tomato - Chili - Beans.
Many more combinations will be tested within the near future.
4. We are experimenting with different mulching methods. This minimizes the weeds, cools the soil and reduces water losses by evaporation.
Outlook for 2009
In 2009 we planted during dry season in new soil mixture variations, additional vegetable and corn varieties as well as rice and citrus trials. We successfully tested already a sytem to grow vegetables under the citrus trees. The harvests have been very good at all varieties but prices where very low. At this actual rainy season we planted already in commercial quantities, utilizing the findings of our prevous experiments. So far everything looks fine.
Another important subject is the use of natural pestizides. We are still studying different methodes and materials. Initial experiments produced prommissing results but we are still in the very beginning. Our target is a 100% biological production.
Fortunately there are some farmers in our community who adopted our methodes and are now doing there own experiments. All of us are sharing our results and experiences which enhances the experiments.
Our projects are supported by the Municipal Government, Department of Agriculture, East West Seed Inc., Ramgo Seeds etc. We do have experienced farm workers and management. I am most time of the year in Tigaon to supervise the projects. Our family owns about 20 hectars of farmland (Citrus Plantations, Rice Fields and Vegetable Production) on which our experiments are taking place.
In 2008 the “Tigaon Vegetable Planter`s Association” was foundet. It provides support in marketing and technical assistance. There are regular seminars for all interested farmers and gardeners in Tigaon. This is an important muliplicator for our projects.
The local Government owns and operates the production facillity for BIO-N organic fertilizer. They do have a laboratory, complete equipment for biochar production and a repacking department. All f this we can use for free if needed for our experiments.
Your questions and suggestions are always welcome!
Whenever funds are available we are organising medical missions. The last one was held on July 25, 2009 in Tigaon:
Tomatos planted in sacks, filled with our soilmixture, have been grown and harvested during rainy season.
approx. 2.200 Calamansi (Lemmon) Seedlings have been planted at our 15 hectar farm.
First harvest of squash
Seminar organised by the Tigaon Vegetable Planters Association
Production of our biochar soil mixture
Biochar production with kiln technique