Alkaline Soils - Terra Preta

Tom Miles

Alkaline Soils - Terra Preta
N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, Update June 26, 2007
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Farm yard manure / vermicompost (25 kgs) + Charcoal cleaned in water (25 kgs)
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The present ongoing discussions are very useful and relevant to my present plan to treat Alkaline Soils with application of Terra Preta , yesterday I had been to Kothur Village, a V & A Programme village in Semi-arid environment (for more information see I explained the farmers regarding the use and application of Terra Preta for treating the alkaline soils. Before that some char pieces were brought for demonstrating the use and good qualities of char. Using the high resolution imageries of Google the fields with intense alkaline soils were identified. From those selected areas four farmers have come forward to try this method in their half to one acre size fields. Regarding the application, as there is abundant availability of Prosopis in the village, this is an easy method for them. The logistics and the cost of char was discussed, they were able to sell char @Rs. 0.2$ (USD) per kg. For applying about 1500 kgs of Char per acre, it would cost them about Rs. 300$ (USD). Which seems to be on the higher side for the poor farmers, so another alternative was making charcoal from the thin stems of Prosopis a wasted product in the charcoal making process and there was plenty of such dry twigs / stems of Prosopis available. Some farmers in the recent past trying to reclaim their Prosopis lands have used machinery and there are lots of heavy uprooted root stocks, with soil attached. They are burning such root stocks in the respective fields. This kind of burnt material consists of
1. partial biochar
2. Char,
3. well burnt soil and
4. plenty of ash

The farmers have agreed to put this resultant material in their fields, which is of no cost and available in plenty. I am only hopeful that the above resultant material is acidic and would improve the soil quality. As the farmers have not started the process yet, the timely advice from you all would be helpful.

I am forwarding the link on the Alkaline Soils tested in Kothur Village, Mahabubnagar District, India, A draft plan on recommendations is prepared, requesting for suggestions in this regard. As the monsoons have arrived the farmers are ready and making preparations, the sooner the recommendations the better.

Please also see the blog for further details

This area is drought prone and receiving very less rain fall year after year, there is a total reduction of 20 centimeters (from 80 cms in 1950's to < 60 cms presently). The Climate Change / variability, over extraction of groundwater and application of complex chemical fertilizers and high temperature conditions, and seasonal rainfall, extraction of groundwater for paddy and flood irrigation, etc. resulted in the alkalinity of the soils.

The option of using ever depleting meager groundwater resources for treating the alkaline soils is a rare option.

The traditionally people were using Gypsum / sand / green mulching methods to treat alkaline soils. And also traditionally people believed that the burning of the crop residue in the fields benefited their soil. Some farmers also brought the ash+soil from the Brick making kilns and they were applying. That could be the reason why when discussed farmers were ready to apply the combination of (partial biochar+char+ash+burnt soil) for their alkaline soils. Probably the resultant soil could(?) be with pH neutral (?) + phosphorous, calcium and iron, more soil moisture retention capability, changing the texture of the soil to soft (rather than hard kankar), etc. These are the expectations, more over the green mulching and addition of little gypsum will be encouraged. I believe Terra Preta could be a solution for alkaline soils too (?). Thanking you once again.

Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar ReddyNike footwear | Nike Dunk Low Disrupt Pale Ivory - Grailify