BiocharTechnology for Sustainable Horticulture
The floodplain soils of Bihar comprising of alluvial deposits of various rivers in their lower course have shaped the agricultural destiny of the state. Although soil fertility is not generally a severe concern in these soils because of regular deposition of fertile alluvium, these soils which are in fact just sedimentary deposits, pose serious soil physical problems due to concentration of very similar textural separates in a season’s debris. Besides there is little or no profile development in the characteristic Inceptisols and Entisols in the state. A large chunk of these problems are related to the physical quality and can be mitigated by improving the structure and stability of the floodplain soils. Adding stabilized carbon such as biochars to the soils and cultivating horticultural crops for an economic advantage is a proposition for these soils. Various advantages of biochar addition in soils including increasing cation exchange capacity, increasing water holding capacity, offering hiding space for useful bacteria and fungi, modifying the soil hydrothermal regime, affecting the dynamics of mineral nutrients in soils, etc., are enumerated followed by a brief discussion of biochar technology in horticulture. Biochar can be a substrate of growing ornamental plants and also a substrate for protected cultivation in green houses or poly houses. Biochar is a suitable material for making the earth ball for saplings to be transplanted and also a potential inoculant carrier for biofertilizers. Moreover, it is overall a good soil conditioner for ameliorating soil physical constraints encountered in floodplain soils. All these advantages can potentially lead to sustainably high horticultural crop yields from biochar interventions. However, there is still a need for strategic research efforts, to allow elucidation of mechanisms, differentiated by environmental and management factors and to include studies over longer time frames.