09 December 2022, New Delhi: Stubble burning is an alarming issue in the northern states of India. It is estimated that about 150 million tons of CO2 is emitted annually, bringing severe concerns to humans and soil health. Around 70 to 80 million tons of rice, wheat straw, and other residual agricultural waste are burned annually in India. In Punjab alone, around 1.5 lakh tons of key nutrients like Nitrogen and Phosphorous are lost during burning.
PepsiCo India in its efforts to combat climate change & build a more sustainable future has initiated regenerative agriculture practices ‘Biochar Program‘, a prototype as part of their Positive Agriculture Philosophy (pep+) of the company.
Under this, retort kilns are used to turn agricultural waste into fertilizer known as Biochar through a process known as pyrolysis (decomposition brought about by high temperatures). This burning of crop residue at high temperature under a limited or low supply of oxygen helps in decomposition. The first-of-its-kind prototype for Biochar production has been started by PepsiCo in the Sangrur district of Punjab. Once the process of pyrolysis is completed, the end product Biochar is used as a soil additive to increase the carbon content in the soil.
Nadinger Singh, a farmer from Sangrur working with PepsiCo India shared, “It was difficult for me to manage the residue after harvesting. Burning crop residue was a regular procedure that the farmers around followed to manage stubble after harvest. In a recent soil test, I found that the carbon content in the soil came out to be very low.”
Looking for a better stubble management solution, Nadinger Singh was onboarded by PepsiCo for the Biochar program. The farmer mentioned, “We collected all the residue from the harvest and made bundles of it. Further, the bundles were put into a furnace to burn and produce biochar. After the biochar is prepared, we spread it into the fields that are ready for cultivation, and then we plow it properly.”
Biochar contains carbon and increases the uptake of nutrients and improves water retention while activating microorganisms in the soil.
It is an effective solution to manage stubble and in turn, improves soil health texture and water holding capacity. Biochar production also helps in a 40-70% reduction in Green House Gases (GHG).
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