Bone char

The results are coming in! The first project funded by CARE-Cornell’s Impact through Innovation Fund (IIF) is reporting favorable findings 

CARE-Cornell Partnership Bears Fruit

February 11, 2014

Bone char

The results are coming in! The first project funded by CARE-Cornell’s Impact through Innovation Fund (IIF) is reporting favorable findings

Faculty Fellow Johannes Lehmann (CSS) and his colleagues Garrick Blalock (AEM) and Dawit Solomon (CSS) have found that animal waste recycled into bone char is as effective as commercial phosphorus fertilizer and much more effective than rock phosphate at recharging depleted soil. Their data suggest that local bone char production is viable, and Ethiopian farmers they surveyed value the low-cost new fertilizer.

The Cornell researchers are collaborating with CARE workers in Ethiopia, where agriculture is the main livelihood, and land degradation and declining soil fertility threaten food security and economic growth. The CARE-Cornell team developed Cornell findings that higher pyrolysis temperatures produce bone char fertilizers with much more plant-available phosphorus. Viability studies—including work with local farmers, waste collectors, and pyrolysis entrepreneurs­—are ongoing.

According to Lehmann, indigenous biofertilizers offer developing nations a promising alternative to expensive imported fertilizers. “Developing countries already have access to an indigenous supply of nutrients, in the form of organic waste products,” he explained. “By tapping into this resource, countries like Ethiopia can secure a significant fraction of their phosphorus demands without relying on international markets or the benevolence of rich countries.”

IIF promotes food security and sustainable food systems, pairing Cornell teams with CARE development professionals to apply cutting-edge research in real-world settings. The 2014 round of IIF awards will be announced soon.