The nopal fertilizer research team. The nopal fertilizer research team.

Biofertilizer could be cost-effective option

Nopal fertilizer could reduce farmers' costs by 90%

Researchers have developed a nopal-based fertilizer that could help farmers reduce their costs by up to 90%.

Two and a half years of laboratory work at the Autonomous University of the State of Hidalgo (UAEH) have produced a nopal fertilizer obtained by processing the cactus’s pads in a biodigester, an oxygen-free space in which bacteria break down organic material.

Little water is required, making the process viable for obtaining low-cost fertilizers in dry farming areas. Given the near ubiquitous presence of nopal varieties throughout the country and their high water content — between 80 and 90% — nopal-based biofertilizer could become a popular alternative to traditional chemical fertilizers.

Although the production of environmentally friendly fertilizer is widely known and employed in other countries, the industry is still underdeveloped in Mexico, head researcher Carlos Lucho Constantino told the newspaper El Universal.

The intention of the UAEH research team is not to sell the fertilizer but to sell the technology and the process to interested farmers, enabling them to produce the fertilizer as they need it, explained Lucho.

The scientist said now that the laboratory work has been done it is time to test the fertilizer’s effectiveness in the field during the upcoming fall-winter season.

To that end, several farming plots in the municipalities of Apan and Almoloya will be fertilized with the product and the results will be obtained next year.

According to the lab work, crops such as barley and wheat require only one application of the fertilizer, while the requirements of others, such as corn, remain undetermined.

To fertilize a hectare of barley, Lucho said, a farmer would require 30 liters of the nopal fertilizer. The production cost is five pesos a liter (about USD $0.30), for a cost per hectare of 150 pesos.

In comparison, 2,000 pesos’ worth of chemical fertilizers are needed for a hectare of wheat or barley.

The researchers had originally been contracted by the firm Bioceres to work on a biogas production project, out of which came the notion to produce biofertilizer. The new biodigester system is expected to be available to purchase next year from Bioceres.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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