It has a smell that can nauseate, but the putrid liquid has a purpose. This fermented weed tea is part of Redeemer University College student Kyla DeHaan’s research on foliar organic fertilizers using plant and manure fermentation stews. DeHaan was recently chosen to present her research at the ECHO International Agricultural Conference in Florida in November. ECHO assists development workers around the world by gathering agricultural techniques that can help solve hunger problems.
DeHaan, a member of Charlottetown (PEI) Christian Reformed Church, is in her fourth year of a combined honors degree in international development and environmental science at Redeemer. “When I chose a senior research project, I wanted it to be useful,” she said. So she connected with Angela Boss, food security and agriculture technical advisor at World Renew.
“We brainstormed a few ideas, and of those, Kyla picked the foliar fertilizers,” explained Boss. Access to synthetic fertilizers is limited and costly, so these fertilizers can address nutrient deficiencies in crops with inexpensive materials made with plants and manures found in resource-poor regions of the world, she said.
Researching best practices, DeHaan compiled tables that outline the nutrients found in various manures and plants and identified a basic fermentation process using water and a pail. When fully fermented, the liquid can be sprayed directly to crop leaves for optimal absorption.
The conference provided great networking opportunities for DeHaan but also confirmed that there was significant interest in her research.
“I’m really glad Kyla was able to go. It has been a great opportunity, a chance to go to ECHO and the collaboration with World Renew,” said Edward Berkelaar, DeHaan’s supervising professor at Redeemer.
Boss said that the field guides that DeHaan is producing, complete with pictures to identify plants and instructions, will be of great use for agricultural programs in developing countries. Early next year, DeHaan will present her findings and best practices document to World Renew teams.