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Strawberries produced from the joint study by Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and Big Bee Honey Sdn Bhd.

A research on lowland strawberry farming by Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) Faculty of Fisheries and Food Science followed by a collaboration with Big Bee Honey Sdn Bhd. will help produce higher quality strawberries.

Led by Dr Wan Zaliha Wan Sembok, the lecturers and agrotechnology students majoring in Crop Science and Post-harvest Technology put research into practice by promoting a clean and healthy growing medium technique to improve the yield and quality of strawberries.

They conducted a study on lowland strawberry farming and a knowledge transfer programme entitled ‘Biochar, seaweed and stingless bees: An effective bio fertiliser innovation and pollination agent for strawberries’.

Biochar is a charcoal-like substance produced from the thermal decomposition of agricultural waste through a clean pyrolysis process.

In addition to suitable temperature and humidity, Wan Zaliha said that lowland strawberry farming requires effective fertilisation and material or soil alternative to grow strawberries and achieve higher crop yields.

“Pollination by stingless bees also plays a very significant role in acquiring more beautiful and shiny fruits,” she said, adding that the pollination of bees on lowland strawberries was initiated by fellow researcher Associate Professor Dr Wahizatul Afzan Azmi.

“For the media, the mixture of coconut coir and charcoal which resulted from the burning of agricultural waste through the pyrolysis technique, combined with foliar fertiliser, a seaweed extract which has been found to contain high levels of plant hormones and nutrient minerals is used to increase fruit yield,” said Wan Zaliha.

UMT students burning waste materials to create biochar for the strawberry farm.

This has led the lowland strawberries to thrive at Big Bee Honey Sdn Bhd which aims to realise its owner Nor Ehsan Abd Rahman’s aspirations to gear his business concept towards agrotourism.

With an extensive 16-year experience in the stingless bee industry, Nor Ehsan founded the famous Honey and Stingless Bee Gallery in Jambu Bongkok, Marang, Terengganu.

According to Wan Zaliha, the addition of charcoal to the used media has been seen to enhance its quality.

This was achieved through improved structure and water and mineral retention ability through the pores of the burned waste materials. The addition of charcoal can also reduce the acidity and water loss through dissolution.

Faculty of Fisheries and Food Science student, Nor Fazira Mohd Nadzuar, 25 said: “The use of black coal and seaweed extract could serve as a new source of income for graduating students.”

For fellow student Nurul Syazana Mohd Ariff, 22, the knowledge transfer programme with the industry opened up more opportunities for the students’ industrial training placements and future career.

Funded by the Assimilation of Knowledge and Technology Grant (KTAG 2019), the programme commenced in November and will be completed in February.

The partnership between UMT and the industry has developed greater marketability and increased the expertise of students and researchers. This in turn can pave the way for the university to enhance its research capacities to the global level.

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