Improving nutrient retention with biochar
Research shows that biochar offers superior benefits for nutrient and water retention in horticultural systems. Our initial trials were conducted with lettuce seeds and via the worm and germination tests as suggested by the International Biochar Initiative. Our results indicate that our specific biochar is suitable (non-toxic) for further testing.
The goal of this project is to increase nutrient retention, crop productivity, and soil quality by adding biochar in various management contexts, and to compare various application rates and biochar-compost, biochar-manure, and biochar-fertilizer combinations. The objectives are to:
1. Evaluate biochar + “amendment” combinations in a greenhouse setting in regards to nutrient retention, nutrient availability, soil moisture retention and crop productivity. Establish the precise parameters for future field trials, in regards to biochar application rate and amendment quantities.
2. Prepare and deliver outreach to inform growers, the public, and scientific audiences of results of research.
After conducting stardard toxicity tests (germination and worm) on our material, our initial trials indicate that our specific biochar is suitable (non-toxic) for further testing. There were no differences in which sides of the tray that the worms preferred (biochar/non-biochar) and the lettuce seeds had improved germation at the higher biochar rates versus the control and lower biochar rates. The next phase of research will be to achieve objectives one and two, as outlined in the previous section of this report.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
This research and the dissemination of conclusions are expected to have the potential for dramatic results for producers/growers in the Southeast region. Our proposed research will provide information with immediate applicability for growers in the Southeast region who have an interest in using biochar in their operations. Our findings will establish baseline data for horticultural crop applications in the sandy soils of the southeastern coastal plain. The long term goal is to develop overall best management practices (loading rates, biochar types, application method) for biochar additions to vegetable cropping systems in varying soil types. Moreover, biochar production has implications for waste management, renewable energy generation (in the form of syn-gas and bio-oil), as well as the potential for large-scale carbon sequestration (a tool for addressing global climate change). Extension workshops and publications as well as presentations/posters at conferences will be the means by which our data, analysis, and conclusions are disseminated.
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