IMPACTS OF BIOCHAR AMENDMENTS ON SPECIALTY CROP PRODUCTION
Soil and Water Management Research
2011 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
To determine the potential benefit to specialty crop production (lettuce and sweet corn) from the use of biochar amendments as well as the potential uptake of volatiles from the biochar by the specialty crops.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
This research will involve a combination of laboratory and field research as well as on-farm collaborations with specialty crop producers both in Minnesota and Illinois to examine the impact of biochar additions on specialty crop production. There currently is no guidance in terms of biochar use on specialty crops and therefore is critical research, particularly to the organic producers.
This was the first year of this 2 year project. The goal of this project is to evaluate the impact of biochar on specialty crop production. This includes both yield improvements as well as negative impacts (uptake of sorbed organics). This research is pivotal for determining proper guidance and recommendation for biochar use in specialty crops. The main accomplishments for this fiscal year included:
1. Field plots have been established in Rosemount, MN to examine the impact of biochar on sweet corn, potatoes, and lettuce.
2. Greenhouse experiments were also initiated on the impacts on other specialty crops (i.e., radish, lettuce, spinach, green beans)
3. Initial samples of biochar are being screened for organic compounds, including volatile, semi-volatile and non-volatile compounds. A particular focus is on polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) due to the potential human health implications. This is being performed in-house as well as with outside certified laboratories for sample confirmation.
4. A manuscript detailed the initial observed variability of volatile organic compounds on biochars has been accepted in Chemosphere.
This research also would fit into Objective 1 (Integrate knowledge of retention, transformation, and transport of agrochemicals, including newer pesticides and veterinary pharmaceuticals, in soil and water, to facilitate selection and validation of management practices at the field to landscape scale that minimize potential offsite transport to surface and ground waters) as well as Objective 2 (Identify practices that protect water quality and conserve soil resources in emerging farming systems of the Upper Midwest) of the water quality research project. Since biochar is similar to charcoal, it is a potential media for sorption of agrochemicals and thereby fits into both of these objectives. Personal communication and email communication are used to monitor progress on this project. The funding agency is updated on the status of research and publications produced as a result of this funding.