Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Preferred Name - First Author

Miller, Sarah Lauren

Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Integrated Science and Technology

Advisor(s)

Wayne S. Teel, Ph.D.

Abstract

As farmland soils become more and more depleted, the importance of effective soil amendments grows. Biochar is a potential soil and carbon amendment that could improve water and nutrient holding capacity and foster growth of beneficial microbes and fungi. Biochar does not contain nutrients but acts like a sponge, absorbing nutrients around it. It is so effective at holding nutrients that in the first year, if applied alone, it can make the nutrients unavailable to plants and lowers crop yields. To get the best results biochar must be saturated, also referred to as inoculated or charged, with nutrients. Once the biochar is saturated, the nutrients become easily available to plants. In this study, two different charging components, compost and manure, were mixed separately with biochar and applied to square meter plots. There were five different treatments with four plots of each: biochar and compost, biochar and manure, manure, compost, and control. Due to an unexpected surge in weed growth, the field study was changed to a pot study. The soil from each field plot was shoveled into pots, with two replicates of 20 pots in two locations for a total for 40 pots. Two einkorn seedlings were planted in each pot. Tentative results from soil testing suggest there is statistical difference between soil amendments. While there is no significance between the charging components, there was a significant difference between the bulk density, carbon content and percent moisture of soils with and without biochar. Based on the average data of soil with and without biochar, soil with biochar had 7.5% higher moisture content, 48% more carbon, and a lower bulk density of 15%. The preliminary data based on tiller count, which is a possible way to predict grain yield, is inconclusive.

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