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Farm Progress Reports

Number

RFR-A1750

Farm

Muscatine Island Farm

Department

Horticulture

Abstract

Biochar, a charcoal created from organic materials burned at high temperatures and low oxygen environment, when added as a soil amendment, has been shown to increase soil fertility, water holding capacity, greenhouse gas reduction, and carbon sequestration. Biochar as a biorenewable resource has the potential to positively impact several key areas of our production systems such as soil organic matter and quality, water quality, crop growth, yield, and productivity. Adding biochar to a soil is an irreversible decision, so understanding its long-term impacts is essential for growers to make informed decisions. In the United States, most biochar research has been conducted in warmer regions. Little has been published on how biochar will affect crop production in northern climate zones such as the Midwest, especially in horticultural crops. In addition, long-term effects of biochar and its interaction with fertility programs such as compost and synthetic fertilizers have not been studied. Not much information is available on biochar types, quality, and appropriate field application rates in vegetable cropping systems. This study builds on a previous experiment that was set up in 2012 with different biochar application rates on a sandy soil in Fruitland, Iowa. The objective of this study was to investigate interactions among biochar and two soil fertility programs to optimize the application rate and evaluate the effect of biochar on potato production.

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