Soil analysis

Arborists in Chicago are studying the results of biochar on trees growing in urban soils that are typically hostile to trees. This research is part of a larger urban-soils study that includes applications of biochar in greenhouse and field plot settings at The Morton Arboretum. The Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories have also been testing adding biochar to the soil mix when planting trees. More information and media coverage of this study about biochar and urban tree care can be found on the Bartlett Tree Experts web site.


Richard Haard, January 2010

Here is a simple screening test comparing herbicide inactivation by Biochar and Activated Charcoal. This test can be used to screen the relative adsorbtive capacity of your home made biochar by testing with an easily obtained herbicide, Caseron.


Upper left treated set from right: activated charcoal powder, biochar granular, Caseron only
Upper right control set from right: activated charcoal, biochar, untreated.

Go to here for original image in high resolution (click original size) to view this up close

This test is with Caseron (dichlorobenil). Many other herbicides, pesticides are neutralized by activated charcoal. Use of activated charcoal is common accepted practice to clean up pesticide residues that result in poor performance via root development, germination, plant growth and vigor. Many herbicides such as Atrazine, Proamide, Amitrole and many others have either residual effect in soil or are transmitted in water. UC Riverside has nice tool for accessing leaching and runoff risk of chemicals as these here And as example here is profile for Atrazine, a widely used herbicide in corn production.

Results in plant performance then obtained with biochar that has adsorbtion properties similar to activated charcoal may be better explained by deactivation of toxins and/or natural/introduced inhibitors. Conversely farmers using herbicides as part of their normal production cycle may lose efficiency of their chemical applications if used coincidental with biochar.

Whether this property of biochar continues over time after active sites are filled up is not known to me and also whether these toxins are eventually degraded or released gradually in diluted form.


Field Trials;
 I am field testing for the 09 corn season with JMU and consultation  Dr. Hepperly at Rodale Institute.

Ten research priorities were identified at the IBI conference, The following priorities I hope to address:
• 1- Economy research/market research
• 2- plant+soil research depending on biochar
• 5- field trials
• 8- application to soil (depending on agricultural or other

Planting date: June 24th.
Two split plots , which each are split into a 20% (27 tons/Ac) & 5% (7 tons/Ac) application rates,
All chars soaked in tarps for 1 month, all chars were mixed 1:2 by volume with finished poultry litter compost and roto-tilled to 5 inch depth.

Soil Analysis: Interpreting a Soil Test for lawns
John R. Street, Maurice E. Watson, William E. Pound, Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, HYG-4028

Factsheet. This publication will help you interpret the recommendations provided by The Ohio State University's soil testing laboratory. The facility is termed the Research Extension Analytical Lab (R.E.A.L.) and is an important facility for testing lawn soils.

Introduction to Soil Science
T.S. Tollefson, University of Saskatchewan, CA SCSR Open Courseware 41/240

This course is designed for students in the Diploma in Agriculture program and first and second year students in the B.S.A. program. Graduate students in the Soil Science may also find the course useful background for their qualifying or comprehensive exams.


Wisconsin Procedures for Soil Testing, Plant Analysis and Feed and Forage Analysis
Editor: John Peters, Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison(Compiled December, 2006)

This document provides analytical procedures on the following:

Soil Sample Preparation
Internal Check System
Soil pH and Sikora Lime Requirement
Available Phosphorus
Available Potassium
Organic Matter
Weight Loss-on-Ignition (LOI 360o)
B, Mn, Ca/Mg, SO4-S, and NO3-N

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