Introducing Biochar and Humates

Updated: May 8, 2019

First, this is going to be a three part series (might have to give Soils their own page - they deserve it); starting with biochar as an exploratory landscape tool. Biochar has a rich research literature but a lot of confusing outcomes because 1. soils are complex communities like oceans, 2. biochar is complex in terms of what material(s) were used to make it, 3. how it was made (pyrolysis parameters), 4. what is the soil type that was studied, 5. what plants were studied, and 6. how long was the research study (6 months or two years)? I'm doing a tiny research project in my yard with alkaline soils (>7.5ph and toxic levels of potassium). Hopefully that will shed some more light.

Our local Tree Guru - Jim Cortese has invited me to partner with him on a biochar project at the Old Gray Cemetery so check it out next time you want to visit some old-growth trees! He uses biochar enriched with humates (these will get their own lengthy post because super complicated chemistry involved). What we should expect from biochar amendments are some changes in C:N ratios in the soil, increased microbial activity due to the carbon pulse (at least initially), possibly physical/density changes in the native soil. It's too early to hypothesize what other changes we will see. If as most of the research is showing, plants respond favorably to biochar amendments then this will hopefully become our new 'black mulch'. That might stop the pyramidal mulching crisis in town.

BTW, these pictures show day of application, low left is a week after application, and lower right is three weeks after application. There was one rainy day and our week of snow during the three-week period.

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