Studies on Biochar reducing NPK leaching ? #fruit #orchard #leaching


Tomaso Bertoli - CISV
 

we are trying to plan an experiment in "industrial" pear and apple orchards 

we want to understand if and how much using biochar in the orchard would could reduce chemical fertilization (simplifying NPK) leaching 

we are not trying to increase production 

we are trying to reduce NPK input without compromising output 

assuming the usual biochar application rates 1 5 10 ton/ha

what percentage of NPK application reduction would you attempt ?  5% 10% 20% 50% 80% ?

have you seen similar / published studies on different cultivations that we can use as guidelines for setting NPK reduction targets ?

Thanks

Tomaso


Gordon West
 

Tomaso,
Many biochar makers and users are taking a different approach from using biochar alone as the preferred soil amendment and are pre-charging the biochar with microbiota. This approach abandons the common modern farming strategy of making soil productive by applying chemical nutrient inputs as ‘plant food’. In a healthy soil, the job of supplying nutrients to the plants falls to bacteria, fungi, and other microbial critters. The grossly simplified “soil-food-web" (see Elaine Ingham’s work) works like this: plants use solar energy to process nutrients, CO2, and water into carbon, O2, and sugars; the plant roots then feed their products to microbes in the soil, which use them for energy and acids to mine the soil for nutrients in soluble form to trade back through the plant roots. No chemical fertilizers necessary. In fact much of the applied fertilizer is not in a soluble form that the plants can uptake. Imbalances in soil NPK can also negatively impact the microbiotic community, reducing their ability to work with the plant roots. Herbicides and pesticides directly kill the microbes.

Biochar can play a major role in enhancing the robustness of the microbial community, and it can be pre-charged by blending with composts, especially fungi-dominant composts when applying to permaculture scenarios. The plant-fungi partnership can also greatly increase the amount of carbon in the soil, both labile and recalcitrant (the sequesterable form) - far more than mechanically applied biochar. See Dr. David C. Johnson - https://media.csuchico.edu/media/Regenerating+the+Diversity+of+Life+in+SoilsA+Hope+for+Farming%2C+Ranching+and+Climate/0_ysqa9svw

We are participating in several field trials of applying compost “activated” biochar on hay and grasslands sites. Appropriate application rates are speculative, but we are trying 1000#/acre (fairly high moisture content, so maybe 750# of bone dry biochar) blended with 15# of Dr. Johnson’s compost. Dr. Johnson has documented significant results on several crops using an incredibly small amount of “biodiverse microbial soil inoculant” (the compost alone) - in one case only 3#/acre. We view the role of the biochar to be the ‘mobile housing” for the microbes to enhance their viability after application (Airstreams for bugs).

In terms of percentage of biochar application rate, 1000# per acre is more like 0.1%. 

Gordon West
The Trollworks
503 N. “E” Street
Silver City, NM 88061
575-537-3689

An entrepreneur sees problems as the seeds of opportunity.





On Dec 18, 2019, at 6:49 AM, Tomaso Bertoli - CISV <tomaso.bertoli@...> wrote:

we are trying to plan an experiment in "industrial" pear and apple orchards 

we want to understand if and how much using biochar in the orchard would could reduce chemical fertilization (simplifying NPK) leaching 

we are not trying to increase production 

we are trying to reduce NPK input without compromising output 

assuming the usual biochar application rates 1 5 10 ton/ha

what percentage of NPK application reduction would you attempt ?  5% 10% 20% 50% 80% ?

have you seen similar / published studies on different cultivations that we can use as guidelines for setting NPK reduction targets ?

Thanks

Tomaso


Tom Miles
 

Tomaso,

 

Great questions. For experience in Australia see:

https://www.agtrialswa.com.au/trial/productivity-gains-from-biologically-active-soil-initiated-through-biochar-activated-compost-in-an-avocado-orchard/

http://www.warrencc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Avocados-SWCC.pdf

https://anzbc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Productivity-gains-biochar-avocado.pdf

https://soilcarbon.org.nz/anzbc18-conference-proceedings/

 

On the Australia New Zealand Biochar Study tour Kathy Dawson, Biochar Network of Western Australia and Warren Catchments Council, told us that biochars are used in Southwest Australia with apples, figs, Kiwi fruit, walnuts, tamarillo, lemon, and citrus as well as sheep, compost, bush tucker, native plants, turf and vegetables. You can see from the list that  Doug Pow’s approach has been productive and has inspired other farmers in the area.

 

Doug’s engineering of the soil system is instructive. (Kathy or Stephen can correct me if I missed something.) Doug uses biochar to change the texture of the soil to be similar to the soil where avocados are grown. He blends biochar into the soil to depths of 300-600 mm as necessary. Then he applies organics and nutrients on top in the form of wood chips and chicken manure. These compost in place and charge the biochar. The biochar absorbs water,  adsorbs nutrients and provides habitat for the organisms that feed the nutrients to the trees as they call for them. He is careful to water small amounts frequently rather than overwater, which most irrigation systems are designed to do. Even though he has lowered the density and increased the porosity of the clayey soil by using biochar he thinks he has reduced leaching through water management. He believes that careful water management and nutrient feeding has led to his success. He does not use additional fertilizer. He has found that he needs to use no herbicides and pesticides, or only sparingly. The current crop is being tallied but he thinks he has gotten twice the number of fruit and twice the weight in his 1000 avocado trees compared with the 1000 trees which are his control. The trees are well formed and full with less vertical height making it easier to harvest. The rows are on 9 m spacing, the trees are 4.5 m apart within the rows.

 

You can see the equipment Doug uses in the presentations at the links. Road grader. Contracted commercial grader to remove top 300-600 mm of soil. Dump truck with salt vibrator attachment to uniformly spread the biochar onto the bed with minimum dust. Road grader to layer the soil back over the biochar. He contracts the road grader and dump truck because they are fast and efficient. Roto-hoe tractor attachment to blend the biochar into the soil.  The biochar is covered with wood chips (organics) and chicken manure (nutrients) which compost in place. He mulches with the wood chip chicken manure combination. He expects to establish another series of trees this year.

 

He uses the same equipment for established trees. He cuts a wedge into the soil along the drip line, applies and blends the biochar, then applies the chicken manure and wood chips. He showed us the increased root growth in the amended soil. Scientist have also determined that the biological community has extended on its own between the rows. Since other orchard growers in his area are now using biochar the current supply of 4,000 tonnes per year from the local silicon plant is exhausted but they are expanding production next year and he is expects to experiment with other char sources from the same plant.  

 

Your soils and situation will likely be different but there will probably be a soil system that will be appropriate. You should contact Gerald Dunst at Sonnenerde (“the best soil under the sun”) in Austria. In his Kaindorf Ecoregion he has probably worked with crops and soils that are similar to yours. As you probably know he guarantees that if you use his terra preta approach you will never have to buy fertilizer again.

 

Fruit tree, vineyard and other crops use biochar amended compost as mulch to improve moisture retention. This started in California a few years ago as a response to drought. Growers continue to use the biochar amended compost. (USBI will present a biochar compost workshop at Compost 2020, the US Composting Council annual meeting, January 28-31 in Charleston, South Carolina.  https://compostconference.com/ )

 

What case studies are there from other parts of the world  where biochar is used to reduce NPK leaching in orchards?

 

Tom     

 

From: main@Biochar.groups.io <main@Biochar.groups.io> On Behalf Of Gordon West
Sent: Wednesday, December 18, 2019 7:55 AM
To: main@Biochar.groups.io
Subject: Re: [Biochar] Studies on Biochar reducing NPK leaching ?

 

Tomaso,

Many biochar makers and users are taking a different approach from using biochar alone as the preferred soil amendment and are pre-charging the biochar with microbiota. This approach abandons the common modern farming strategy of making soil productive by applying chemical nutrient inputs as ‘plant food’. In a healthy soil, the job of supplying nutrients to the plants falls to bacteria, fungi, and other microbial critters. The grossly simplified “soil-food-web" (see Elaine Ingham’s work) works like this: plants use solar energy to process nutrients, CO2, and water into carbon, O2, and sugars; the plant roots then feed their products to microbes in the soil, which use them for energy and acids to mine the soil for nutrients in soluble form to trade back through the plant roots. No chemical fertilizers necessary. In fact much of the applied fertilizer is not in a soluble form that the plants can uptake. Imbalances in soil NPK can also negatively impact the microbiotic community, reducing their ability to work with the plant roots. Herbicides and pesticides directly kill the microbes.

 

Biochar can play a major role in enhancing the robustness of the microbial community, and it can be pre-charged by blending with composts, especially fungi-dominant composts when applying to permaculture scenarios. The plant-fungi partnership can also greatly increase the amount of carbon in the soil, both labile and recalcitrant (the sequesterable form) - far more than mechanically applied biochar. See Dr. David C. Johnson - https://media.csuchico.edu/media/Regenerating+the+Diversity+of+Life+in+SoilsA+Hope+for+Farming%2C+Ranching+and+Climate/0_ysqa9svw

 

We are participating in several field trials of applying compost “activated” biochar on hay and grasslands sites. Appropriate application rates are speculative, but we are trying 1000#/acre (fairly high moisture content, so maybe 750# of bone dry biochar) blended with 15# of Dr. Johnson’s compost. Dr. Johnson has documented significant results on several crops using an incredibly small amount of “biodiverse microbial soil inoculant” (the compost alone) - in one case only 3#/acre. We view the role of the biochar to be the ‘mobile housing” for the microbes to enhance their viability after application (Airstreams for bugs).

 

In terms of percentage of biochar application rate, 1000# per acre is more like 0.1%. 

 

Gordon West

The Trollworks

503 N. “E” Street

Silver City, NM 88061

575-537-3689

 

An entrepreneur sees problems as the seeds of opportunity.

 

 

 



On Dec 18, 2019, at 6:49 AM, Tomaso Bertoli - CISV <tomaso.bertoli@...> wrote:

 

we are trying to plan an experiment in "industrial" pear and apple orchards 

 

we want to understand if and how much using biochar in the orchard would could reduce chemical fertilization (simplifying NPK) leaching 

 

we are not trying to increase production 

 

we are trying to reduce NPK input without compromising output 

 

assuming the usual biochar application rates 1 5 10 ton/ha

 

what percentage of NPK application reduction would you attempt ?  5% 10% 20% 50% 80% ?

 

have you seen similar / published studies on different cultivations that we can use as guidelines for setting NPK reduction targets ?

 

Thanks

 

Tomaso

 


mikethewormguy
 

Tomasco,

What specific types of NPK are being used...?

How and When are they applied...?

Do these growers apply other macro-  and micro- nutrients.in addition to NPK...?

Are you tracking what the cost of these biochar solutions....? 

Are these growers spraying the trees with nutrients and pesticides... ?

I ask the above questions because one way to reduce NPK leaching is to use NPK more effectively among and within growing seasons, as well as,  it can a bit frustrating for a grower to create an effective solution to reducing NPK leaching they cannot afford to use.

I am sure you are aware that different nutrients wear more than one hat.  For example.....

Monopotassium Phosphate is both a KP nutrient and a powdery mildew treatment.

Is the soil being tested for "available" nutrients, as well as, soil organic matter..?

Is the amount of NPK used based on what was mined from the soil based on the previous harvest..?

Are you using bone char along with wood char....?

The biochar application may be more effective, executable, and affordable when applied within the context of NPK used at the right time, dose, type, and manner.

my 2 cents,

Mike










Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


mikethewormguy
 

Tomasco,

In designing your NPK leaching mitigation experiment you may want to consider looking at a 2 season time span, as your experimental timeline.

This 2 season look allows you to see which season 1 activities can benefit season 2, as well as, use time as your friend to use slow release nutrient sources and soil nutrient banking to mitigate future nutrient leaching.

For example, we apply this 2 season look approach when we top dress our soils in the fall with biochar, vermicomposts, and rock dusts knowing that this top dress will be worked on by Mother Nature during our winter and early spring.

Do you have the flexibility in trial execution to have 3 different NPK LEVELS and 2 different BIOCHAR LEVELS....?

a few more cents,

Mike



Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


Francesco Tortorici
 

Here are a couple of studies conducted by Univ of Washington on the San Juan Islands, WA a few years ago.  It was a multi-year study.  The first year measured the NPK retained by biochar enhanced soil vs control.  The second year measured other results I believe.
Francesco

We know more about the stars overhead than the soil underfoot.
Leonardo Da Vinci


On Thu, Dec 19, 2019 at 7:25 AM mikethewormguy via Groups.Io <mikethewormguy=aol.com@groups.io> wrote:
Tomasco,

In designing your NPK leaching mitigation experiment you may want to consider looking at a 2 season time span, as your experimental timeline.

This 2 season look allows you to see which season 1 activities can benefit season 2, as well as, use time as your friend to use slow release nutrient sources and soil nutrient banking to mitigate future nutrient leaching.

For example, we apply this 2 season look approach when we top dress our soils in the fall with biochar, vermicomposts, and rock dusts knowing that this top dress will be worked on by Mother Nature during our winter and early spring.

Do you have the flexibility in trial execution to have 3 different NPK LEVELS and 2 different BIOCHAR LEVELS....?

a few more cents,

Mike



Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


mikethewormguy
 

Francesco,

The 2017 study used 8 tons of biochar per acre to acheive theirs results.....

This size dose could be an economic and logistical challenge for many growers to execute WiTHIN season.

it would be interesting to consider using a combination of more targeted applications along with smaller doses applied annually to acheive the same or better results.... 

Your Thoughts.....?

Mike


Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


Francesco Tortorici
 

Mike,
I agree complete regarding the application rate.  I will reach out to those involved in the research to see why they choose those rates and what they are planning for their present trials.

Personally, I recommend smaller doses and targeted application with those I work with.  Some are applying at root zone and then doing no till leaving the roots in palace and planting between last seasons crop.  

What I found interesting about the research is that in the 2016 study they found "Biochar additions increased soil total C by 32–33%, soil available NH4+ by 45–54% through mid-season, pontentially mineralizable N by 48–110%, and citrate extractable P by 29%; biochar additions enhanced soil NO3-N, NH4+-N, and P retention in the rooting zone by 33%, 53% and 39% respectively."  I had not seen that shown prior to this research.

Francesco

We know more about the stars overhead than the soil underfoot.
Leonardo Da Vinci


On Fri, Dec 20, 2019 at 6:37 AM mikethewormguy via Groups.Io <mikethewormguy=aol.com@groups.io> wrote:
Francesco,

The 2017 study used 8 tons of biochar per acre to acheive theirs results.....

This size dose could be an economic and logistical challenge for many growers to execute WiTHIN season.

it would be interesting to consider using a combination of more targeted applications along with smaller doses applied annually to acheive the same or better results.... 

Your Thoughts.....?

Mike


Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


mikethewormguy
 

Francesco,

Do you know if the yield response to the chicken litter/biochar response was a good investment for the grower....?

Were the plants direct seeded or planted as transplants.....?

If were to repeat this experiment than I would use transplants.  Thus I would be able to add the biochar to the transplant media, as well as, in the planting hole.

Broadcasting biochar over the bulk soil can assist with long term soil health but may not be as affordable and executable as a targeted application for a within season plant responses.

The ROI from a 8 ton per broad acre application may need to be evaluated over multiple seasons. This is more of an AMONG SEASON investment application rather a WITHIN SEASON response application.....

my 2 cents

Mike


Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


d.michael.shafer@gmail.com
 

I think that Mike has hit on something important that seems to have been lost in all of the other calculations. Much resides in the ROI for the farmer and the cost/availability of biochar v. NPK. If you believe that all biochar impacts are forever AND are concerned about a constant future requirement for NPK or whatever, then some of these calculations can be worked from the 2 year data. I would suggest, however, that because the biochar is resident and should increase in effectiveness and therefore NPK requirements should decline resulting in a shifting cost picture, that these calculations don't give a farmer much to work with. Were this my orchard, I would want these numbers pushed out to at least 5 years against a control of biochar + organics only combined with some sense of what costs will look like. Where I am, biochar is essentially free as are organics; NPK is costly. The beyond a few years calculation here very much favors dropping NPK entirely. Where Tomaso is, the circumstances may be very different and hence his question.



photo
Dr. D. Michael Shafer
Founder and Director, Warm Heart

+1 732-745-9295 | +66 (0)85 199-2958 | d.michael.shafer@...

www.warmheartworldwide.org | Skype: live:d.michael.shafer53

61 M.8 T.Maepang A.Phrao 50190 Chiang Mai Thailand


On Sat, Dec 21, 2019 at 2:50 AM mikethewormguy via Groups.Io <mikethewormguy=aol.com@groups.io> wrote:
Francesco,

Do you know if the yield response to the chicken litter/biochar response was a good investment for the grower....?

Were the plants direct seeded or planted as transplants.....?

If were to repeat this experiment than I would use transplants.  Thus I would be able to add the biochar to the transplant media, as well as, in the planting hole.

Broadcasting biochar over the bulk soil can assist with long term soil health but may not be as affordable and executable as a targeted application for a within season plant responses.

The ROI from a 8 ton per broad acre application may need to be evaluated over multiple seasons. This is more of an AMONG SEASON investment application rather a WITHIN SEASON response application.....

my 2 cents

Mike


Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


Francesco Tortorici
 

Mike,
In response to your questions, I do not have additional information beyond what is in the reports.  I believe they will be conducting additional trials this year, but do not know the parameters of the research.

I believe the researchers have gained knowledge since these first two years and are building upon that knowledge.

Francesco

We know more about the stars overhead than the soil underfoot.
Leonardo Da Vinci


On Fri, Dec 20, 2019 at 11:50 AM mikethewormguy via Groups.Io <mikethewormguy=aol.com@groups.io> wrote:
Francesco,

Do you know if the yield response to the chicken litter/biochar response was a good investment for the grower....?

Were the plants direct seeded or planted as transplants.....?

If were to repeat this experiment than I would use transplants.  Thus I would be able to add the biochar to the transplant media, as well as, in the planting hole.

Broadcasting biochar over the bulk soil can assist with long term soil health but may not be as affordable and executable as a targeted application for a within season plant responses.

The ROI from a 8 ton per broad acre application may need to be evaluated over multiple seasons. This is more of an AMONG SEASON investment application rather a WITHIN SEASON response application.....

my 2 cents

Mike


Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


mikethewormguy
 

Tomasco,

When the orchard owners calculate their NPK do they do it based on the harvested yield.  In this case, the yield would represent the nutrients mined from the soil.

If not than the yield based totals maybe a NPK dosing option with biochar.....

Mike





Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


Tom Miles
 

NPK + biochar appears to increase yield when biochar makes nutrients available through plant roots and mycorrhizal hyphae, and when biochar reduces nutrient loss through leaching or other factors. The marginal increase in yield would be credited against the total cost of the biochar treatment (char, application, irrigation, etc.). Field trials in Oregon with blueberries had yield results similar to the avocado results reported in Australia even though the soils and circumstances are different. Are there enough biochar field trials on orchard crops, soils, and irrigation to draw any conclusions about benefits?

 

Tom  

 

From: main@Biochar.groups.io <main@Biochar.groups.io> On Behalf Of mikethewormguy via Groups.Io
Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2019 9:51 AM
To: main@Biochar.groups.io
Subject: Re: [Biochar] Studies on Biochar reducing NPK leaching ?

 

Tomasco,

 

When the orchard owners calculate their NPK do they do it based on the harvested yield.  In this case, the yield would represent the nutrients mined from the soil.

 

If not than the yield based totals maybe a NPK dosing option with biochar.....

 

Mike

 

 

 

 

 

Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

 


mikethewormguy
 

Tom

YES..........

Happy Holidays....!

Mike



Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone