Biochar Study

This is a  citizen science activity that I spotted on Scistarter. I keep an eye on the citizen science projects on Scistarter and this one interested me. Scistarter lists a lot of citizen science projects.

I had seen a lot of things on the internet about using biochar as a soil amendment but did not pay much attention. When I found this project I did a little more reading about biochar.  Biochar is a fancy name for charcoal. I found that there is a lot of research going on studying various aspects of biochar. From what I can see the main benefit of biochar is carbon sequestering with the added benefit of improving the soil for plant growth.

This project is studying the aging of biochar in the soil under a wide variety of conditions. One way to do this is to get citizen scientists from different areas to bury samples of the biochar. The USDA is doing the research for this project. See link references below for more information on biochar.

After I signed up for the project I received a box with four mesh bags of biochar and instructions for burying them. The bags contain some oak biochar and a temperature data logger. One piece of the biochar was sealed in a plastic bag as a reference. The bags were labeled B07 through B10.

I picked four sites around my place to bury the bags. I tried to pick sites that were as different as possible.

 

Above is my trailer loaded with the things I needed to bury the bags. Some metal fence posts were used to mark the burial sites.

Above is a Google Earth image with the location of each bag marked.

 

Above is bag B07 in the hole. This site is at 42° 11.955’N 91° 39.256’W. It is under some very large Tartan Honeysuckle. That honeysuckle is very invasive and I really need to get rid of it. The soil here is quite sandy.

Above is a view of the site for bag B07.

Above is bag B08 in the hole. This site is at 42° 11.934’N 91° 39.310’W. This is an area that stays wet a lot of the time. It is a grassy area that I am trying to get native prairie flowers growing. It will not get mowed this year. I burned off the general area here this spring but this exact spot did not burn because it was too wet.

Above is a view of the site for bag B08. You can see that it is a wet low spot.

Above is bag B09 in the hole. This site is at 42° 11.834’N 91° 39.310’W. This area used to be a horse paddock. I planted some trees here some years ago. A lot of the pine trees I planted died. The hole is next to the stump of one of the pine trees.

Above is a view of the site for bag B09.

Above is bag B10 in the hole. This site is a 42° 11.915’N 91° 39.313’W. This is near my garden and next to my asparagus and rhubarb patch. A lot of stinging nettle growing here also.

Above is a view of the site for bag B10.

In six months the bags will be dug up and sent back to the researcher along with soil samples from the sites.

 

References:

Scistarter https://www.scistarter.org/biochar-soil-aging

USDA ARS https://www.ars.usda.gov/midwest-area/stpaul/swmr/people/kurt-spokas/biochar/

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