Since our first biochar field trial in 2008, we set-up plenty of field trials, developed biochar composting and lactic fermentation, produced soil substrates and biochar fertilizer and designed special biochars for special agronomic purposes. In the following sections we start to document some of our more important biochar projects in agronomy (to be online step by step).
The Ithaka Institute runs it's own compost facility in St. Leonard where we have undertaken since 2010 numerous trials to develop biologically active soil substrates with biochar. We have investigated the effects of biochar on the composting process, tested feedstock blends and composting techniques, measured greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient efficiency and examined biochar alteration through the composting process.
In 2008, the Ithaka Institute set-up it's first large scale field trial with biochar. In a steep Pinot Noir vineyard of 3000 m2, we tested charcoal powder at 10 t per hectare mixed with 30 t / ha compost against 30 t / ha of compost without biochar and a non-amended control. All treatments were seeded with a mixture of legumes. It was one of the two first biochar field trials...
In 2011 we set-up a new extended biochar field trial on a 1000 m2 Pinot Noir vineyard with five replications. The amendments of biochar alone (8 t ha-1, produced from wood at 500 °C), aerobic compost (55 t ha-1) and biochar-compost (8 t ha-1+ 55 t ha-1, mixed before the composting process) were compared to a control soil which did not receive amendments. During the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 various vine and green cover growth, vine health and grape quality parameters were monitored.
Parallel to our compost trials with biochar, Ithaka has been researching how to charge biochar using plant nutrients. We started with liquid mineral fertilizer and progressed to organic carbon fertilizers using waste from livestock farming and food processing. As biochar is an excellent carrier material for volatile nutrients, it seems ideally suited to design organic slow...
As seen with the biochar-compost substrates, the effect of biochar is more pronounced the closer it is applied to the root zone. Based on this observation we tried to wrap seed with various biochar-clay-nutrient mixtures. Especially in poor, eroded, and dry conditions seed germination and growth in the decisive early days are significantly improved.
Over the span of two years more than 200 hobby gardeners took part in a biochar trial coordinated by the Ithaka Institute. Different types of vegetables were planted on two 10 m² garden plots, one with compost only and the other with compost + biochar. The analysis of the results showed very interesting differences, once again underscoring the importance of specifically applying biochar.