Measuring how well soil amendments hold nutrients

Problem Title

Measuring how well soil amendments hold nutrients

Scientific Title

Leaching events and the utilization of biochar and bloodmeal to retain Nitrogen

Student: 
Zachary Smith
Major(s): 
Environmental Science
iCons Concentration: 
Renewable Energy
iCons Class Year: 
Class of 2014
Executive Summary 

Leaching events are weather events where an excess amount of rainfall occurs and leaching of soil nutrients is present. Many methods are used to control or prevent this from happening. The application of the soil amendment biochar in addition to the usage of bloodmeal as a fertilizer may reduce the leaching of nitrogen in soil.

Bichar is a by-product of a process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis occurs when organic matter is burned without oxygen present. Bichar is carbon rich and had special chemical properties which allow it to retain nutrients and water as well as promoting beneficial fungi growth and even preventing certain plant diseases. Biochar's use as a soil amendment improves the capacity for soil to retain critical nutrients like nitrogen.

Bloodmeal is an organic fertilizer made from the blood leftover from slaughterhouses. It is nitrogen rich and available far faster than other organic fertilizer. Due to its slower leaching loss rate than synthetic fertilizers, using it in combination with biochar would mean improved nitrogen retention in every step of the process.

Not much research has been done concerning leaching events and biochar. It is critical for farmers and others who depend on soil to know whether or not a soil amendment can perform in poor conditions. Factoring in the effects of climate change and soil degradation, it is critical now more than ever that new soil amendments be able to maintain the resiliency and capacity of soil to supply plants with nutrients.

Problem Keywords: 
leaching
soil nutrients
Scientific Keywords: 
biochar
bloodmeal
nitrogen
pyrolysis