Science Inventory

Germination of Blue Wildrye in Biochar Treated Mining Impacted Soils

Citation:

Johnson, M., D. Olszyk, T. Shiroyama, AND J. Novak. Germination of Blue Wildrye in Biochar Treated Mining Impacted Soils. 2016 U.S. Biochar Conference, Corvallis, OR, August 22 - 25, 2016.

Impact/Purpose:

Stabilization of mine sites with vegetation is an important management strategy to reduce metal movement off-site. Plant growth, however, is often hampered by poor soil conditions. Biochar is a charcoal-like byproduct of pyrolysis. It is being used as a novel soil amendment that may improve soil health conditions and improve plant growth. Biochar has the potential to improve metal contaminated soils so that it becomes possible to establish a stabilizing cover of plants. This presentation reports on a rapid seed germination study using soil from the abandoned Formosa Mine, a former copper and zinc mine near Riddle, OR. This soil has a pH that is too low for most plants. Through a series of tests, biochar derived from a large perennial grass was shown to be highly effective at sorbing metals present in the Formosa Mine soil. It also provides some acid neutralization capacity. In the study, soil was amended with biochar, additional lime, and fertilizer. There was no seed germination in untreated Formosa soil. Germination rates and soil pH increased with biochar treatment (without lime), but were less than 20%. However, soil pH and germination rates increased in the biochar and lime treated soils with germination rates to more than 90%. Our preliminary results suggest that adjusting soil pH to conditions suitable for plant growth will improve seed germination and growth. Higher rates of biochar treatment may also increase germination rates, but the key function of biochar in this soil seems to be metal sorption and not as a lime. The Formosa soil will need lime, biochar and fertilizer amendments to successfully establish a stabilizing plant cover. This abstract contributes to SHC 3.63.2

Description:

Stabilization of mine sites with vegetation is an important management strategy to reduce metal movement off-site. Plant growth, however, is often hampered by poor soil conditions. Biochar is a novel soil amendment that may improve soil health conditions and improve plant growth. Biochar properties can vary widely, so it is prudent to pre-test the efficacy of these and other amendments on seed germination and plant growth. Here we report on a rapid (1-2 weeks) germination study using soil from the abandoned Formosa Mine, a former copper and zinc mine near Riddle, OR. We used Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) biochar as a soil amendment along with lime and fertilizer. The study was established using a full factorial design with 4 replicates. Dry, sieved (≤ 2 mm) Formosa soil (pH ≤ 2.6) was amended with biochar at 0, 1, 2.5 and 5% by weight. Twenty-five seeds of blue wildrye (Elymus glaucus cv. 'Elkton') were placed on moistened blotter paper in clear plastic germination boxes and 15 g of amended and unamended soil (control) was used to cover the seeds. The soil and seeds were wetted and the boxes placed in a growth chamber. Information on seed germination was collected daily, along with soil characteristics (e.g., pH, EC, etc.) at the end of the study. In soils without amendment, there was no seed germination. Soil pH increased in the biochar and lime treated soils. Similarly, germination rates also increased with biochar amendment (without lime), but were less than 20%. Liming was the key factor to increasing germination rates to more than 90%, while this biochar-type had a secondary role (e.g., metal sorption). Our preliminary results suggest adjusting soil pH to conditions suitable for plant growth will improve seed germination and growth. However, higher rates of biochar amendment may also increase germination rates.

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PRESENTATION/ABSTRACT)
Product Published Date: 08/25/2016
Record Last Revised: 08/26/2016
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 325411

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY

WESTERN ECOLOGY DIVISION

ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS BRANCH