James Burke, David Longer and Derrick Oosterhuis, Crops, Soils and Environmental Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
Biochar is a carbon-rich product resulting from the low oxygen pyrolysis of biomass. The biomass used to produce the biochar for these experiments was hardwood chips and poultry litter. These biochar types were analyzed for nutrient content and then tested to determine their influence on the developmental and growth of cotton seedlings (Gossypium hirsutum L.) used alone or in combination with conventional fertilizers. The experiments were conducted in a controlled climate growth chamber. The potting material was a Captina silt loam soil obtained from the Cotton Branch Experiment Station in Mariana, AR. Both biochar types were added to pots at three rates: (1) no biochar (control); (2) 5,000 kg/ha; and (3) 10,000 kg/ha, while fertilizer was also added to pots at three equivalent rates: (1) no fertilizer (control); (2) 31-23-49 kg/ha (N-P-K); and (3) 62-46-98 kg/ha (N-P-K). The plants were grown for 8 weeks and were harvested and data were collected and analyzed. Both biochar types contributed to more nodes per plant, increased leaf area and greater plant dry matter. Statistical analysis showed that main effects of biochar type had a more positive influence on most plant developmental measurements, and surpassed the effects of the fertilizer- biochar interactions.