Biochar was used to save dying citrus plants! In Florida, citrus trees were plagued by a bacterial infection called HLB, and since the infection was inside the trees, combative sprays couldn’t remedy the issue. Some citrus farmers resolve HLB by removing and replacing infected trees, but this causes the farmer to loss product. To prevent this loss, the Floridian citrus trees were rehabilitated with a combination of nutrient fertilizer and biochar. Over three years, the trees regained their health and scientists began to see the possibility of breeding citrus with nutrients to create plants with a stronger resistance to HLB.
Biochar also helps citrus plants survive against Greening Disease and allows farmers to have soil that will be rich for years.
In this publication from the US Department of Agriculture, biochar is mentioned as a soil amendment that is gaining attention because of its ability to combat Greening Disease. Biochar, made from poultry litter in this instance, is capable of absorbing pollutants and metals from wastewater thereby keeping soil healthy (pg. 9-10). Biochar also facilitates carbon sequestration in soil and can have benefits that last for centuries (pg. 26). To see how biochar helps against Greening Disease in Florida citrus, see the Bison Soil article listed above.
Professors Arnold Schumann and Timothy Spann analyze the impact biochar has on the Florida citrus industry. The first half of this article is an overview of what biochar is and what it does to soil. In the second half, these professors discuss the benefits of biochar such as its carbon-negative state and its ability to reduce toxicities in soil. Their work also showed significant increases in the soil’s moisture retention and crop productivity.
This report from the University of Florida publication continues to discuss the issue of non-uniform growth of citrus trees based on variations in soil health. The authors discuss that, in order to maximize yield, non-uniform tree growth should not be met with uniform fertilization. Solutions involving GPS and grid systems are analyzed, as are the benefits of returning organic matter to depleted soil. In the “Improving the Unproductive Areas” section, the authors remark on the necessity to use organic soil amendments (biochar!) to increase soil organic matter (SOM) levels.
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