New solutions for an old problem? Combining biochar, mulch, mycorrhizal fungi, and sand to restore the quality and health of soils.
The concept of restoring or enhancing the quality and health of soil resources has become increasingly popular, but what is soil health and how can it be enhanced? Soil health is the generally defined as the capacity of soil to sustain plant productivity, and maintain or enhance water and air quality. However, translating science into practice can be complicated. Measuring 'soil quality' does nothing to enhance sustainability, and measuring the basic indicators of soil quality are generally beyond the expertise of most land managers or restoration practitioners.
In this project, the challenge is to improve the quality of the poorly structured soils at CBG and enhance plant growth. This is the 'old problem': the soils are nutrient-rich, poorly drained, compacted, and the existing mycorrhizal species do not enhance plant growth. The new solution? To experimentally test combinations of four soil additives (biochar, mulch, sand, mycorrhizal inoculation) and their effect on plant growth and soil nutrient/ carbon levels. From these, the intern will identify lab-based indicators that best characterize increases in soil health; and translate the lab indicators into useful measures for land managers.