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  • Author or Editor: Ajay Kumar x
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The increasing demand for soilless media, sustainability issues with peatmoss, and increasing cost of peatmoss have prompted studies of more environmentally friendly and less expensive substitutes. Biochar, a lightweight black carbon material produced by the pyrolysis of biomass, has gained popularity as a soilless media supplement. The objective of this study was to evaluate Eastern red cedar (ERC) biochar as a supplement to soilless media for the production of chrysanthemum and ornamental kale. Treatments included ERC biochar produced at three different temperature ranges of 300 to 350 °C, 400 to 450 °C, and 500 to 550 °C that were applied at 25%, 50%, and 75% v/v plus a control (100% v/v of standard commercial mix). Additionally, ERC bark was applied at the same rate as biochar. The 300 to 350 °C and 400 to 450 °C temperature ranges increased the bulk density of the media, whereas total porosity was greatest with just bark. Regarding the physical properties of the media, in general, the 75% v/v supplementation rate of ERC bark or biochar at any temperature increased air porosity but decreased the water holding capacity, except for the water holding capacity at 500 to 550 °C. As the biochar production temperature increased, so did the pH and electrical conductivity (EC), whereas volatile matter decreased. Plant height, width, shoot dry weight, root dry weight, number of flowers (chrysanthemum only), flower diameter, and water use efficiency were greatest with the 100% v/v soilless media for both species. In general, chrysanthemum plants grown with 25% v/v biochar supplementation or bark had similar height, width, and shoot dry weight at any temperature compared with those grown with the 100% v/v soilless media. For ornamental kale, the 25% v/v 400 to 450 °C biochar supplementation showed plant height and water use efficiency similar to those of the 100% v/v soilless media. In general, 25% ERC bark performed similar to 25% v/v and 50% v/v biochar at any temperature for plant width, shoot dry weight, root dry weight, water use efficiency, and root-to-shoot ratio. The media nutrient content and EC were greater with 100% v/v soilless media and a lower rate (25% v/v) of ERC bark and biochar than with higher rates. The higher levels of biochar were harmful and reduced the ornamental kale growth and quality. These results suggest that supplemented soilless media with lower rates (25% v/v) of ERC biochar could be recommended for chrysanthemum, but that less than 25% v/v may be necessary for ornamental kale.

Open Access