Most gardeners and farmers would excitedly embrace any method that results in increasing their yields by even a few percentage points. The results of Diacarbon’s initial growth trials that studied the application of biochar to tomato plants should truly give them reason to celebrate. Recently, Diacarbon’s research and development team showcased our biochar in a few landmark growth trials that revealed dramatic improvements in plants survival alongside yield increases of nearly 70%.
Given that water scarcity is a harsh reality that many farmers are dealing with in Canada and the US, the first study focused on biochar’s ability to aid in mitigating plants stress due to drought. Thus, a variety of plants and soils with and without biochar were subjected to increasing levels of water scarcity. Despite increasing water stress, barley, lettuce, grass, and radish survival increased dramatically in soils treated with biochar as compared to untreated soils.
Yet the most significant results sprouted from the preliminary findings of a growth study using Tiny Tim tomato plants. Final analysis revealed that tomato plants grown in soil treated with biochar had an increase of up to 69% in total fruit yield and 103% in fruit-to-stalk mass ratio (an indication of how much of total plant growth is allocated to fruit production).Similar results were also obtained in an Australian experiment which saw a 64% increase in tomato production in soils with biochar compared to control soils without biochar.
The first trial in Diacarbon’s study utilized local soil and applied biochar at rates of 15% and 30% by volume. Despite the profound difference in tomato production between soils with and without biochar, there was no significant difference between 15% and 30% application rates. Thus, it is likely that the optimal application rate (that maintains the increased yield most economically) is less than 15%.
Building on the success of the first round of tomato trials, and driven by the need to bridge the knowledge gap regarding optimal application rate, Diacarbon will be conducting a second round of tomato trials exploring lower biochar application rates. The results will certainly shed even more light on biochar’s promise as an environmentally and economically sustainable soil supplement.
For local gardeners and farmers looking to use biochar to bolster their own harvests, Diacarbon’s biochar is anticipated to be available, in time for the 2015 growing season.