Biochar and Mill Ash Use as Soil Amendments to Grow Sugarcane in Sandy Soils of South Florida 

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Odiney Alvarez-Campos1, Timothy A Lang2, Jehangir H Bhadha3, Mabry McCray2, Bin Gao4, Barry Glaz5 and Samira H Daroub2, (1)Everglades Research and Education Center, Belle Glade, FL, United States, (2)Univeristy of Florida - Everglades Research and Education Center, Belle Glade, FL, United States, (3)Univeristy of Florida - Everglades Research and Education Center, Soil and Water Science, Belle Glade, FL, United States, (4)University of Florida, Ft Walton Beach, FL, United States, (5)USDA ARS, Canal Point, FL, United States
The use of agricultural and urban organic residues as amendments provides an option to improve sugarcane production in sandy soils located northwest of the Everglades Agricultural Area, while reducing waste. This study was conducted to determine the effect of mill ash and three biochars on sugarcane yield and sandy soil properties. Mill ash and biochars produced from hardwood yard waste (HY), barn shavings with horse manure (HM), and rice hulls (RH) were incorporated at 1% and 2% (by weight) to sandy soils in a lysimeter experiment. A control without amendment and an often-used commercial practice of mill ash applied at 6% (AS6) were also included. Results showed that RH2 and AS6 produced greater biomass and sucrose yield compared with the control. According to critical nutrient level analysis, RH and AS amendments also resulted in the highest silicon content, which had a positive correlation with increasing sugarcane yield. In addition, RH2 and AS6 increased total phosphorus, Mehlich-3 phosphorus, and cation exchange capacity (CEC) compared with the control. While CEC remained constant with AS2 and AS6 applications, CEC significantly increased over time with RH2. Moreover, higher amendment applications increased soil organic matter compared with the control and did not decrease over time, which suggests a positive influence for long term carbon sustainability and nutrient cycling in sandy soils. Overall, RH2 and AS6 have the most potential to be used as amendments in sandy soils of South Florida due to their positive effects on soil properties, which improved sugarcane yield. However, no negative consequences were found with the application of any other amendment in terms of sugarcane growth and soil quality. Future research should focus on the use of RH and AS amendments on long-term field-scale studies, and the economic feasibility of a single year application on plant and ratoon cane yields.