Session 4: Horticulture

Biochar use in horticulture: Designing biochar substrates for reduced peat use and improved plant health

Two promising pathways of biochar use in horticulture exist to date: (A) Using larger doses for reducing peat use, and (B) using very small doses to improve plant health in soilless growth media.
(A) Peat deposits are rapidly exploited and are considered non-renewable resources. While the public demands peat replacement professional growers still rely on the superb properties (and cheap delivery) of peat. The growing media industry and R&D initiatives tried to replace peat for 20 years, without much success: The material properties of peat are nearly unbeatable, peat is cheap to exploit without a proper carbon tax in place. However, professional growers rely more than anything on predictable quality of growth media: Technical processes such as hydrothermal carbonization or pyrolysis offer a high potential for predictable products.

(B) Increased plant growth with small doses of biochar in horticultural soilless growth media, and increased resistance to pests and pathogens were observed with low economically viable doses of biochar application. There is still a lack of mechanistic understanding: Can we tie effects to organic molecules applied with the biochar that have phytohormonal effects? Can we predict the effects by biochar systematics? And can we enhance these effects by biochar pre- or post-treatment?

Session lead:      Ellen Graber, Volcani Centre Bet Dagan, Israel; Juergen Kern, Leibniz-Institute ATB Potsdam, Germany; Claudia Kammann, Geisenheim University, Germany

Keynote: Omer Frenkel


Lecture Title: The effect of biochar application on plant health; what should we learn while designing biochar substrates?

Content: Biochar in substrates affect plant diseases and has a great potential to control the pathogens, but is not without risks. The lecture will discuss the current knowledge about the influence of biochar on plant diseases and will suggest aspects that should be implemented while designing biochar substrates.

Dr. Omer Frenkel from the Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center, Israel. Omer Frenkel is a plant pathologist and an epidemiologist. He is a researcher at the department of Plant Pathology and Weed Science at Bet Dagan and a member of the IBRN. His research interests include population biology of fungal pathogens and the influence of biochar on soil borne pathogens.



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