Does biochar improve tree growth in a newly established apple orchard?

Farmer: Val Steinmann and Brent Klassen

Farm: Heartwood Farm & Cidery

Region: West

Publish Date: February 6, 2018

Article Type: Research Project

Research Priorities: Soil Health 

Val and Brent were curious to know if biochar will help regenerate soil in their young apple orchard and help to set in motion biological activity and nutrient retention. Researchers have documented benefits from biochar in arid and tropical soils, which vary by soil fertility status and biochar quality. Much less is known about biochar’s effect in temperate regions, but there is anecdotal support for biochar use from some farmers in Ontario.

Key Findings

  • In the first year of application, Val and Brent detected no effect of the biochar amendment on soil microbial activity, as a proxy for soil health.
  • They also detected no changes in tree health in the first year of application.
  • Val and Brent will continue to monitor soil and tree health in future years.