The Case for Carbon
Posted by Ben Pease, Agronomist, PhD on September 01, 2022
Carbon, one of the essential building blocks of all organic life, acts as the keystone for all physical, chemical and biological processes in soil. Carbon-based soil organic matter acts as a reservoir for nutrients, aids in water storage, and provides a home for beneficial soil microbes. Its importance cannot be denied.
Much like the important roles nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium play in plant health, carbon can actually act as a limiting nutrient if not maintained properly. With turfgrass constantly depleting carbon banks in soil, returning carbon can be a crucial step in building stronger, healthier turf.
The Value of Humic Substances
Soil organic matter consists of plant and animal residues at various stages of decomposition. As much as 80% of this material is represented by humic substances, a highly-reactive, carbon-rich material that is recognized by most soil scientists and agronomists as the most important component of a healthy, fertile soil.
Humic substances provide many benefits to both soil and plants, increasing soil microbial life, boosting cation exchange capacity (CEC) to prevent nutrient leaching, and improving water holding capacity. This results in enhanced nutrient uptake, improved rooting, and healthier, stronger plants.
What About Biochar?
Some of the most fertile soils in the world are in the Amazon region. These soils, known to local inhabitants as ‘Terra Preta’, were created through the addition of a variety of organic soil amendments over many years, including biochar.
Biochar is the result of burning wood byproducts at high temperatures without the presence of oxygen. The resulting biochar is high in carbon and provides excellent physical structure for microbes to live.
Biochar works to build soil profiles, lasting for hundreds of years. Biochar also contains a family of bioactive compounds known as karrikins. If you have ever watched the recovery of a forest understory from a wildfire, you have witnessed firsthand the power of karrikins. These compounds act as a growth regulator and aid in overall seed germination.
The newest member of our line of humate-based, carbon-replenishing products, Humic DG CharX, harnesses the power of humic acid and biochar in a 50/50 blend, providing the benefits of the more quickly-available humic acid and the long-term soil building qualities of biochar.
For peak effectiveness, biochar needs to migrate through the turf and down into the root system. This can be tricky with many products, which bring application difficulties and poor efficacy. While crumbled or micronized biochar products move well through the turf canopy, they do present challenges in allowing the product to properly flow through a standard broadcast spreader. Other biochar products contain larger chunks, which causes the product to remain in the thatch layer on top of the soil for long periods of time.
Humic DG CharX features DG Technology, which allows each spherical, low-dust granule to disperse into smaller microparticles when watered. This helps both the humic acid and biochar to move quickly through the turf canopy and down to the root zone, where they can begin to go to work.
Humic DG CharX can be used at seeding, aerification, and throughout the growing season to improve both the chemical and physical properties of soil.
Featuring our patented Humic Coated Urea (HCU) as a base, Polymer-Coated Humic Coated Urea (PCHCU) offers a significantly extended release profile and allows for a reduction in nitrogen usage.
Humic Coated Ammonium Sulfate (HCAS) provides a nitrogen source ideal for cooler months, representing a complementary solution to HCU applied during the warmer, summer months.
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Ben Pease is the Agronomist for The Andersons Turf & Specialty business, responsible for research, service, and technical support. Ben received both his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin, and earned his doctorate degree from Iowa State University. Ben has also served as the Assistant Superintendent for Cherokee Country Club (Madison, WI) and Whistling Straits Golf Courses (Sheboygan, WI). To contact Ben, click here.
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