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Char Benefits

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Smallaxe, May 6, 2009.

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    There has been a number of 'Char' threads that have addressed the possible phenomenon that makes Terra Preta the extraordinary thing that it appears to be.

    Activated Charcoal and Innoculated Charcoal are important concepts to keep in mind. :)

    The problem of "Dog Spots" may very well be addressed under the heading of - "Activated Charcoal".

    If we think of Char as an empty sponge that is capable of holding many times it weight in water or other substance - We can envision it as sucking the water/nutrients out of the surrounding soil until it is 'filled'...

    We would expect that a 'raw' mulch on the surface of our garden,(Wood chips , etc.) would use the nutrients in soil, to degrade the the mulch - thus - 'tying up the nutirents' and depleting the amount of N available to the existing plants... is commom knowledge...

    Activated Charcoal is capable of absorbing or 'adsorbing' elements as they occur nearby...

    So the question is...

    ... : Could raw Char possibly adsorb enough of the dog urine urea to prevent it from killing the spots on which it was dribbled???

    Any ideas???
  2. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,372

    I have heard that the whole wood mulch stealing available N that would be used for plants idea was false. If you think about it the microbes are told to release the available N to feed the plants, the mulch isn't going to tell them to do anything. Therefor it doesn't make since that they would steal stored N from other places to decompose a product. HOWEVER, as a product is broken down full of N, such as grass clippings, I can see that "undesignated" N being used to breakdown the C.

    SO, with that in mind, I can see how the char would be able to "absorb" the urine, however, it would have to be applied probably at the same time otherwise the plants will take it up immediately just as though it was a synthetic N fert that does not require the decomposition to make it available... did that make since?

    It would seem that the char would have to be down first and be able to absorb the influx of N before the plant can.

    Question, how does the char absorb the N? Is it similar to OM where it is used as a storage facility per say and microbes put the N in that place? Certainly microbes have some part in it. And do microbes store that form of N or does it get taken up by the plants and what is left over leaches through the soil?
  3. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    You are pretty much correct. The only part of the mulch that might present a problem is that which is in direct contact with the soil surface.

    Don't confuse the rhizosphere with bulk soil.

    I personally would not consider grass clippings a true "mulch" due to the relatively low C:N (9-25).

    Generally I would say you are correct in that the carbon would have to be present in the soil before the peeing event. :)

    Same way as organic matter and it has nothing to do with microbes.
  4. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Char is an interesting subject, one thing that I notice is all of the claims made about this stuff. Depending on who you speak with it will fix any soil condition and make things grow at 100% more than they would without it.

    Other say it basically takes up space in soil much like vermiculite, it adds fluff but no substance
    Others think that you can apply it and get paid for the carbon credit, I'm not so sure about that one .............yet

    I think it is somewhere in between
    If you get down to the basics, it is a great home for microbes, they are protected and it is a food source, it creates space in soils so it is easier for the soil to keep porosity, depending on how much you apply

    We have a product being trialed this year by several who frequent this board and many who don't. As the season progresses we will see.

    Smallaxe, I will try it where my dog goes and get back to you
  5. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    you get what you give.......

    char is a tool not the second coming or a miracle, and all char is not the same as others.......
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Thanx Bill,

    I have only one lawn to test it on and the main area where the dogs went all winter in the snow has to be renovated first.
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    That is very true from what I have come to understand about Char. :)

    Adding any kind of Char to an adequate Loam containing -adequate - OM , makes little or NO difference in the performance of the soil.

    Activated Char, can be used as filters, because they are empty containers, for the most part. If in a fish tank or whatever, they will adsorb, a great variety of things... impurities...

    My thought is... this is a shortcut... to a natural process of - adsorbtion and/or release of CEC nutrients...

    In other words... Kr@ppie soil can benefit from some innoculated Char - while - Good soil wouldn't even notice its presence.
    While at the same time 'Activated Carcoal' could actually subtract from a normally decent soil...

    Does that make sense??!?
  8. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Yes it makes sense
    A company we work with put down some decent compost in areas 10' x 10' ish, they applied a certain poundage to one area 2x to the next and so on

    a year later there was no difference, noticeably from one area to another

    It didn't make sense......until you looked at the SOM readings of the area

    They already had 7/8% SOM, it did not make a difference because adding organic matter was not the "factor"
  9. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    A higher CEC should lead to better nutrient retention and increased buffering capacity, regardless of an observed difference or not.
  10. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Good point, this was observed difference only
    Long term it will be interesting to see any differences

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