Assessing Organic Tomato Production In Palouse Soils With Biochar Amendment

Primary Author: Elvir Tenic

Faculty Sponsor: Amit Dhingra


Primary College/Unit: Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences

Category: Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Campus: Pullman




Principal topic

Current large scale agricultural methods can be seen as a double edged sword: industrial crop production systems provide plentiful food production but led to detrimental impacts to already fragile ecosystems. For all the positive aspects of organic agriculture, there is strong evidence that organic systems overall produce lower crop yields.  Overcoming yield decreases with an emerging technology being implemented globally is the organic soil amendment biochar (BC).  Experimental evidence of BC amended soil showed improved carbon storage, water holding capacity, nutrient delivery, and has led to increased crop yields although detrimental impacts to crop productivity have also been reported.


Hypotheses: BC amended soils would increase water retention, microbial activity and nutrient cycling leading to increased tomato yields.  Eggert Organic Farm soil was supplemented with either no BC, 1 ton/ha or 2 ton/ha of BC and tomato plants were grown during summer of 2019.  Plant biomass, tomato fruit, and soil samples were collected for analysis.


Plant dry biomass demonstrated a reduction in weight with increased BC application but tomato yields indicated an early increase in crop productivity in BC amended soils with final yields comparable to controls soils.  Fruit ˚BRIX in BC amended plants were similar to controls.  No detrimental impacts were found in our study indicating a positive role of BC amendment in Palouse soils. Future analysis of microbial activity from collected soils will shed light on plant/microbe interactions in BC amended soils.