2011 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
The objective of this cooperative research project is to develop innovative technologies and management practices to enhance beneficial and environmentally sound use of renewable and natural resources in Appalachia. Major components of this research effort include:
• Development of soil-mix specifications to overcome soil physical and chemical limitation in achieving land use goals.
• Evaluating the use of local agricultural, municipal, and industrial by-products as soil amendments to increase soil productivity.
• Development of environmentally sound management practices for sustainable soil production, and water and soil quality.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Both the Appalachian Fruit Research Station (AFRS) and the West Virginia State University are doing research on low productive acid (sandstone and shale based) soils. The application of biochar, digested chicken litter, or other organic and inorganic soil amendments, to acid soils has the potential to increase productivity while reducing the leaching of deleterious chemicals into the ground water.
WVSU is actively engaged in research into managing natural resources and utilization of agricultural waste and thermophilic anaerobic digestion. AFRS is actively conducting research on culture of fruit trees in the Appalachian region. Steps to mitigate the negative effects of sandstone and shale based soils is beneficial to both organizations.
The results of this research will lead to the development of technologies/ management practices that improve the physical, chemical, and/or biological characteristics of acid weathered soils. Knowledge developed from this project will improve our understanding of the soil physical/chemical properties that improve soil productivity. Management practices development will provide science-based guidance for agronomic beneficial and environmentally sound and sustainable use of natural resources. The net result will form the basis of improved agricultural practices that help balance economic, aesthetic, and environmental goals for resources management in Appalachia.
Collaborations were established with biochar producers within USDA (SRRC, New Orleans, LA; ERRC, Wyndmoor, PA) and with private industry (Piedmont Bioproduct, Gretna, VA). Agronomic (e.g. nutrient availability) and environmental (e.g. excess nutrients and heavy metals solubility) traits (e.g. nutrients availability, liming potential, etc.) of biochar from different feedstock and pyrolysis processing is determined by bench-top chemical assays. The use of biochar as a soil amendment for the area acid soils is being evaluated in a series of incubation and greenhouse studies. Effect on soil fertility, acidity, and application rate effect on leachate composition are evaluated in order to arrive at an agronomic beneficial and environmentally sound use of biochar in soil. Biochar agglomeration technology is being developed for the use of byproducts and efficient delivery of biochar to soil. Biochar agglomeration is conducted to minimize off-site air-born and off-site runoff losses of biochar. Binders are developed and waste-stream additives are used to meet the set of predetermined physical characteristics and to enhance the agronomic impact of the pelleted biochar.
The performance of a bio-infiltration soil mix is being evaluated in a rain garden setting, established in collaboration with Beckley Sanitary Board at the Exhibition Coal Mine, Beckley, WV. Inflow and effluent is collected at three different locations after each major rain event and analyzed for ionic composition. On-site soil infiltration will be measured during the summer of 2011 to evaluate mid-term rain garden and soil mix performances. A Land Use Agreement was established with The Resort at Glade Springs, Glade Springs, WV. The location for three runoff management practices, each representing a different land use, were identified (golf course, farm and road maintenance equipment washing area, equestrian area). Runoff at current locations is being monitored for ionic composition.
A detached lysimeter experiment was established in collaboration with the Appalachian Plant Materials Center at Alderson, WV, to evaluate the use of 19 different plant materials in a rain garden setting. Water, nutrients, and heavy metal mass balance in the plant-soil-leachate continuum was determined and plant species efficiency is evaluated.
A soil rating tool for soil-based storm water management practices for the state of West Virginia is being developed. During this reporting period, the established rating tool went through an internal review at NRCS and is being test-run on locations of known soil properties and characteristics. The rating tool is scheduled to be uploaded to the NRCS website later this summer, and to become operational and available to the public before the end of the 2011 calendar year.
The use of biochar to remove enteric bacteria (E. Coli) from runoff water is being tested using biochar from different feedstock and pyrolysis procedures. Preliminary kinetic and batch studies were conducted to established bacteria removal assay conditions. The ADODR has monitored activities through meetings.