Amending soil with biochar and mill ash can improve sugarcane yields on sandy soil, boosting food security and biodiversity at the same time

A study published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment revealed that the addition of mill ash and biochar made from rice hulls can significantly increase sugarcane biomass and sucrose yields when compared with soil samples that didn’t receive any such additions.

  • Researchers from the Soil and Water Science Department at the University of Florida have conducted a study that showed clear benefits of adding mill ash as well as biochar made from rice hulls to sand soil in Florida.
  • According to the researchers, the addition of certain organic residues to sand soils has always been known to improve soil properties, but a thorough examination of the effects of biochar and mil ash hasn’t been performed until now.
  • The researchers focused on determining the effects of mill ash as well as three biochars on yields of sugarcane that were being grown on sand soils of South Florida near the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).
  • To conduct their study, the researchers set up nine different treatments and a control to be evaluated. The treatments consisted of mill ash (AS) and biochars that were produced from hardwood yard waste (HY), horse barn shavings (HM), and rice hulls (RH) all incorporated one percent and two percent (by weight).
  • The standard practice treatment of mill ash applied at six percent was included, and the results showed that this – as well as mill ash applied at two percent (AS6 and AS2), and rice hulls biochar applied at two percent (RH2) – produced much greater biomass and sucrose yields compared with the control in the plant-cane and the first-ratoon crops.

The researchers conclude that the application of mill ash and rice hulls biochar can potentially improve sugarcane yields on sand soils near the EAA.

Journal reference:

Alvarez-Campos O, Lang TA, Bhadha JH, Mccray JM, Glaz B, Daroub SH. BIOCHAR AND MILL ASH IMPROVE YIELDS OF SUGARCANE ON A SAND SOIL IN FLORIDA. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 2018;253:122–130. DOI:

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