Pilot Project 2019 - A Summary
The purpose of our project was to test how well plants would survive in soil proxies we had made up. Since we wanted to make a soil proxy that was mostly sand, this was a key ingredient. Biochar was also mixed, in different proportions in different pots to see at which ratio we can achieve optimum conditions for each plant. Half of each of these different ratios then also had sawdust added, to represent a cheap source of carbon that the plant could access in the soil.
We want to test how to grow palm oil trees, but it is incredibly difficult to actually obtain these plants in the EU. Therefore, we got a variety of other plants, with each selection being a progressively closer relative of palm oil trees. We used peas, beans, grasses and coconut trees.
In each of these cases the plants were able to grow new leaves and gain weight and grow naturally in the proxies. The plants has a variety of different responses to the different ratios, and we will publish our exact findings soon so please watch this space! Below you can find a summary of what we discovered.
This Might Be Possible!
The fact that every plant was able to keep growing in our proxy means it is that much more likely that palm oil will too. This means we need to try our experiment again with palm oil trees. It also brings us one step closer to a scene like the one to the left.
Sand isn't the only barrier to plant growth in arid areas. We will now need to develop techniques to overcome the extreme heat and drought, probably by designing a new type of greenhouse that makes use of passive cooling.
The Importance of Biochar
The best growing rates were in those samples with 10-20% biochar in the mix. In order to move palm oil to arid areas to make a difference in saving the rain forests, we are going to need a much quicker and more efficient way of making biochar, because we are going to need a LOT of it!