An Arboriculture Treatment of Biochar, Fertilization, and Tillage Improves Soil Organic Matter and Tree Growth in a Suburban Street Tree Landscape in Bolingbrook, Illinois, USA
Bryant C. Scharenbroch, Kelby Fite, and Michelle Catania
Abstract: Background: Urban tree growth may be reduced due to poor urban soil conditions. Soil management to alleviate poor urban soil conditions often includes organic amendments, fertilization, and/or tillage. A 3-year experiment was conducted in an urban landscape in Bolingbrook, Illinois, USA, to test whether an arboriculture treatment with biochar, fertilization, and tillage could improve soil quality and tree growth. Methods: The urban landscape included 75 street trees (Gleditsia triacanthos, Ulmus parvifolia, and Acer rubrum) growing in compacted, fine-textured soils. Results: The results of this experiment suggest that the arboricultural treatment of biochar, fertilization, and tillage (BFT) may improve soil quality and urban tree growth. Relative height growth was significantly greater (P = 0.05) for Acer rubrum trees with BFT treatment (+ 28.9%) compared to tillage alone (+ 13.3%). Total soil organic matter (SOM), particulate soil organic matter (POM), and a soil quality index (SQI) were significantly (P = 0.05) greater in the BFT treatment (total SOM = 6.00%, POM = 9.73%, and SQI = 70.2) compared to the tillage treatment (total SOM = 5.29%, POM = 7.23%, and SQI = 60.8). The SOM responses to the BFT treatment appear to be relatively short-lived but correlated with measures of tree growth. Conclusion: This arboricultural treatment of biochar, fertilization, and tillage has potential to be used to improve soil quality and promote growth for trees growing in compacted, fine-textured soils in suburban street tree landscapes.
Keywords: Soil Amendment; Soil Compaction; Soil Quality; Urban Soil.