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    Climbers' CornerTree Academy

    Biochar & Urban Soils


    Biochar is the solid material obtained from the carbonization of biomass. Biochar is a unique soil amendment because it decomposes slowly and has a high surface area with great ability to retain water and nutrients. Biochar also has potential carbon sequestration value by reducing emissions from biomass that would otherwise naturally degrade to greenhouse gases. Biochar research in agriculture and forestry has increased significantly over the past decade, with many studies finding positive impacts on soil quality and plant growth. In 2010, the Morton Arboretum Soil Science (MASS) laboratory and Bartlett Tree Experts were awarded a TREE Fund grant to conduct the first investigations on the impacts of biochar on urban trees. In this presentation we will discuss our findings from this research on the effects of biochar on: 1) urban street trees growing in sidewalk cutouts in downtown Chicago, IL, 2) parkway trees growing Bolingbrook, IL, and 3) trees growing in nursery at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. This presentation will also discuss the economics and potential environmental impacts of utilizing urban waste wood for creating biochar to be applied to urban soils for tree growth.  


    Bryant Scharenbroch is an Urban Soil Scientist at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. He is the primary investigator of The Morton Arboretum Soil Science (MASS) laboratory ( The MASS laboratory performs research, extension, and education activities relating to urban ecology, nutrient cycling, soil quality, tree health, and soil classification. MASS research focuses on anthropogenic effects on soils and ecosystem functioning in forests, prairies, and urban landscapes. Bryant received a Ph.D. in Soil Science from the U. Wisconsin-Madison (2007), a M.S. in Plant Science from U. Idaho (2003), and B.S. degrees from U. Wisconsin – Stevens Point in Urban Forestry (2001) and Forest Management (2001). Bryant is an ISA Certified Arborist, Associate Editor for Arboriculture and Urban Forestry, Vice-Chair of the ISA Urban Tree Growth & Longevity Working Group, and the Chair of the Midwest Urban Tree Care Forum. In 2013, Bryant received the ISA’s Early Career Scientist Award. 

    Climbers' CornerTree Academy

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