Northeastern Section - 53rd Annual Meeting - 2018

Paper No. 42-10
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


MOOK, Ellen, VASILIK, Jonathan, ALFAIFE, Yahya, FREDERICK, Holly and ANAYA, Nelson, Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, Wilkes University, 84 W. South St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766

Northeast Pennsylvania has a long history of anthracite coal mining which left the area with thousands of acres of abandoned mine land according to the DEP. Abandoned mine soils have few to no organic material, few to no plant nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen, high bulk density, low pH, and small water holding capacities which makes it a struggle for plants to grow which in turn makes it harder to reclaim soils. A promising strategy to fix this problem is to alter the abandoned mine soil to support vegetation. This project aims to grow row crops such as corn on a small area of abandoned mine soil in Moosic, PA by enhancing the soil with biochar. Multiple tests were run to determine a ratio of biochar to mine soil that promotes optimal soil conditions for agriculture and is economically feasible before application of the biochar onto the mine soil. Biochar to mine soil ratios tested were 4%, 6%, 8%, and 10% using two different kinds of biochar (Wakefield Biochar and Yellow Pine). This was preceded by experiments testing the pH, water holding capacity, and bulk density of these soil mixtures. The soils with the results closest to that of agricultural soils after the batch tests underwent a column experiment to test for nutrient retention as well as physically grow corn for a period of one month. From these tests the soils were narrowed down further and tested for micro-organism growth using the naturally occurring micro-organisms in the biochar. This data will be analyzed and the results will show the most economically feasible biochar type and ratio to be added to the mine soil in order to promote the best growth of corn. The results will be used by Miner’s Mill Distillery to cultivate abandoned mine land in NEPA as a raw materials supplement to their corn-based vodkas.