Charcoal is being used to help vegetable and specialty crop growers in Florida clean up excess herbicide residue in their fields.
Ramdas Kanissery, assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Horticultural Sciences Department at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, said when growers use herbicides, the materials can become trapped in the soil and cause harm to future crops. Herbicide sprays can have positive effects on weed management, but they can also have negative effects due to soil persistence.
Kanissery said the charcoal project is part of his appointment to help reduce crop injury for growers. In order to improve soil quality, charcoal is pulverized into small pieces, also known as granulated activated carbon (GAC), and put into the soil, he explains. Once GAC is in the soil, it absorbs the excess herbicides left behind from the spray on the previous crop.
Crops such as tomatoes, melons and cucumbers can be very sensitive to herbicide use, said Kanissery, which is why it is vital to remove the excess herbicide from the soil before planting any crops.
Soil can be analyzed prior to planting to see if excess herbicide is present. If it is, GAC can be implemented to improve soil quality and help prepare the field prior to planting. Removing the excess chemicals and starting with clean soil can help increase the odds of a successful growing season.
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