iLandscape, held in Schaumburg, Illinois from February 1-3, 2017, is fast becoming the premier landscape convention in the Midwest. With over 6000 attendees at this year’s show, the convention is a who’s who in landscaping in Illinois, Wisconsin and the surrounding states. According to Tradeshow Executive Magazine, iLandscape is one of the 50 fastest growing tradeshows in the country. This year there was a noticeable focus on sustainability. From that platform, the not-so-novel but extremely sustainable product of biochar was given the stage for a 90-minute educational seminar.
Wakefield Biochar, www.wakefieldbiochar.com, is an emerging biochar provider that was front and center at iLandscape. Tom Marrero, PhD, and Aaron Schlines, PLA (Professional Landscape Architect) presented to over 120 landscape architects, contractors and other landscape professionals during the first day of the event. An added benefit to the attendees, the seminar was worth valuable educational credits for landscape architects and arborists. Biochar is being taken seriously by the landscaping community. Questions from the audience were from professionals with sincere interest in sustainable landscaping and how they can benefit from a soil amendment like biochar.
In addition to Wakefield Biochar's presentation iLandscape also had the American Biochar Company present information on the use of biochar in salt remediation. The cost of salt damage to roadside plants and trees is very high. Many companies must prepare to spend $50,000 to $100,000 on vegetation that is killed by salt damage along roadsides every year. Using biochar is more cost effective and has been a proven solution for remediation and reclamation of soil damaged by road salt.
The importance of an environmentally sustainable product that improves soil health is center stage to a growing number of “green” landscape companies. The biochar industry is making great strides to meet this growing demand for organic solutions to soil health. In the past, there have been concerns by the landscaping industry about biochar specific to the lack of supply and inconsistent quality. Many landscape architects now have a deep knowledge of biochar. They understand issues of application rates for different plants, soil acidity, soil types and the effect on plant health and other soil amendments. This growth in awareness and understanding of biochar's benefits will force improvements in the biochar supply chain and everyone in the application process (feedstock supplier to manufacturing, soil suppliers, landscape architects and the end user). The future looks bright... and sustainable.
The academic community is embracing biochar. There is active research using biochar in agriculture and remediation at several universities. The University of Missouri has used biochar in vineyards over the past couple of years and hope to publish results within the year. Kentucky State University is working with biochar and tomato growth. The University of Florida has worked with biochar to understand how it can prevent the negative impact of the Greening Disease on citrus orchards. There are many more studies and as they get published the commercial users of biochar, like those at iLandscape, seek out to gain confidence.