The application of biochar amendments to soil has been proposed as a strategy for mitigating global carbon (C) emissions and soil organic carbon (SOC) loss. Biochar can provide additional agronomic benefits to cropping systems, including improved crop yield, soil water holding capacity, seed germination, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and soil pH. To maximize the beneficial effects of biochar amendments towards the inventory, increase, and management of SOC pools, nondestructive analytical methods such as ground penetrating radar (GPR) are needed to identify and quantify belowground C. The use of GPR has been well characterized across geological, archaeological, engineering, and military applications. While GPR has been predominantly utilized to detect relatively large objects such as rocks, tree roots, land mines, and peat soils, the objective of this study was to quantify comparatively smaller, particulate sources of SOC. This research used three materials as C sources: biochar, graphite, and activated C. The C sources were mixed with sand—12 treatments in total—and scanned under three moisture levels: 0%, 10%, and 20% to simulate different soil conditions. GPR attribute analyses and Naïve Bayes predictive models were utilized in lieu of visualization methods because of the minute size of the C particles. Significant correlations between GPR attributes and both C content and moisture levels were detected. The accuracy of two predictive models using a Naïve Bayes classifier for C content was trivial but the accuracy for C structure was 56%. The analyses confirmed the ability of GPR to identify differences in both C content and C structure. Beneficial future applications could focus on applying GPR across more diverse soil conditions.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited