Terra preta in a Temperate Climate: A Feasibility Study


Jordan Foye

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis


Earth Science

First Advisor

Dr. Mark Sweeney

Second Advisor

Dr. Matthew Sayre

Third Advisor

Dr. Meghann Jarchow


Terra preta, Sustainability, Biochar, Future Research, Prairies

Subject Categories

Earth Sciences | Forest Biology | Soil Science


With the world's population rising. sustainability will become increasingly important. Soil fertility for the purposes of agriculture and the environment will be an important topic, and one of the most fertile soils in the world, Terra preta do Indio, comes from the Amazon Rainforest. Most research on Terra preta has been conducted in tropical climates, limiting the possible applications in a temperate climate such as the Midwest. Soil was collected from an organic farm field and a construction site and combined with soil amendments. The tubs were placed in a greenhouse, planted with prairie grasses and wildflowers, and left to grow for seven months. Questions that were considered include: 1) is it possible to create Terra preta in a temperate climate; 2) does Terra preta in a temperate climate act like Terra preta in the tropics; and 3) does the type of soil used to make Terra preta affect its fertility? At the termination of the research, a conclusive statement about Terra preta in a temperate climate could not be made. The soil type could not be tied to fertility, but soil tests indicate the possibility that it could have an influence on fertility in future studies.

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