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Contact Information

Dr. Debby Hanmer
PO Box 1510
Pembroke, NC 28372

Phone: 910.521.6744

Location: Oxendine, Room 2233
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Undergraduate Research Projects

Annette Hagans

Annette HagansThe sorption characteristics of Imidacloprid (ICP), an insecticide, were investigated on three different sizes of biochar, and on a mixture of the same biochar with soil at room temperature. The biochar was prepared from the pyrolysis of hardwood chunks in a burn barrel. This biochar was then size reduced to particle size <500µm, 2mm, and 4mm. The biochars were then thoroughly mixed with soil to achieve 1, 5, and 10% by weight. The partitioning coefficient of ICP was measured experimentally for both free biochar and biochar with soil samples at equilibrium. The results obtained indicate the uptake of ICP on the biochar is practically none at room temperature. Also, the biochar samples were analyzed with a microprobe (JEOL JXA-8530F, Field Emission Electron Probe Microanalyzer) both qualitatively and quantitatively for ICP. The biochar with ICP samples were compared with the control of biochar alone. The results indicate that biochar did not take up any ICP, if it is present it is under the detection limit.


Theresa Williams

Theresa Williams (left) with Dr. HanmerGlobal climate change is tied to a rise in atmospheric CO2.  One way to remove CO2 from the air is to sequester it permanently in the soil.  Biochar (i.e. natural charcoal) added to soil sequesters carbon while it has been shown to also enhance soil quality, structure, water conservation and microbial growth.  In some cases robust microbial communities can inhibit the ability of pathogens to infect plants.  We were interested in seeing if biochar can provide protection for plants from root infections.   We tested Phytophthora parasitica nicotiana, an agriculturally important root pathogen, on petunias. Our project compared the infection rates of plants grown in soils inoculated with two levels of added biochar.  The higher rate of biochar application appeared to reduce disease symptoms of leaves and roots when combined with the moderate levels of inoculum.  More in-depth studies are needed to confirm the ability of biochar amendments to aid in suppression of P. nicotianae and other root rot pathogens.


Amber Harris

The Effects of Biochar as a Soil Amendment on the Growth of Spinacea oleracea

Amber HarrisBiochar can be used as a type of soil amendment consisting of biomass charcoal that is produced through the process of low-temperature pyrolysis.  Pyrolysis is a thermo-chemical process which decomposes organic material in the absence of oxygen.  Biochar has been shown to increase the fertility and sustainability of tropical soils. Biochar, in tropical soils, demonstrates the ability to maintain nutrient and water retention.  However, the effect on soils in temperate climates has not been determined. The goal of this research project is to determine what percentage of biochar addition to the soil results in optimum plant growth.  The project consists of five different treatments with percentages of biochar, 0%, 3%, 5%, 10%, and 20%  mixed into local sandy field soil.  Spinacea oleracea (spinach) plants will be grown under greenhouse conditions in four inch pots.  Growth rates will be determined by measuring the dry weight of the above ground plant parts.  Sample leaves will be analyzed for levels of pH, Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus.


Bill Hickman

A Survey of Corticolous Myxomycetes in the Taxodium dominated
Canopy of Antioch Bay: a Carolina Bay in Hoke County, North Carolina

Bill HickmanThe purpose of this survey is to characterize the corticolous myxomycete community within the Taxodium dominated canopy of Antioch Bay.  To achieve this, 36 trees near randomly selected points throughout the bay were climbed using the double rope method in order to sample bark at three meter increments along the trunk axis. The bark samples were placed into moist cultures in order to promote the growth and development of any myxomycetes present in or on the bark. Myxomycete fruiting bodies from the cultures will be identified and preserved as herbarium samples.  The stratified-random sampling scheme employed during tree selection will enable the statistical analysis of the abundance and diversity of the corticolous myxomycete community within the bay. The vertical-sampling scheme utilized in bark sample collection will permit the statistical representation of the vertical distribution of the corticolous myxomycete community within the bay. 

Myxomycetes or Plasmodial Slime Molds are single-celled eukaryotic organisms. Their complex life cycles are similar to that of the fungi with the exception of the motile, amoeboid feeding stage. The bark surface of living trees has been proven the habitat of a somewhat distinctive assemblage of myxomycetes collectively called the corticolous myxomycetes (Keller 1973).

Throughout the Atlantic Coastal Plain, there are elliptically shaped depression wetlands with similar northwest to southeast orientations (Nifong 1996). These Carolina Bays, so named for the profusion of bay trees in many of these depressions and their concentration in the coastal plain of North and South Carolina, were described as early as 1709. Since then the Carolina Bays have been recognized as “the most abundant natural lentic system found on the Carolina coastal plain” and are representative of nearly all freshwater wetland ecosystem types in the region (Nifong 1996). Carolina Bays are typically isolated, precipitation and/or groundwater dependant wetlands with no surface inflows or outflows, many have a clay sub-surface that allows ponding in wet years. Thus they exhibit a range of hydrologic regimes from permanent lakes to savannas that flood only during exceptionally wet years.  (Nifong 1996; NC Natural Heritage Program 2004).

Antioch Bay, a Carolina Bay in Hoke County NC, most of which is a dedicated nature preserve under the ownership of The Nature Conservancy, is about 42 acres of Cypress savanna with a diverse groundcover and an open canopy dominated by the tree species Taxodium ascendens Brongn., with Nyssa biflora Walter, Pinus taeda L., Liquidambar styraciflua L, and Acer rubrum L. Antioch Bay has been designated a nationally significant natural area by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program because it is one of the few remaining high quality clay-based Carolina Bays, Antioch is also inhabited by ten rare plant and seven rare animal species (NC Natural Heritage Program 2004).

Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2011

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