What’s New

Call for Biochar Research and Industry Posters

The Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is teaming up with the University of California, Davis, to host a Biochar Field Day. The event will highlight current research, showcase available resources, and provide up-to-date information on the production and application of biochar in agriculture.

We are seeking poster submissions for the field day. Posters should focus on agricultural applications of biochar, relevant biochar research, biochar products and/or technologies.

If you would like to present a poster at the Biochar Field Day, please submit an abstract toFREP@cdfa.ca.gov by 5:00 pm on May 30, 2018. Submissions must include poster title, author names and affiliations, and a description of the project, research or product. The field day will be hosted Wednesday, June 6th at Russell Ranch.

Please share with others who may be interested in presenting and let me know if you have any questions.

Nicole Crouch

Agricultural Aide

California Department of Food and Agriculture

Fertilizer Research and Education Program

Phone: (916) 900-5022

Email: Nicole.Crouch@cdfa.ca.gov

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New Guidelines for On-Farm Biochar Production UsingSimple To Make and Use Flame Cap Kilns

Here is a great new study conducted by Oregon’s Kelpie Wilson and the Umpqua Biochar Education Team.  Check it out!  RB

Deliverables from the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant: On-Farm Production and Use of Biochar for Composting with Manure

This grant was awarded to South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership (SURCP) in 2015. The grant was carried out by Wilson Biochar Associates and the Umpqua Biochar Education Team (a committee of SURCP) in conjunction with farmers and other volunteers.

During the course of this three year project, we manufactured more than 30 kilns and made about 75 cubic yards of biochar that got used in cattle barns, goat barns, rabbit hutches, chicken coops, horse stables, alpaca barns, worm bins and outhouses. We did many pot trials and several field trials with the resulting biochar composts. We found that most of the participating farmers could produce biochar at a labor cost of about $100/cubic yard.

We produced a final technical report and a series of Practice Guidelines to help others implement their own projects. The report and the Biochar Practice Guidelines are free  to share with attribution. Please distribute widely. Updates to the Biochar Practice Guidelines will be available at UBETBiochar.blogspot.com and WilsonBiochar.com.

Here is the section Kelpie Wilson most wants to share:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/gr24dxgpzui9hys/Biochar%20Manure%20Practice%20Guidelines-all.pdf?dl=0

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The weather finally cooperated for the recent Conservation Burn workshop at Circle Bar Ranch. We want to thank all of our attendees for their interest, Cuauhtemoc Villa and Alana Fichman for their knowledge and assistance, and especially our Circle Bar host, Sue Smith, for her ongoing support of this program.  (A special shout-out to equipment operator Jerry!)  Here are a few images from the event.        Photos by Raymond Baltar

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SBI/SEC Gives Conservation Burn/Biochar Training to the Staff at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

We  recently gave a workshop at the Elkhorn Slough Research Reserve, a beautiful state research facility located in Moss Landing on the Central Coast. Both the conservation open burn and pit burn techniques were conducted and compared, and in the future they also plan on testing a “Kon Tiki” style kiln.The Reserve has an estimated 9-year supply of invasive Eucalyptus trees that they want to turn into biochar for on-site research.. The biochar will be processed for use as a filtration medium to determine how well it works to prevent local agricultural runoff from entering the Slough—an ongoing problem that can causes algae blooms that kill fish. We are excited to be collaborating with this nationally known conservation and research organization and will soon be working with them on the agricultural nutrient filtration project. Here are a few photos from the training, followed by some photos of the ongoing agricultural filtration project showing the water that needs filtering, the biofilters testing a number of different filtration media, and the results of the filtration efforts—a cleaner wetland.  Photos by Raymond Baltar

Above:   The Elkhorn Slough Crew (including new Charmaster Bree Candeloro, center!)
Below: The Agricultural Runoff Filtration Study Location Near Watsonville

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Update on the SEC/SBI/UCR Department of Water Resources grant project testing biochar’s ability to save water in California Agriculture

Below are some photos of UC Riverside and Monterey Pacific Vineyard Management staff installing moisture monitoring equipment at the Oasis Vineyard near King City in Monterey County.  We are excited to start cataloging field trial data in this vineyard block with extremely sandy soils. Vineyard manager Doug Beck will also be cataloguing pruning weight and fruit production differences between the control and biochar-enhanced vine rows, and UC Riverside is measuring before and after application microbial population differences as well. Photos by Doug Beck and Raymond Baltar.

 

 

Below: Gathering soil samples for microbial analysis.

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Global Biochar Market Size Expected to Reach $585.0 Million by 2020.

According to a report by Zion Market Research, the global market was valued at approximately USD 260.0 million in 2014 and is expected to reach approximately USD 585.0 million by 2020, growing at a CAGR of around 14.5% between 2015 and 2020.

To learn more, go here.

Piercy Plant5270

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Testimony and photos below from Patrick Norton, Assistant Vineyard Manager, Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards:

“Thank you again for a great seminar last week. Your educational and inspirational biochar workshop has changed the way I look at burning and soil fertility.  Much appreciated! Conservation burning is so much cleaner and more effective. I will never burn conventionally again if I can avoid it.

ChalkHill1ChalkHill2

Grant News

Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Biochar Initiative and UC Riverside Awarded Biochar Research Grant from California’s Department of Water Resources!

Sonoma Ecology Center and the Sonoma Biochar Initiative, in collaboration with Dr. Milt McGiffen of UC Riverside, several RCD’s, and farmers up and down the state, have been awarded a research grant to conduct major biochar field trials in California. We are seeking definitive scientific data to determine whether biochar use can save farmers money through water savings. We are planning to start the field trials at 3 farms this Spring. 

Lastly, we have applied to the Bay Area Air Qualify Management District’s (BAAQMD) educational grant program to fund emissions research that would provide hard data showing the differences between the Conservation Burn technique we have been developing vs a typical open agricultural burn. During a recent Farm Bureau presentation on open burning and other air emissions regulatory policies the BAAQMD’s representatives expressed an interest in the Cconservation Burn and we have invited them to attend our upcoming training (see below).  We believe that obtaining the hard data differences between the traditional and conservation burn practices would help push policy changes and broader farmer support for this simple yet dramatic way to reduce pollution while also producing biochar.

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Biochar for Carbon Removal from the Atmosphere  (From the IBI Website)

In the October 21 issue of Nature Communications Woolf et al demonstrate that biochar could play an important role in removal of carbon from the atmosphere, which is increasingly recognized as essential to meeting global climate targets.  Woolf compared biochar-bioenergy systems with bioenergy alone and gasification-based bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, known as BECCS. In its 2014 report, IPCC flags BECCS as the only major land-based approach expected to draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, Woolf demonstrates that biochar-bioenergy systems that sequester carbon in agricultural lands could reduce carbon sequestration costs, allowing earlier adoption of a more aggressive policy of actively removing carbon from the atmosphere to avert dangerous climate change. Biochar-bioenergy competes favorably with BECCS at lower carbon prices, and where biochar addition to soils delivers significant increases in crop yields. Thus, effective use of biochar as a carbon removal strategy relies on identifying those sites that are most responsive to biochar.

This requires similar knowledge systems as those commonly in place around the world to guide fertilizer application.  Averaged across all published scientific experiments, biochar increases crop yields around 20% with application rates often exceeding 10 t/ha. However, applications of less than 5 t/ha can increase crop yields by over 50% in certain types of soils. Even highly productive agricultural lands contain patches of degraded soils that would benefit from biochar application. Precision agriculture can deliver biochar to specific field locations where it can provide the greatest soil benefits.

Biomass energy in combination with carbon sequestration has enormous potential as a carbon removal strategy.  However, biomass is a widely dispersed resource best suited to small-scale, distributed bioenergy systems. In contrast, sequestration of carbon dioxide is necessarily a large, centralized operation to enable separation and injection of carbon dioxide into carefully selected geological deposits.  This mismatch in scale between bioenergy production and carbon dioxide sequestration is a challenge for gasification-based BECCS.  The relative simplicity of producing and sequestering biochar results in biochar-bioenergy systems that can be built at modest scale and widely distributed.  Their small size reduces the risk of deploying new technology, eases financing, and speeds adoption.  Biochar-bioenergy systems can play an important role in a global strategy to actively remove carbon from the atmosphere.

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Biochar Field Production Added as an NRCS Conservation Enhancement Practice

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced an amendment to the Conservation Stewardship Program (SCP), adding biochar production from woody residue as a conservation enhancement practice.  This practice supports and encourages the production of biochar following fuels reduction harvests or post-wildfire forest regeneration.  You can download the PDF on the here:  e384135z

This conservation enhancement practice officially defines and supports work done by SBI over the last 4 years training farmers and foresters about the Conservation Burn technique that reduces smoke pollution while also producing biochar, as well as work done by Kelpie Wilson teaching forestry professionals how to use flame-cap kilns in Southern Oregon.

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Biochar Workshops and Conservation Burn Training

Here are a some photos from past trainings:

Four staff members from Sonoma Ecology Center’s Conservation Burn program trained Cakebread Vineyards staff, Wolf Vineyard management staff and workers on this top-down burn technique. Over a two-day period 12 large piles were burned cleanly, yielding about 15 yards of biochar to be used in the winery’s garden next fall. The biochar will be crushed and added to compost for seasoning over the summer.

Excavator operator assembled Conservation Burn piles at a Cakebread Cellars vineyard in Rutherford

Excavator operator assembles Conservation Burn piles at a Cakebread Cellars vineyard in Rutherford.

Workers rake and hoe the biochar as water is used to save the carbon (biochar).

Workers rake and hoe the pile as water is used to extinguish the fire and save the carbon (biochar).

  

A beautiful pile of char in the foreground with a burning pile in the background.

A beautiful pile of char in the foreground with a burning pile in the background.

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And as a reminder of how NOT to burn, here is a pile burned in the typical way— 

photographed recently in the Sonoma Valley.

SmokyBurn1Small

Smoky fires like this that can last for hours can be greatly diminished by utilizing the Conservation Burn technique as a BMP on your property. We view the Conservation Burn as a “bridge” solution that farmers can employ to reduce smoke in their community and make biochar in the process. However there are better long-term solutions as kiln and retort technologies become mainstream and cheaper. We envision a day when clean and multi-purpose biochar production facilities are located in every community, making open burning a thing of the past.

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Circle Bar Ranch Workshop

Circle Bar Ranch Workshop

Cuauhtemoc

Cuauhtemoc Villa teaches about about microbes and biochar at the Circle Bar Ranch Workshop

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Pine1

Four vine piles ready for a Conservation Burn at Pine Hawk Vineyards in San Miguel.

Pine3

Miles and Cuauhtemoc light the first pile at the top.

Pine4

The first pile takes off. Note the pile was lit on the DOWNWIND side.

Pine5

The second and third piles are lit a half hour apart, and are allowed to burn down to a critical point before extinguishing. Note how little smoke is escaping the flames.

Pine7

The first pile is almost ready to douse with water to save the carbon (biochar). Unburned pieces will be moved to the next pile.

Pine6

Miles, Cuauhtemoc and Pine Hawk crew members make sure the fire is completely out and rake out the partially burned pieces.

Pine15

A total of 10 piles were burned that day—a record for the Sonoma Biochar Initiative—with 8 excellent crew members. Here steam is created when one of the last piles is extinguished with water as sunset approaches.

Pine Hawk Vineyards Crew

The awesome crew after a LONG day at the Pine Hawk Vineyards Conservation Burn training in Paso Robles.

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Quivira Vineyards Training

Quivira Vineyards and Winery Conservation Burn training. It was a gorgeous day in wine country and the Vineyard Manager, Ned Horton, and his fine crew, were impressed by the lack of smoke and how quickly the piles burned down.

Quivira2

Quivira Vineyards / Always light the fire on the DOWNWIND side!

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Quivira Vineyards / The pile is almost ready to extinguish to save the carbon.

Quivira4

Quivira Vineyards / Most of the smoke gets consumed by the flame!

Quivira5

Quivira Vineyards / Working the pile

Quivira6

Quivira Vineyards / Look at all that beautiful biochar that was produced.

 

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E & J Gallo's San Miguel Vineyard

Test Conservation Burn at E & J Gallo’s San Miguel Vineyard near Paso Robles. With a moisture content of 30% to 45%, we determined that these vines were too green to burn easily and that they needed more seasoning. Ranch Lead Holly Smith was excited about the process and and in using biochar experimentally on some vines. Here Miles Atchison and Holly discuss the structure of the pile and the conditions of the vines.

 

Gallo1C

E & J Gallo’s San Miguel Vineyard / Though we did successfully burn the pile cleanly and make some good biochar, it took three times longer to burn than normal and we recommended waiting another month before processing the rest of the vines from the 75-acre vineyard. Here Miles Atchison discusses biochar with E & J Gallo staff members.

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Sonoma Biochar Initiative: A project of the Sonoma Ecology Center / Contact Us / Login