Sonoma County Biochar Project Workshop and Demonstration

Written by admin on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News, Uncategorized, USBI Conference 2012

The Sonoma County Biochar Project Presents:

Biochar Soil Management and Pasture Benefits

A Workshop and Demonstration

Date:  July 25th, 2015  /  Time: 10am to 2pm

At  Swallow Valley Farm, 1100 Freestone Valley Ford Rd. Valley Ford, CA  94972

For more information, click here.

Conservation Burn and Biochar Training/March 27th

Written by admin on . Posted in Initiative News

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative and the Sonoma Ecology Center are pleased to announce our second Conservation Burn and Biochar Workshop this coming Friday March 27th at Circle Bar Ranch!

By replacing conventional open burn methods with the conservation burn you can significantly reduce emissions (visible smoke and invisible chemicals and particles) from agricultural burns in your community and conserve resources, especially carbon. You will also learn how to produce biochar, a valuable soil amendment, in the process.

Go here to register:  http://biochar2.bpt.me

These workshops feature both hands-on, in-the-field training and a classroom style component.

The early morning classroom session (8 A.M. to 10 A.M) will focus on biochar itself, including why it works to improve soil, the benefits of using it in both animal and plant agriculture, how to properly condition it prior to use, and how to apply it. Conservation burn theory and methodology will also be covered, including the scientific theory behind the process, safety and permitting considerations, pile construction, burn management, and maximizing production of biochar.

The late morning session (10:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M.) will include hands-on field training using one pile of vines and vine trimmings.

A portion of the proceeds will support programs at both the Sonoma Biochar Initiative and the Sonoma Ecology Center. Please bring a bag lunch and a water container if you are staying for the extended training. Coffee and water will be available.

Mendocino Biochar Demonstration Project Events in April

Written by admin on . Posted in Initiative News

The Redwood Forest Foundation is excited to invite the public to learn about the RFFI Biochar Demonstration Project. RFFI is holding two events in April, a Regional Technical Transfer Workshop, and a Biochar Conversion Unit Demonstration Tour.

Biochar Project Regional Technical Transfer Workshop
April 9, 2015
10:00 AM- 2:00PM
Eureka, CA

Biochar Conversion Unit Demonstration Tour
April 24, 2015
10:00 AM-2:00PM
Branscomb, CA

SPACE IS LIMITED RSVP REQUIRED
RSVP judith@rffi.org
Judith Harwood
Biochar Project Coordinator

Visit the RFFI website at www.rffi.org for updated info and directions to the Branscomb, CA event.

SBI Selected to Submit a Full CalFire Project Application

Written by admin on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News, Uncategorized

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI)recently received a formal invitation from CalFire to submit a full grant application to expand our Conservation Burn Training Program statewide. CalFire received 381 Concept Proposals, totaling over $135 million, from various entities and landowners throughout the state under California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds Grant Programs, and only a limited number of these received an invitation to submit a full proposal by April 30th. Unfortunately, only $21 million is available for funding for the fiscal year 2014/2015 and not all proposals will be successful. However, we strongly believe the conservation burn training program has so many merits as a greenhouse gas reduction strategy and co-benefits to the ecosystem with the resulting production of biochar that we feel our proposal stands a good chance of being funded.

SBI has also been working to advocate at the state level for large-scale, high-profile biochar field trials. We hope to start working soon with California Food and Agriculture Director Karen Ross’ office to coordinate a stakeholder meeting (including representatives from the academic, technology, agriculture, business, policy, energy, and biochar advocacy sectors) to come up with a roadmap to bring these essential field trials to fruition.

Conservation Burn Workshop at Circle Bar Ranch

Written by admin on . Posted in Initiative News

The Workshop we held on February 13th at Circle Bar Ranch was a great success. Attendees (including vineyard managers, flower farmers, compost producers, RCD reps and others) spent the morning learning about the science aspects of the conservation burn training, and a few hours in the afternoon learning how to build and manage a pile of vines. Below are a few pictures from the event:

Most of the smoke produced gets consumed by the  top-lit flames.

Most of the smoke produced gets consumed by the
top-lit flames.

The pile is burning nicely now with virtually no smoke.

The pile is burning nicely now with virtually
no smoke.

Putting out the fire—that is steam, not smoke!

Putting out the fire—that is steam, not smoke!

The result:  a nice pile of biochar that can be used in the very  vineyard where the vines were pulled out.

The result: a nice pile of biochar that can be used in the very
vineyard where the vines were pulled out.

Mendocino Workshops Announced

Written by admin on . Posted in Initiative News

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative, a project of the Sonoma Ecology Center, in cooperation with the Mendocino Biochar Demonstration Project, is offering two separate workshops in Mendocino County on Friday April 11th. Both workshops feature Peter Hirst, a nationally known biochar expert and trainer, co-owner of New England Biochar, and farm manager at Swallow Valley Farm.

The morning workshop (8 A.M. – 11:30 A.M.), to be held in the Chenin Blanc Room at the Ukiah Conference Center, 200 S. School Street, Ukiah, focuses on biochar, including how it works to improve soil, its many benefits, how to properly condition it prior to use, and how to apply it.

The afternoon workshop (1 P.M. – 5 P.M.), will be held at the Ingel-Haven Ranch, 9000 Westside Potter Valley Rd., and will feature hands-on, in-the-field training for the conservation burn technique, including the scientific theory behind the process, safety and permitting considerations, pile construction, burn management, and maximizing production of biochar.

Workshop fees are $35 per session, or $60 for the whole day. We only have room for 36 people so be sure and pre-register using the link below. A portion of the proceeds will support programs at both the Sonoma Biochar Initiative and the Sonoma Ecology Center.

For more information and to register, click here.

New Biochar and Conservation Burn Workshops Announced

Written by admin on . Posted in Initiative News

***Upcoming Events***

Biochar Workshop & Conservation Burn Training featuring Peter Hirst

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative and Sonoma Ecology Center are pleased to announce a Biochar workshop and Conservation Burn training to be held on Friday March 21st at Circle Bar Ranch, south of the town of Sonoma.

By replacing conventional open burn methods with the conservation burn you can significantly reduce emissions (visible smoke and invisible chemicals and particles) from agricultural burns in your community and conserve resources, especially carbon. You will also learn how to produce biochar, a valuable soil amendment, in the process.

***The morning training (8 A.M. to 12 P.M. ) will focus on the conservation burn technique, and include both classroom and hands-on field training that will include the scientific theory behind the process, safety and permitting considerations, pile construction, burn management, and maximizing production of biochar.

***The afternoon workshop (1 P.M. to 5 P.M.) will focus on biochar itself, including why it works to improve soil, the benefits of using it in both animal and plant agriculture, how to properly condition it prior to use, and how to apply it.

For more information and to register, click here.

Impressions from the US Biochar Symposium

Written by admin on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News

Several things really made an impression on me when I attended the US Biochar Symposium last October at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The first was the plenary speech by Dr. Johannes Lehmann, considered by many as the scientific “godfather” of the modern biochar movement. The eminent soil scientist from Cornell University emphasized one central theme throughout the talk: all biochar is not the same—in fact we should be using the plural term biochars when talking about it since no two biochars, made in different processes, at different temperatures, from different feedstocks, will have the same characteristics.

Dr. Lehmann cautioned those of us looking to commercialize biochar to be rigorous in providing a consistent product that will produce consistent results, and that consumers can trust. Most of us who have been in the biochar world for awhile have certainly heard of and seen many types of biochar, exhibiting many different characteristics. Biochar made as a byproduct from large gasifiers primarily producing energy, for example, can have a very different structure and ph level than that made from smaller continuous-feed or batch systems that are designed primarily to produce biochar.

So sourcing biochars from different producers may have markedly different results in similar soils. Since there have been positive, neutral, and even negative results using biochar in field trials much research still needs to be done—especially identifying which feedstocks, heated at which temperatures, will produce the optimal results in a given soil type, with which plants.

This work is underway all over the world, and we conducted our own Citizen Science experiment right here in Sonoma County this year. The results of this experiment using local gardeners willing to take part in a backyard field trial will be published early next year. SBI was also recently awarded a USDA Conservation Innovation grant that will allow us to produce large amounts of biochar locally and test it at three local farms: Green String, Oak Hill, and Swallow Valley.

Biochar mixed with compost makes a rich soil amendment beneficial for your garden.

Biochar mixed with compost makes a rich soil amendment beneficial for your garden.

My second big takeaway from the conference came at a virtual presentation given by Hans-Peter Schmidt titled “Novel Uses of Biochar”. Mr. Schmidt founded the Ithaka Institute for Carbon Cycling & Winegrowing in Switzerland and for 7 years has been adding biochar to vineyards and introducing it in other agricultural settings as well. The description of his talk at the conference explains what he calls the importance of integrating the “cascading use” of biochar in the farm workflow, and even in industial systems:

“In addition to the use of biochar as a soil amendment, there are an increasing number of ways to incorporate biochar into different eco- and industrial systems. Thus feeding biochar to livestock has numerous benefits not only for the animals, but it also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improves nutrient retention in animal manure. The use of biochar in building materials is just beginning to be studied but shows promise in the ability to insulate, decontaminate air, and provide odor and humidity control. Biochar as pillow filling to induce perfectly reposing sleep is just another way to benefit from biochar’s multiple qualities. There are more than 55 uses of biochar that can all be combined in cascades. All of these uses have in common that the biochar gets slowly charged with nutrients, gets oxidized and can finally be recycled as a soil conditioner.”

Much more information on the many, many ways to use biochar(s) before finally putting it in the ground is available here. Click on Ithaka Journal and scroll down to the section titled “55 Uses of Biochar”.

Lastly, I was particularly impressed by the work done by NASA scientist Doris Hamill in producing a high school curriculum on biochar. If you are interested in teaching a science segment with some positive content about using biochar as a strategy to help mitigate climate change and promote sustainable agriculture, she has done an amazing job of preparing everything you will need. It is open source, free, and available here.

Raymond Baltar

2013 North American Biochar Symposium

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Initiative News, Member News

If you’re interested in the current state of biochar research and state-of-the-art production technology, the place to be October 13th through 16th is Amherst, Massachusetts where biochar scientists, academics, technologists and entrepreneurs from around the world will gather and exchange ideas. The Symposium website is: http://symposium2013.pvbiochar.org/. Check it out!

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