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Biochar and Sustainable                                            Agriculture    A Publication of ATTRA—National Sustaina...
Healthier stoves                          In rural areas, an estimated 3 billion people                          still coo...
• With respect to if biochar can              and bioenergy to be produced on the farm       provide improved nitrogen and...
Figure 1. Potential income sources from biochar production(Figure courtesy of Re:char,
• Potential heavy metal content of            Figure 2. Biochar can be a carbon-negative renewable      biochar (depending...
was immediately released back into the atmo-       Life-cycle analysis is a method used to eval-                         s...
Finally, these early positive results of life-      the sustainable use and production of bio-cycle estimates need further...
parts of the crop residues produced in food        2009, there was extensive discussion about                       produc...
Roberts, K., et al, 2010. Life Cycle Assessment of          Biochar SystemsBiochar Systems: estimating the energetic, econ...
AirTerra                                                    biochar as an important part of Seattle’s response to theAirTe...   ATTRA   Page 11
Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture                  By Jeff Schahczenski                  NCAT Program Specialist         ...
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Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture


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Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture

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  1. 1. Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture A Publication of ATTRA—National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgBy Jeff Schahczenski Biochar has the potential to produce farm-based renewable energy in a climate-friendly mannerNCAT Program and provide a valuable soil amendment to enhance crop productivity. If carbon offset markets develop,Specialist biochar can provide income for farmers and ranchers who use it to sequester carbon in soil. This© 2010 NCAT publication will review the current research and issues surrounding the production and use of this emerging biomass energy technology and explore how biochar can contribute to sustainable agriculture. Biochar is the product of turning biomass into gas or oil with the intention of adding it to crop andContents forest production systems as a soil amendment.Introduction ..................... 1What is biochar? ............. 1Importance to farmersand ranchers .................... 2Increased fertility ........... 2Moisture retention......... 3Soil pH balancing ........... 3On-farm andcommunity-basedbioenergy production .... 3 Biochar from various feedstocks. Photo courtesy of Nature.Potential incomeoffsets, fuel and soilamendments .................. 3Relationship to climatechange and soil carbon Introduction about carbon sequestration, see the ATTRAsequestration................... 5 publication Agriculture, Climate Change and BLimits of biochar iochar was initially linked to the Carbon Sequestration. A secondary sourceand climate change: exploration and archeological study of interest in biochar comes from the grow-The fuel-versus-fooddebate ................................ 7 of early human settlement and soils. ing need to develop low-cost and healthierSummary: The future of These early studies of soils being enriched biomass-fueled stove technology.biochar for sustainable from what appears to be the deliberate mix-agriculture ........................ 8 ing of burned biomass in soils around human What is biochar?References ........................ 8 settlements helped spark more recent interest The definition of biochar is more about itsFurther resources ........... 9 in biochar. These deposits of enriched soils, creation and intended application rather known as terra preta in the Amazon region than what it is composed of. Both charcoal of South America, have a fascinating history and biochar are produced through an energy of scientific study of their own (Lehmann et conversion process called pyrolysis, which al, 2004). is essentially the heating of biomass in the More current studies of biochar are focused complete or near absence of oxygen. Pyroly-ATTRA—National SustainableAgriculture Information Service on its role in a growing demand for bio- sis of biomass produces char, oils and gases.( is managed mass-based energy sources that can miti- The amount of these materials producedby the National Center for Appro-priate Technology (NCAT) and is gate greenhouse gas emissions and slow cli- depends on processing conditions. Whatfunded under a grant from the mate change. For more information about makes biochar different from charcoal isUnited States Department ofAgriculture’s Rural Business- bioenergy, see the ATTR A publication that the biochar product is created for use asCooperative Service. Visit the An Introduction to Bioenergy: Feedstocks, a soil amendment. Biochar can be producedNCAT Web site ( for Processes and Products. In addition, biochar has from a variety of biomass feedstocks, butmore information on the potential to enhance soil quality and soil is generally designated as biochar only if itour sustainable agri-culture projects. carbon sequestration. For more information produces a useable co-product for soil
  2. 2. Healthier stoves In rural areas, an estimated 3 billion people still cook with biomass fuels such as wood, dung and leaves. The many inefficient stoves in use have resulted in severe respiratory ill- ness and death. Over 1.6 million children die annually in the developing world from the consequences of exposure to biomass fuel (Edelstein et al., 2008). The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) has assisted in several projects that are improving cookstove effi- ciency while producing biochar for use as a soil amendment. These projects are part of a broad movement to end this serious world Making a biochar stove in Kenya. Photo courtesy of health issue. See the Further resources Dorisel Torres, Cornell University. section at the end of this publication for more information about IBI. improvement. The oils and gases from Importance to farmers pyrolysis can be used for energy production. The biochar and energy created can provide a and ranchers carbon-negative energy source and a useable Increased fertility co-product for soil improvement. Carbon- Farmers and ranchers may have an inter-Related ATTRA negative renewable fuels are discussed later in est in biochar as a soil amendment that canPublications this publication. However, not all biochars are enhance fertility and reduce the need for created equal. The efficiency and effectivenessAgriculture, Climate more expensive fertilizers. However, practi- of the process of its creation and use can varyChange and Carbon cal issues of how much to apply, cost, avail- and the specific biomass sources used canSequestration ability and possible risks with application are affect the characterization and usability of theAn Introduction yet to be fully explored even though research biochar (McLaughlin et al., 2009).to Bioenergy: is expanding rapidly. The book Biochar:Feedstocks, Processes Complex ongoing research is striving for Environmental Management, by edited byand Products a more uniform and standard biochar IBI board members Johannes Lehmann andBiodiesel: that will limit potential environmental Stephen Joseph, has some of the best currentThe Sustainability problems associated with biochar production information available.Dimensions and application to soils. Creating a standard- Scientists still don’t have a specific under- ization of biochars may make it possible forRenewable Energy standing of how biochar provides fertility forOpportunities on people who buy biochar to depend on uni- crops, but the following provides a good sum-the Farm form attributes. Issues such as what should be mary of what research has suggested to date. the ideal moisture and ash content of standard biochar are relatively easy to measure and • Biochar has little plant nutrient standardize, but tests for metals and alkalin- content itself but acts more as a ity are not. Some of the attributes that might soil conditioner by making nutri- be expected from biochars can go beyond just ents more available to plants and physical characteristics to issues of whether improving soil structure. the feedstock used in its creation was from • The high surface area and pore a renewable feedstock, whether its produc- structure of biochar likely provides tion reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a habitat for soil microorganisms, whether the biochar can improve soil quality which in turn may aid in making in a reliable way (IBI, 2009). some nutrients available to crops.Page 2 ATTRA Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture
  3. 3. • With respect to if biochar can and bioenergy to be produced on the farm provide improved nitrogen and or as a rural community economic develop- phosphorus availability to crops, ment project. Farms and ranches have the the research is not definitive but is advantage of being close to several sources suggestive of a positive effect. of biomass that would be appropriate for • Biochar may provide an indirect biochar production and use. A few demon- nutrient effect by reducing leaching stration and research projects in the United of nutrients that otherwise would States are just beginning to examine biochar not be made available to crops. production but have so far been largely lim- ited to forestry-based biochar and bioenergy • The quality of the biochar applied, the production. There are also a few fairly new process of application and the over- companies developing biochar production application of biochar may have nega- equipment and even selling biochar as a soil tive impacts on air and water quality. amendment. See the Further resources sec- tion at the end of this publication for a shortMoisture retention list of these projects and companies.A few studies of biochar application on crops Fsuggest that biochar may enhance soil mois- Potential income offsets, fuel arms andture retention. This attribute of biochar may rancheslessen the effects of drought on crop produc- and soil amendments The economic potential of biochar for farmers have thetivity in drought-prone areas. As noted above,this moisture retention capacity is largely and ranchers can come from three sources: as advantage ofrelated to the high surface area and porosity a soil amendment that could partially replace being close toof biochar. However, there is some contro- fertilizer; as a source of heat, bio-oil and gases several sources ofversy because the moisture retention capac- for farm and ranch use; and as potential biomass that wouldity is related to the feedstock that was used income as a carbon offset in a future cap-and- trade market For example, it is conceivable be appropriate forto produce the biochar, as well as the exact that a farm or ranch with significant renew- biochar productionprocess of the biochar’s production. Thesetwo factors can affect the pore and surface able biomass sources available for harvest and use.structure of the biochar. However, if climate could covert that biomass to heat and liquidchange leads to even drier conditions in many or gas fuel for machinery operation and returnagricultural production areas of the world, the biochar back to the fields to enhance fer-biochar as a soil amendment from various tility and collect a carbon offset payment. Seefeedstock sources may still have some positive Figure 1 for an illustration of possible incomeeffect on retaining soil moisture even if it is sources from biochar production. However,variable (Lehmann and Joseph, 2009). several economic, institutional and regulatory questions need to be answered before such a project could be fully optimized.Soil pH balancingFor soils that require liming, there is grow- First, what are the costs and values of on-ing evidence that biochar may provide similar farm biochar production? The answer to thisbenefits of improving soil pH balance (Col- question is still very much an open researchlins, 2008). However, the quantity of biochar issue. A recent study published by Wash-that needs to be applied relative to liming may ington State University provides estimatesbe high. Also, the substitution of biochar for for non-farm, ranch-based biochar produc-lime can likely provide for net carbon benefit tion costs as well as an excellent review ofcompared to standard liming. limited additional research studies (Granat- stein et al., 2009). The result of this study, which is based on biomass from sustainableOn-farm and community-based forest thinning, offers a wide range of costsbioenergy production for biochar and bio-oil production. As notedThe process of making biochar has the poten- earlier, the creation of biochar results in nottial to be scaled to a level that allows biochar only char but also oils (bio-oil) and ATTRA Page 3
  4. 4. Figure 1. Potential income sources from biochar production(Figure courtesy of Re:char, that have potential economic value. Depend- biochar production, but these are based ing on the scale of production, which ranges on estimates of life-cycle greenhouse gas from mobile to stationary, the WSU study emissions and price expectations of future suggests a range in total costs of production of unknown carbon prices. One of the distinct biochar of between $194 and $424 for each advantages of biochar is that it provides a ton of feedstock (Granatstein et al., 2009). relatively easy measurement for soil carbon sequestration compared to other ways of Second, there are only a few private car- increasing soil carbon sequestration that are bon offset markets available and none have not as easily measured. institutionalized a market for carbon offsets related to biochar. While the U.S. House of Finally, the production of biochar has Representatives has passed legislation (HR several potential regulatory issues to over- 2454) that could lead to the establishment come before a biochar industry can develop. of a carbon offset market, as of the date of Major issues include: this publication (February 2010) the Senate • Applications and potential carbon has yet to consider fully its version of simi- dust air pollution. Biochar is very lar legislation. An amendment to the Senate light and easily broken into small bill does mention biochar as a potential for particles that can become airborne. carbon offset projects. Finally, in October of 2009 two bills were introduced in Con- • Air emission standards from biochar gress (HR 3748, SB 1713) that would pro- production have not been fully exam- vide for loan guarantee programs to support ined and may vary depending on the demonstration projects for biochar produc- design of the pyrolysis equipment. tion from biomass collected on public lands. • Water quality issues related to Several studies have estimated what level of applied biochar on potentially carbon offsets income may be generated from erodible fields.Page 4 ATTRA Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture
  5. 5. • Potential heavy metal content of Figure 2. Biochar can be a carbon-negative renewable biochar (depending on the biomass fuel source feedstock) and its effect on human Source: International Biochar Initiative. Available at and animal health. these issues are not beyond solution,they will all have to be investigated and willlikely add costs to the production and use ofbiochar as a soil amendment.Relationship to climatechange and soil carbonsequestrationAs noted above, one of the most promisingaspects of biochar with bioenergy produc-tion is that it could be an important renew-able energy source with the potential to sig-nificantly mitigate greenhouse gas emissionsand slow climate change. Figure 2 providesan illustration of this capacity of biochar.The percentages are estimates of potentialatmospheric carbon offsets but are not yetfully documented and are used here as anillustration of the process only.The first illustration shows the carbon and using part (25 percent in the examplesequestration process. Th is represents the above) for the production of bioenergy andnatural carbon cycle. As plants pull carbon part for the production of biochar. The illus-dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, part of tration shows that the biomass that is con-that carbon is built into the plants’ struc- verted to energy (potentially in the formstures through the process of photosynthesis. of heat, gas or liquid fuels) releases part ofWhen plants die, they sequester that embod- the carbon in the form of CO2 back intoied carbon into the soil, but most of the car- the atmosphere in an assumed carbon-neu-bon is rather quickly released back into the tral process. The other part of the biomassatmosphere as CO2 through plant respiration is converted into biochar and because of itsand soil microbiological activity. The relative stability sequesters all but 5 percent of theamounts of CO2 are more or less balanced carbon (in this illustration) in the soil andand hence the process is said to be carbon hence has the ability to provide a carbon-neutral. Carbon neutral means that there is negative source of net carbon added to the atmosphere otherthan what naturally occurs. Climate change However, the ability of biochar with bio-is caused by net additions of carbon (carbon energy production to offer carbon-nega-positive) to the atmosphere. These additions tive renewable fuel through its energy co-are primarily due to humans burning car- products is limited to critical points in thebon-based fossil fuel stocks at an increasing process of its production and use. First, itrate over the past 500 years. Carbon negative is important that biochar applied as a soilrefers to the actual net reduction of carbon amendment remains sequestered for a very long time. In climate change jargon, thisin the atmosphere. refers to the issue of permanence. In otherIn the case of biochar in Figure 2, the natu- words, it would be hard to claim a perma-ral process is interrupted by capturing part of nent sequestration of carbon if the biocharthe biomass before it reaches the soil directly carbon that was applied as a soil ATTRA Page 5
  6. 6. was immediately released back into the atmo- Life-cycle analysis is a method used to eval- sphere through possible soil decomposition uate the environmental burdens associated processes. However, most research to date with a product, process or activity throughout clearly demonstrates that biochar applied to its full life by quantifying energy, resources soil releases carbon back into the environment and emissions and assessing their effect on at a very slow rate that is in excess of several the global environment. Only a few research- hundreds if not thousands of years (Lehmann ers have undertaken this type of analysis, and Joseph, 2009). Whether hundreds or thou- but to date their work supports the conclu- sands of yearsmeans a permanent sequestration, sion that biochar results in a net reduction in it is a much slower release compared with greenhouse gas emissions (carbon-negative) the soil carbon sequestration that occurs and is an energetically efficient use of biomass when agricultural practices such as (Guant and Lehmann, 2008; Lehmann and conservation tillage are adopted as a means Joseph, 2009; and Roberts et al., 2010). to mitigate climate change. It also offers More specifically, one study estimated that safer and likely less expensive carbon the production of biochar was from 2 to 5 sequestration than methods related to the times more likely to reduce greenhouse gas storage of carbon dioxide in underground emissions than if the biomass was used just geologic formations known as carbon- for the production of energy alone (Gaunt capture and sequestration technologies. and Lehman, 2008). Significantly, the energy Second, the carbon-negative potential of produced per unit of energy input (known as biochar is either enhanced or limited by the energy ratio) was estimated to be in the the efficiency of energy production and the range of from 2 to 7, which means that out- ability of the overall production process to put energy of biochar production is between limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse 2 and 7 times greater than the energy input gas emissions. In part, this is because of con- for its production. Th is estimated energy troversy over the scientific methodologies ratio for biochar is potentially more ener- for measurement of biomass-based energy getically efficient than energy production production (UNEP, 2009). Nonetheless, for other biofuels like corn ethanol or even to properly understand these potentials for new technologies such as cellulosic ethanol. biochar, a life-cycle analysis of biochar needs Figure 3 provides an example of the details to be examined to fully account for energy of the life-cycle analysis of biochar led by efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. Kelli Roberts of Cornell University.Figure 3. Life-cycle analysis of biochar. Source: Roberts et al., 2010. T= Transportation energyPage 6 ATTRA Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture
  7. 7. Finally, these early positive results of life- the sustainable use and production of bio-cycle estimates need further verification mass sources. One major issue that looms forand more careful study before anyone can all biomass-based energy – including biocharsay with great certainty that biochar has the development – is what is commonly referredpotential to provide carbon-negative renew- to as the fuel-versus-food debate. Anotherable energy. This caution is advised for two characterization of this debate is what hasimportant reasons. been called the trilemma of the food, energyFirst, the life-cycle analyses to date are based and environment implications of beneficialon research that has yet to clearly demon- biofuels (Tilman et al., 2009).strate that biochar applied to all soils can both This trilemma is related to the general issuereduce nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from of sustainability and how to maximize mul-soil and enhance fertility. Nitrous oxide emis- tiple objectives simultaneously. In the case ofsions from soils represent the single greatest beneficial bioenergy, the trilemma is posedsource of greenhouse gas emissions from agri- as follows:culture production and are related to the use “Biofuels done right can be produced inof synthetic fertilizers. If biochar can reduce substantial quantities. However, they must benitrous oxide emissions because it can off- derived from feedstocks produced with much O ne majorset the use of synthetic fertilizers and lower lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissionsnitrous oxide emissions generally, then bio- than traditional fossil fuels and with little issue thatchar production can play an important role or no competition with food production.” looms forin climate change mitigation. Research shows (Tilman et al., 2009) all biomass-basedthat the majority of emission reductions come Broadly, how can biofuels be produced in a energy – includingfrom the stable carbon in the biochar and way that does not over time destroy our nat- biochar developmentthat the reduced nitrous oxide emissions and ural environment and also does not reduce – is what is commonlysynthetic fertilizer reductions contribute only our ability to maintain and improve fooda small amount to the life-cycle greenhouse referred to as the security for all people? The authors whoemissions reductions (Roberts et al., 2010). posed this question provide a list of benefi- fuel-versus-foodHowever, other studies that point to both the cial feedstocks for bioenergy that can address debate.fertility effect and reduction of other green- this trilemma (Tilman et al., 2009):house gas emissions from the use of biocharas a soil amendment are still limited in num- • Pe r e n n i a l pl a nt s g r ow n onber and will require greater research effort to degraded lands abandoned fromfurther substantiate results. agricultural use.Second, the energetic analyses of cropping • Part of crop residues from agricul-systems, which determine how much energy tural production provided that agoes into the production of biomass energy significant portion is returned tocrops, are also limited. Thus, it is difficult to land to enhance future soil fertilityknow which biomass cropping systems can and health.reduce fossil fuel use. With improved work on • Sustainably harvested wood andthese two issues, future life-cycle studies can forest residues.better measure the carbon-negative fuel capa- • Double crops and mixed croppingbility of the biochar production process. systems that integrate food and dedicated fuel crops.Limits of biochar • Municipal and industrial wastes.and climate change: However, the authors also point out that theThe fuel-versus-food debate full development of these biomass stocksBiochar is both a potential renewable bio- needs to be done in a way that does not indi-mass energy source and a means to expand rectly result in significant land use changesthe sequestration of soil carbon and mitigate that can lead to even greater releases ofclimate change. However, this depends on greenhouse gas emissions. For example, ATTRA Page 7
  8. 8. parts of the crop residues produced in food 2009, there was extensive discussion about production are not returned to soils to main- creating sustainability standards for biochar tain soil fertility and health, that loss may be production (IBI, 2009). Finally, because made up with increased synthetic fertilizer biochar efforts are largely directed toward use. That causes greater use of greenhouse the production of renewable carbon-negative gas-emitting fossil fuels through fertilizer bioenergy (versus simply carbon-neutral fuels) production and ultimate nitrous oxide emis- there seems to be an inherent understanding sions from its use. Furthermore, if food-pro- of these issues among biochar advocates. ducing acres are substituted for dedicated energy crops, this may cause the destruction of forests and grasslands in other parts of Summary: the world to make up for the lost produc- The future of biochar for tion of food on those acres. This can lead to an even greater release of greenhouse gas sustainable agriculture emissions. This last problem is often referred Biochar has very promising potential for the to as the indirect land-use issue and is the further development of sustainable agriculture source of considerable debate in assessing the production systems. Also, biochar production sustainability of various biofuel production provides a great potential for worldwide cli- systems. For more information, see the article mate change mitigation that goes beyond its Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases uses in agricultural production alone. The Greenhouse Gases Through Land Use Changes research on the many complex issues related by Timothy Searchinger. More information to biochar production systems is growing is available in the Further resources section. very quickly and will be needed to more fully There seems to be great attention focused on understand the implications for food systems, these issues and even international attempts to the environment and bioenergy production. produce principles of sustainability to use in Finally, biochar could play an important basis the identification of biomass sources for ulti- for rural economic development because its mate biochar conversion. At the first North production can be scaled down for smaller American Biochar Conference in August of communities closer to biomass sources.ReferencesCollins, H.2008. Use of biochar from the pyrolysis of International Biochar Initiative (IBI). 2009. Draftwaste organic material as a soil amendment: Labora- Guidelines for a Safe Biochar Industry. Proceedings oftory and greenhouse analyses. From a quarterly progress North American Biochar Conference. Boulder, prepared for the Biochar Project. December 2008. Lehmann, J. and S. Joseph, eds. 2009. Biochar:Edelstein, M. et al. 2008. Awareness of Health Effects Environmental Management. Earthscan. Unitedof Cooking Smoke Among Women in the Gondar Kingdom and United States. ISBN:978-1-84407-658-1.Region of Ethiopia: a pilot study. BioMed Center(BMC), International Health and Human Rights, 8:10. Lehmann, J. 2007. A Handful of Carbon. Nature. Vol. 143, P. 143.Granatstein, D., et al. 2009. FINAL REPORT: Use ofBiochar from the Pyrolysis of Waste Organic Material Lehmann, J., et al., eds.. 2004. Amazonian Darkas a Soil Amendment. Center for Sustaining Agriculture Earths: Origin, Properties, Management. Springer.and Natural Resources. Washington State University. ISBN: 978-1-4020-1839-8.Gaunt, J. and Lehmann, J. 2008. Energy balance and McLaughlin, H., et al. 2009. All Biochars are Notemissions associated with biochar sequestration and Created Equal, and How to Tell Them Apart.pyrolysis bioenergy production. Environmental Science Proceedings of North American Biochar Conference.and Technology. Vol. 42. Pp. 4152–4158. Boulder, Colo. August 2009.Page 8 ATTRA Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture
  9. 9. Roberts, K., et al, 2010. Life Cycle Assessment of Biochar SystemsBiochar Systems: estimating the energetic, economic This company works to bring together the business,and climate change potential. Environmental Science science and technology of biochar. www.biocharsystems.comand Technology. Vol. 44 (2), Pp. 827–833. EcoeraTilman, D., et al. 2009. Beneficial Biofuels: The Food, This bioenergy innovation company provides technologiesEnergy, and Environmental Trilemma. Science. Vol. enabling energy-efficient agriculture and carbon capture325, pp.270-271. and is focused on the second-generation biomass heatingUnited Nations Environmental Program (UNEP). fuel, including agropellets from hemp, agro-residues and2009. Assessing Biofuels. United Nations Environmen- energy grasses. Ecoera also offers carbon sequestrationtal Program. ISBN:978-92-807-3052-4. and soil enhancement through the use of biochar for carbon capture. resources EcoTechnologies Group This whole-systems company partners private,Demonstration projects: public and nonprofit organizations with emergingEcoTechnologies Group ecologically and economically sustainable technologies.Through 2008 and 2009, EcoTechnologies developed relationships and targeted domestic and Epridainternational projects for waste reduction, biochar and This company offers a revolutionary new sustainablebiocoal production and energy creation. energy technology that removes carbon dioxide the air by putting carbon into the topsoil where it isNorth Carolina Farm Center for Innovation needed. The process creates hydrogen-rich biofuels andand Sustainability a restorative high-carbon fertilizer from biomass alone,This is a forestry-based project that uses a or a combination of coal and biomass, while removingdemonstration model of a biochar production unit net carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.manufactured by Biochar Systems. Contact Richard at or by phone at Evergreen Fuel Technologies(910) 630-6232 for more information. This renewable energy company converts agricultural and forest byproducts into clean electrical energy. ItsBiochar production equipment energy centers are designed to convert agricultural wasteand systems: (plant byproducts) and forest refuse into clean renewable electricity and biochar. www.evergreenfueltech.comInternational Biochar InitiativeProvides a general overview of biochar This company is a developer of innovative mobile pyrolysis technologies. It produces biochar andAlterna Biocarbon, Inc renewable biocrude from waste. is a company focused on the manufacturingof biocarbon from products such as wood, municipal VenEarth Group, LLCand agricultural waste and tires. Biocarbon, also called This group and its portfolio companies have assembledbiochar or charcoal, is a renewable replacement for coal an international team of scientists, engineers and busi-manufactured for industrial markets. ness leaders to develop earth-friendly technologies and businesses. www.venearth.comBEST Pyrolysis, Inc.This company works to develop clean energy solutions. Ithas developed proprietary pyrolysis and gasification tech- Other Web sitesnologies to use renewable bio-based resources while pro- The International Biochar Initiativeviding clean energy from rich local sources of biomass. This site is a source for biochar information around the world. ATTRA Page 9
  10. 10. AirTerra biochar as an important part of Seattle’s response to theAirTerra is a nonprofit organization committed to challenge of global climate change. Through a campaignpoverty reduction. of education and community involvement, the group intends to research and implement a local pilot programBioChar Central to produce biochar from clean green waste.This site is a user-driven information hub and strives to www.seachar.orgprovide a community where new ideas, old practices,events and news can be discussed. Sustainable Obtainable SolutionsBiochar Farms This nonprofit was created to increase the understand-This Web site was established to provide practical, ing of sustainability and the interrelationships of peopleaccessible and objective information about biochar and nature, especially on public lands. It has severalproduction and its application to soils. links to biochar OntarioThis group promotes biochar as a vehicle to reduce Books and reportsgreenhouse gas emissions, improve soil fertility and Burges, J. 2009. The Biochar Debate: Charcoal’senhance food security by advocating research, potential to reverse climate change and build soildevelopment and commercialization of biochar. fertility, Chelsea Green Publishing, Energy Foundation (BEF) Lehmann, J. and S. Joseph, eds. 2009. Biochar:This nonprofit foundation is devoted to biomass energy Environmental Management. Earthscan, UK and USA.and specializes in gasification. ISBN:978-1-84407-658-1.Carbon Zero Foundation Granatstein, D., et al. 2009. FINAL REPORT: Use ofThis foundation supports public and private initiatives Biochar from the Pyrolysis of Waste Organic Materialto reduce global warming caused by the accumulation as a Soil Amendment. Center for Sustaining Agricultureof greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. and Natural Resources. Washington State Searchinger, T. et al., 2008. Use of U.S. Croplands forThis is the Web site for the Seattle Biochar Working Biofuels Increased Greenhouse Gases Through LandGroup, an organization that promotes the use of Use Change, Science Express.NotesPage 10 ATTRA Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture
  11. 11. ATTRA Page 11
  12. 12. Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture By Jeff Schahczenski NCAT Program Specialist © 2010 NCAT Holly Michels, Editor Amy Smith, Production This publication is available on the Web at: or IP358 Slot 356 Version 022210Page 12 ATTRA