Biochar Trials 2013

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Description and results of biochar trials at Kerr Center in 2013: suitability of different on-farm feedstocks for making biochar in a nested two-barrel retort; increase in carbon content of commercial sand following incorporation of biochar from those feedstocks

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Biochar Trials 2013

  1. 1. BIOCHAR TRIALS 2013
  2. 2. The Kerr Center makes and uses biochar as a  soil amendment; it acts roughly like soil  organic matter in holding water and nutrients. Two­barrel nested  biochar retort ­  click here to learn  how to make and  use one.
  3. 3. We wanted to know how biochar  made from different feedstocks  affects soil organic matter content.
  4. 4. We compared eight different feedstocks ­  of which pine needles, pine slash, and  hardwood branches are shown here.
  5. 5. Intern Jon Pollnow checking a fresh batch of biochar.  The scrapwood in the foreground is used for fuel.
  6. 6. Jon Pollnow taking samples from a fresh batch of biochar
  7. 7. A fresh batch of biochar
  8. 8. Another fresh batch of biochar
  9. 9. We used sand (storebought for uniformity)  as the soil medium, due to its low nutrient and organic matter content.  We oven­dried it to  calculate its bulk density,  in order to know how much biochar to add.
  10. 10. The dry sand's density was 1.47 grams per  cubic centimeter, in the range of very  coarse sand.
  11. 11. Each cup holds 16 oz. of storebought sand,  enough for a standard soil sample.
  12. 12. Each cup of sand receives an addition  of 1.9 grams of biochar (roughly  equivalent to 10,000 lbs. per acre).
  13. 13. Each cup received an addition biochar from a  different feedstock, including okra...
  14. 14. ...corn...
  15. 15. ...peanuts...
  16. 16. ...sunflower...
  17. 17. ...pine needles...
  18. 18. ...pine slash...
  19. 19. ...hardwood...
  20. 20. ...and office paper.
  21. 21. The biochar was ground in glass jars  using the butt of a garden trowel.
  22. 22. The ground biochar was sieved to exclude any pieces larger than 1 mm.
  23. 23. Sieved biochar is in the white tray at right.
  24. 24. 1.9 grams of this material is added  to each cup of sand.
  25. 25. Checking the density of a random biochar  sample, to visually gauge how much a given  amount of biochar might weigh.
  26. 26. Each ground, sifted biochar sample has  the same weight as all the others...
  27. 27. ...illustrating the difference in density between  biochars made from the different feedstocks.
  28. 28. Each biochar sample is thoroughly  mixed with sand...
  29. 29. ...creating a marked color change compared to sand alone.
  30. 30. Each combined biochar/sand sample is individually bagged...
  31. 31. ...and sent to a professional lab to be analyzed for soil organic matter content.
  32. 32. In a separate trial, bulk biochar  pieces were sent to a different lab...
  33. 33. ...to compare the length of time that  biochars from the different feedstocks will  persist in the soil before breaking down.
  34. 34. Results: Feedstock Guide for a Two-Barrel Nested Biochar Retort Biochar Feedstock Research Using a Two- Barrel Nested Retort The Effects of Added Mineral Salts on Biochar Yield Using a Two-Barrel Nested Retort

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