Friday, July 14, 2017

JulyAdvert (1)

Please help us get the word out about the upcoming Utah State University Learn at Lunch Webinar:

Date: July 25, 2017, 12 pm (MDT)
Speaker: Kelpie Wilson, Wilson Biochar Associates

Biochar is made by applying heat to biomass in the absence of oxygen. Flame carbonization uses the flame itself to exclude oxygen. Flame carbonization methods can produce high quality biochar from low value biomass waste found in fields and forests without investing in expensive equipment. Kelpie Wilson will explain the theory and design principles for using flame carbonizing techniques in various applications such as forestry, farming and urban tree care.

Kelpie Wilson is a mechanical engineer and analyst with 30 years of experience in renewable energy, sustainable forestry and resource conservation. Since 2008, she has focused on biochar as a tool to move excess carbon from the atmosphere to soil, where it can improve soil health and sequester carbon. She consults with farmers, private industry, and government agencies through her company Wilson Biochar Associates. She serves on the board of the US Biochar Initiative, works with several local groups in Oregon promoting sustainable forestry and agriculture, and presents many classes and workshops on small scale biochar production and use every year.


SAF or ISA continuing education credits are available to those that watch this webinar live.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

NRCS Site Visit

Todd Peplin of NRCS came down from Portland to see some our Conservation Innovation Grant work. We had a great time visiting with project participants and learning about the other important conservation practices they are doing in addition to biochar. Here are some pictures:

Todd and Troy talk cattle

Troy made a biochar kiln out of an old round bale feeder and some roofing tin

The big pile of high carbon boiler ash that Troy uses. Troy told us that in the winter the cows like to hang out on top of the pile because it is dry and warm

Barbara Fontaine shows us the biochar field trial in her pasture

Barb and Don do a lot of forestry on their 90 acre property. Here is a recent thinning operation.

Barb and Don put some small logs and brush in the stream to slow winter flows and improve habitat for fish.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Farm Kilns Complete

Umpqua Community College Welding Department has been fantastic! They have made every kind of kiln we have asked them to, and done a beautiful job. Here are the latest kilns. These are heavy duty versions of the light-weight forestry kilns. They have fork pockets so they can be moved around with a tractor. They will be most useful on a farm or other large property where brush piles are dispersed, but reachable by a tractor. A farmer can bring the kiln to the brush pile, char it, and then pick up the whole kiln full of char and take it to where it will be used.

New heavy duty kilns. All four kilns have fork pockets, and one kiln also has a tilt-dump mechanism and a "milk carton" spout for pouring

Bottom of a kiln showing drain and fork pockets

Hinge mechanism on the dump kiln

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Duchess Field Trial Harvest #2

Biochar field trials are challenging because biochar often does not show its full effects in soil right away. It's best to follow a trial for more than one year to see the results. For instance, this important study from Australia - Biochar built soil carbon over a decade by stabilizing rhizodeposits - monitored a biochar trial for ten years to learn that biochar not only added carbon to soil, it helped to stabilize additional soil carbon.

At the Duchess Horse Sanctuary, UBET volunteers helped to establish a long term field trial with researchers from Oregon State University. The trial is now in its third year and our team showed up to harvest biomass and take soil samples from the plots. We will share the results once the OSU researchers finish analyzing the materials.
Taking a soil sample at the Duchess Horse Sanctuary biochar field trial

Biochar in the Rabbitry

Grant Scheve and Oregon Biochar Solutions came through for us again! Grant donated another tote of biochar to use in Don and Judy Atchison's rabbitry. Don and Judy raise prize-winning Rex Rabbits. We hope the biochar will improve the environment for these beautiful animals by absorbing ammonia from their manure. John Livingston of Tierra Buena Worm Farm uses the rabbit manure in his worm beds. We are testing his worm castings for potential pathogens, and we will see if adding the biochar to the manure helps reduce fecal coliform bacteria in the worm castings.

Monday, June 19, 2017

More Biochar Barns

At Michaels Ranch, the winter barn was cleaned out about a month ago, and the manure was piled. Last year, we made two piles, one that was plain manure, as usual, and one that had high carbon boiler ash (about 40% char) mixed into it during the cleanout. When we measured the pile temperatures last year, we found that neither pile got much hotter than 90 degrees F. So the manure did not really compost properly.

This year was different! This year, the high carbon ash was added to the barn at the beginning of winter, so it was well mixed into the manure by the action of cow hooves. It was also in place to capture nitrogen from urine that might otherwise have volatilized and been lost to the atmosphere. Lo and behold - the piles are getting hot! We measured 130 degrees F - definitely thermophilic compost.

Manure pile with high carbon ash well-mixed

Piles are getting hot - 130 degrees F.

The consistency of the pile is very nice - it is well mixed and nicely granular. It should flow well through the manure spreader.