Sonoma Ecology Center

Biochar demonstration

A new biochar production unit – known as an Adam Retort – will be demonstrated at Swallow Valley Farm in Valley Ford on November 6th, to educate the agricultural community about this technology, which can increase soil fertility and crop yields while conserving water.

“It will be an excellent opportunity to understand all the ins and out of how biochar can best be used to sequester carbon and at the same time enhance the moisture of the soil to better withstand drought, ” said Nick Colby, owner of Swallow Valley Farm.

“Local farmers have been hard hit by the drought. Biochar offers a way for them to use less water while improving soil quality,” said Dr. Morell. “The field trials we are conducting at three local farms will help identify and prove the specific benefits available to Sonoma County farmers.”

Char will be made from prunings, felled trees, and clean woody debris collected from local sources. The uniquely scaled biochar unit manufactured by New England Biochar produces roughly ¼ to ½ ton of char per week to supply the project’s field trials. The biochar is mixed with compost and then applied to amend the soil. Typically, this biochar/compost mixture is applied in similar manner to the farm’s typical compost application regime. Carbon is sequestered in the form of increased soil carbon.

“Once again, Sonoma County is on the cutting edge when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions—or in exploring ways to sequester carbon and support agricultural viability ,” said Richard Dale, Executive Director of Sonoma Ecology Center.

Biochar has many agricultural and environmental benefits, including its ability to:

• Increase soil organic matter and conserve water

• Increase fertility and crop yields

• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions

• Aid in recycling waste woody biomass for reduced fire risk

• Sequester carbon