NDSU Extension - Burke County


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Soil Health/Biochar

County Agent News
Dan Folske
|March 11, 2019 

Soil Health/Biochar

Home gardeners have generally always been concerned about soil health and soil amendments to best grow their plants. Farmers have been concerned about soil health too but more focused on soil fertility for plants. In recent years many producers, from home gardens to large scale farmers, are starting to look at what defines a “healthy soil” and letting the soil lprovide the fertility for the crops. One of the ideas being talked about is “biochar”. 

Biochar is simply charcoal produces with the idea of applying it as a soil amendment to increase carbon and improve soil health.

If you would like to learn more about making and using biochar, you need to consider attending this 3 day workshop at the Menoken Demonstration farm.

Biochar Workshop to Provide Hands-on Learning


Producers and others will have an opportunity to learn more about biochar (charred biomass) and how it can increase soil carbon and regenerate soil while improving agricultural productivity during a free workshop April 15-17.

The workshop will run from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Monday, April 15; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tuesday, April 16; and 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday, April 17, at Menoken Farm, 1107 171st St. N.E., Menoken, N.D.

"Attendees will get hands-on instruction on how to make biochar on the farm with tools they already have," says Derek Lowstuter, forest stewardship manager with the North Dakota State University - North Dakota Forest Service. "They'll also learn how to use and apply biochar and hear from practitioners who are already doing it. The workshop will wrap up with a brainstorming session to share ideas for biochar systems that can enhance crop production, tree health, livestock health and manure management.

"Biochar can improve plant growth in almost any scale, from a single flower pot all the way up to a farm field," he adds.

Visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ndfs/opportunities/training-opportunities for more information or to register for the workshop. The registration deadline is March 29.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Lowstuter says people are welcome to attend some or all of the workshop. Committing to the entire workshop isn't required.

Topics that will be covered include:

* Biochar history, physics and chemistry, soil microbial ecology and the carbon cycle for soil remediation and regeneration, water management, trees, organic waste stream management, livestock and no-till agriculture - Kelpie Wilson, Wilson Biochar Associates, Cave Junction, Ore.

* Barriers to biochar adoption - Ghasideh Pourhashem, assistant professor, NDSU Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials


* How to make biochar - Wilson


* Biochar on the Great Plains - roundtable discussion with Natural Resources Conservation Service staff and Great Plains producers who are making and using biochar


The workshop also will include biochar sessions in the lab and the field and a visit to parts of the Menoken Farm operation.

Wilson is an engineer and analyst with 30 years of experience in renewable energy, sustainable forestry and resource conservation. Since 2008, she has focused on biochar and has consulted with private industry and government agencies through her company, Wilson Biochar Associates.

The workshop is available through a partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA - Forest Service, Burleigh County Soil Conservation District - Menoken Farm, NDSU - North Dakota Forest Service and Wilson Biochar Associates.



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