Should You Be 'Chewing On' Biochar?

Biochar boosters will cover benefits and scaling-up of biochar production at national meeting in University of Massachusetts on October 13-16.

Published on: Sep 23, 2013

Biochar, if you haven't heard, can be a farm-made form of charcoal that can be used to enrich soil. The merits and strategies for increasing production will be covered at the North American Biochar Symposium on October 13 through 16 at University of Massachusetts' Amherst campus.

Biochar has potential to increase crop yields and nutrient value, conserve water, filter storm water runoff in fields, reduce greenhouse gasses, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Yet, few younger farmers know about it. 

That's one reason why farmers, foresters, researchers, biochar producers, entrepreneurs, and environmentalists are encouraged to come to the North American Biochar Symposiium in Amherst, Mass. on October 13-16. They'll learn and share latest research and application techniques. The event, sponsored by the U.S. Biochar initiative, will include farm tours.

TURN SCRAP AND SCRUBS INTO BIOCHAR: Labor intensive, yes, on a small scale. But it can be less so and more profitable on a larger scale teamed with composting.
TURN SCRAP AND SCRUBS INTO BIOCHAR: Labor intensive, yes, on a small scale. But it can be less so and more profitable on a larger scale teamed with composting.

What it's about
"The biochar industry is turning waste into 'black gold' for agriculture," says Conference Director Karen Ribeiro. "Biothermal energy companies are extracting biochar as a byproduct and selling it. Farmers are enriching their soil by adding it. Biochar-enriched soil is sequestering carbon, which can reverse carbon build-up in the atmosphere," she adds.

The biochar movement is heating up, she contends. "Producers are reaching a point of profitability. Everyone wants Biochar to scale up faster, from gardeners creating their own biochar in cookstoves to companies like Cool Planet Energy Systems.

The conference features keynotes by Congressman James McGovern and renowned author Frances Moore Lappe, a plenary session with noted biochar authority Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University. 

Activities will range from an introductory half-day workshop for farmers and gardeners on Sunday, October 13, that's open to the public to presentations from scientists and researchers from around the globe.

Expanding biochar use can simultaneously help address food security, conserve water, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel," says Ted Wysocki, chair of the Pioneer Valley Biochar Initiative, which is co-hosting the conference. "We need to get more people and companies involved. So in addition to the tracks on the science and benefits, policy and community engagement, and feed stocks and production, we've got an entire track focused on scale, sales and marketing."

Check out the conference schedule online.  To register, go here.