Biochar Farming - Improve soils and fill the carbon sink

MMLAP will be running a project to demonstrate on-farm production of biochar to improve agricultural soils and increase soil carbon using a portable pyrolysis unit. Funding for this project is provided by Natural Resources SA Murray Darling Basin through the NRM Agricultural and Fishing Innovation Grants

Pyrolysis is a process where biomass (plant or animal waste) is heated at temperatures above 250 °C in oxygen-limited conditions. This process produces biochar – a carbon rich charcoal that can be used as a soil amendment.

In recent times there has been a lot of work done on the use of biochar to improve soil condition, raise productivity in agriculture and increase soil carbon. Applied to soils, biochar may hold carbon for hundreds or possibly thousands of years as it locks away Carbon dioxide rather than letting it enter the atmosphere. This can help reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

This project will demonstrate the on-site harvest, production and application of biochar using sustainable oil mallee plantations as feed stock. Processing of the biomass to produce the biochar will be done on site using a portable pyrolysis machine. The resulting biochar will be applied to trial sites so that changes in soil condition can be measured over time.

A field day will be held to showcase the technology to landholders and demonstrate how farmers can incorporate biochar into their farming systems to help improve soils and sequester carbon in the soil. The field day will also present ways to sustainably produce biomass to provide feed stock for the pyrolysis unit. This will include harvesting of sustainable oil mallee plantations as well as using woody weed waste, delivering multiple natural resource management benefits.

The field day will also examine expenses associated with biochar production and transport. The cost of off-site biochar production will be compared to on-site production using the portable unit to determine if biochar farming could be a viable land management practice for mallee farmers.

To read more about the pyrolysis unit click here. http://www.esenergy.com.au/technology-solutions/charmaker

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