The Kansas Forest Service and Nebraska Forest Service have partnered with private industry to form the Great Plains Biochar Initiative. The result is grant funding available for biochar development.
Biochar is a carbon-rich organic product with multiple uses ranging from a soil amendment to water filtration. While it has been around for thousands of years, it is new and unfamiliar to most people, said Dave Bruton, utilizations and marketing forester for the Kansas Forest Service. However, interest has been growing and with the new collaboration and this grant opportunity, it is hoped that individuals can educate themselves and explore ways to produce and use biochar.
“While a wide variety of organic material can be used to produce biochar through pyrolysis, with this particular project we are specifically looking at ways to make biochar from wood resources found in Kansas and Nebraska,” Bruton said. “Biochar has many and diverse applications and I’m excited to see what creative projects will result. It is something that most people aren’t familiar with and I’m learning along with them.”
The wood used in the process may be waste from manufacturing processes, slash from logging or thinning operations, or woody material that may currently have little or no economic value, he said. The project is also for individuals who may not be interested in making biochar, but rather want to explore ways to use it in their current farming, livestock, nursery, gardening, or other environmental or agriculture applications.
The biochar grants are available to individuals, businesses, and organizations, and will provide up to $5,000 in funding for biochar production and/or utilization projects.
With the challenges and pressures on Great Plains producers, biochar is increasingly considered a low-cost option in addressing soil degradation and water retention, among other challenges, Bruton said.
“Interest has especially been growing in the area of soil health as it relates to growing nutrient-rich and abundant foods and other resources for an increasing world population,” he added. “Biochar not only has the potential to enhance soil health and water retention but also has the added benefit of sequestering carbon for hundreds, if not thousands of years.