Biochar has the potential to sequester carbon and improve the properties of soils when used as an agricultural amendment. However, biochar will only be a viable option for carbon sequestration if there are uses and viable markets for this biochar. In recent years, there has been interest in adding biochar to agricultural soils in conjunction with compost, and in some cases, “co-composting” biochar—putting the biochar in with the feedstock before the composting altogether. Read on to learn about a study led by Dr. David Gang, a professor at Washington State University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry, indicating that co-composting can provide additional benefits, both during the composting process and to the crops grown in soil amended with the resulting co-composted biochar.
Figure 1. Mark Fuchs (left), John Cleary (right) (both of the Washington Department of Ecology) and Nathan Stacey (middle, WSU) use equipment to measure gas emissions from a commercial scale co-composting experiment. Photo: Doug Collins, WSU.
A number of our articles this year discussed using biochar in agriculture and in forestry. These earlier articles did not delve into the methods to apply biochar on large tracts of forests. You’d expect this to be a much more challenging task than spreading biochar on croplands. Researchers and technology developers are tackling this particular issue, developing a specialized forest biochar spreader. Take a few minutes to check out their Science Spotlights article and their video. Among the details they discuss in the video is a point Chris Schnepf and Darren McAvoy made in their AgClimate article: biochar can use—and store the carbon that is in—those “leftovers” that otherwise get burned, releasing that carbon into the atmosphere.
Beginning Thursday, July 12 at 9:00 am Pacific Standard Time – and occurring weekly at that time through Tuesday, August 28 – the OneNOAA seminar series will be hosting an 8-part suite of talks on different aspects of the National Climate Assessment 4 Volume I – the Climate Science Special Report. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the latest climate science from some of the nation’s most eminent scientists!
Biochar is being used in a variety of agricultural and home and garden applications. Photo: C. Schnepf.
Biochar has many possible agricultural benefits. Given the large role that fire plays in western forests, biochar has likely also already played a significant role in Northwest forests, as evidenced by the charcoal commonly found on top of or buried in our forest soils. Biochar shows promise in providing additional benefits in restoring heavily disturbed forest sites, such as forest roads, skid trails, and landings. For more information, see a chapter in a recent biochar book detailing the current state of North American forest biochar research.
Most of the enthusiasm around biochar in the forestry community, however, is related to using forest management residues to create biochar and useable fuels, such as bio-oil and syngas. Continue reading →
Cattle grazing on an allotment east of the Owyhee River Canyon, Oregon. Used with permission via Flickr from the Bureau of Land Management (CC BY 2.0).
As a number of large climate-and-agriculture projects at our Pacific Northwest universities have come to an end over the last year, we felt it was time to step back and take stock. Our projects have included dryland wheat farming, anaerobic digestion systems for dairies, and improving understanding of the interactions among carbon, nitrogen, and water at the regional scale. Now that they are complete, what have we learned? Where should research and extension go from here? In an effort to prioritize and catalyze future regional research and extension efforts, we worked with partners to host a workshop titled “Agriculture in a Changing Climate” (March 9-11, 2016). The event brought together a diverse set of stakeholders—university faculty and students, crop and livestock producers, and individuals representing state, tribal and federal government agencies, industry, nonprofit organizations, and conservation districts—to summarize what we know, identify challenges and gaps, and define priorities for moving forward. Continue reading →
“This is the first good news I’ve heard about climate change” was among the feedback received after delivering a talk about changes expected for Pacific Northwest’s agriculture. The audience was primarily ranchers attending the Northwest Grazing Conference in Pendleton, Oregon this past May. Scheduling conflicts prevented the talk’s author, Chad Kruger, director of the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources from attending, and with some trepidation I agreed to present the topic on his behalf.
For many Americans, climate change is at best an abstract challenge, seemingly serious but without immediately obvious specific threats to one’s life and business. To the skeptic, it is a political football and a dark conspiracy, some nefarious excuse dreamed up to gain economic and political advantage for one interest group over another. With this in mind I attempted to summarize and translate the results of Northwest-focused climate research to an audience I expected viewed the topic at large with some level of hostility.
Wheat production in the Northwest, where the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and shifts in precipitation cycles are expected to deliver a “boost” to productivity of forages and small grains. Photo: Dennis Behm, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
We are pleased to announce the call for abstracts for the 8th Annual Northwest Climate Conference – Working Together to Build a Resilient Northwest. We invite you and your colleagues to submit abstracts for special sessions, oral presentations, and posters. The due date for abstracts is Monday, June 12, 2017. Continue reading →
Got milk? Dairies are in the milk business, but must also manage manure produced along the way, and the potentially useful nutrients it holds. Photo: NRCS in Oregon under CC BY-ND 2.0.
Managing manure is a big part of what goes on at the “back end” of a dairy. Doing it well is important to avoid impacts on surrounding neighbors due to odors, impacts on air and water quality, or the release of unnecessary amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane or nitrous oxides (which, by the way, are respectively 28 and 265 times more powerful as global warming “blankets” than carbon dioxide). There are multiple technologies being developed, tested, and used to improve manure management in dairies. These include anaerobic digestion, which produces bioenergy and helps reduce odors (we provided an overview about a year ago in this article). Nutrient recovery technologies are another aspect being studied. These are an array of different technologies that allow us to collect the potentially useful nitrogen and phosphorus found in manure, so it can be used productively rather than contributing to climate change or other issues. Continue reading →
“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow” ~ Proverb from Guinea
Spring in the Pacific Northwest. Top Left: Skagit Valley Tulips, courtesy of Brooke Saari; Top Right: Apple Tree in bloom, courtesy Washington State University; Bottom Left: Cherry Orchard in The Dalles, courtesy of Oregon State University and Jan Sonnenmair Photography, Flickr CC 2.0; Bottom Right: Spring Daffodils, courtesy Brent M., Flickr CC 2.0.
Winter is in its final stages and spring is knocking on our door. As a Florida native living in Washington, I for one am ready for some sunshine, flowers and warmth! While I dream of that glorious spring, I’d like to reflect on what an impressive year of growth the Agriculture Climate Network experienced in 2016, and what we are shooting for over the next year. Continue reading →