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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Soil and Water Management Research

2010 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
Evaluating different biochars and their impact on soil C, trace gas exchange and agrochemical fate and transport.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
This agreement is for establishing the collaboration between Best Energies and USDA-ARS to allow different feedstock and operating conditions on a pyrolysis plant to be evaluated on the impacts of the resulting biochar for soil amendments. This will entail a combination of field and laboratory research on the impact of various biochars on soil microbial processes, agrochemical transport and trace gas exchange. Best Energies will provide the production data on the biochar along with the biochar itself for the research. Laboratory incubations will assess the immediate impacts and field scale plot research would be conducted to evaluate the long-term (>3 years) effects in a continuous corn rotation in Minnesota. The main goal of the research is to examine if the combination of altering feed stocks or production parameters can result in a biochar that is more beneficial from a C sequestration perspective as well as an agent for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and agrochemical losses from the agricultural soil system.

3. Progress Report
This was the initial year of this agreement and the following items have been initiated: 1. Best Energies did supply sufficient biochar from a slow pyrolysis process from their plant in Australia to apply to triplicate field plots (16’ x 16’) in Rosemount, MN. These field plots are evaluating the impacts of the biochar on a continuous no-till corn production in the Upper Midwest. The biochar was applied in the fall of 2009 and was incorporated by rotary tillage (rototiller). Greenhouse gas fluxes, seedling emergence, grain yield, biomass production, and soil moisture/temperature differences between control and the biochar treated plot are being recorded. It is anticipated that data will be collected for a minimum of 3 years. 2. Due to the economic conditions, Best Energies has decided to delay the construction of the biomass pyrolysis plant in Cashton, WI. Part of this agreement was to evaluate different production conditions on the C sequestration potential and GHG implications. This aspect of the agreement is also on hold. 3. Laboratory incubations have been established with the biochar to evaluate lab derived GHG production rates to compare to field observations. Methods of monitoring this project have included discussing project plans at conferences as well as teleconferences to minimize travel costs. Annual updates on the previous cropping data will be sent by email to the collaborators at Best Energy. Personal communication and email communication occurred regularly on the progress of the project. This project relates directly to Objective 1 (Integrate knowledge of retention, transformation, and transport of agrochemicals, including newer pesticides and veterinary pharmaceuticals, in soil and water, to facilitate selection and validation of management practices at the field to landscape scale that minimize potential offsite transport to surface and ground waters.) and Objective 2 of the Water Quality research project (Identify practices that protect water quality and conserve soil resources in emerging farming systems of the Upper Midwest). Biochar is a form of black carbon (i.e. charcoal), thereby is a potential media for sorption of agrochemicals and thereby fits into both of these research project’s objectives.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
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