An innovative biochar project conducted by the Sonoma Ecology Center and partners has received a $75,000 federal grant. The award from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program helps establish Sonoma County’s first integrated biochar production system.
Federal funds are being matched by $75,000 from the Sonoma County Water Agency and $83,000 of in-kind support from Swallow Valley Farm (Valley Ford), Green String Farm (Petaluma) and Oak Hill Farm (Glen Ellen) where biochar field trials will be conducted. Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District and the North Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council through its initiative Cultivating Commerce will provide outreach and assistance.
“This ‘farm and fuel’ project has the potential to provide green local renewable energy while helping to enhance our rangelands and build soil,” said Chairman of the Sonoma County Water Agency David Rabbitt, who also is Chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
Biochar is specialized charcoal used to amend soil. Biochar is produced through pyrolysis, a chemical process that reduces woody feedstocks to char and releases fuel gases. The gases are burned to maintain the chemical reaction and to provide renewable energy for heating the chemical reaction. The remaining product is nearly pure carbon.
About the Sonoma County Biochar Project
The Sonoma County Biochar Project is a research project that expects to learn more about how biochar builds soil, retains soil moisture and thus conserves water, improves agricultural productivity, and improves forest practices — all while replacing greenhouse gas emissions with sequestered carbon. The Ecology Center’s new biochar unit, called an “Adam Retort,” will be located at Swallow Valley Farm in western Sonoma County, where the team will produce biochar and apply it to onsite farm operations. The team will produce as much biochar as possible and it will be used onsite. The biochar will also be applied at Green String Farm, Petaluma and Oak Hill Farm, Sonoma, allowing demonstration and evaluation of its impacts on a variety of Sonoma County soil types and farms. Sonoma Ecology Center and Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District will carry out education and outreach about biochar for potential users on farms and ranches throughout the area.
If you are interested in learning more, please contact William Hart from Gold Ridge RCD at 707-823-5244 or email William@goldridgercd.org.