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New Uses For Biochar
Char Energy is working with Minnesota’s Agricultural Utilizations Research Institute (AURI) to find new markets and uses for biochar, says the company’s Chris Borchert.
  One promising use is as an absorbent for spilled oil. An ounce of Char Energy’s biochar made with sugar beet pulp soaks up 20 grams of oil, but won’t absorb water. An oil company is now testing it for use in the North Dakota oil fields.
  “We think we could run the oil-soaked biochar back through the process, burn off the oil and retain the original biochar,” says Borchert. “You can also burn biochar in a charcoal grill in place of charcoal briquettes.”
  The AURI researchers also discovered that not all biochar is the same. While sugar beet pulp-based biochar is great for absorbing oil, wood biochar isn’t. It has only a 1:4 absorption ratio. However, wood biochar may be better for use as a soil amendment because sugar beet biochar appears to lock up phosphorous in the soil.
  Borchert says they’re also exploring the use of biochar as a soil amendment, the reason he first tried making it. “The idea to make it came when my wife wanted to try some in her garden,” says Borchert. “It is thought to enhance microbial colonies in the soil and increase soil quality and crop yields.”
  Borchert has tested it on apple trees. He sterilized the soil around some trees before adding biochar to the soil. “The trees with biochar leafed out 2 weeks ahead of those without,” he says. “Last year, we planted 2 pumpkin plots with biochar and harvested more than 800 lbs. of pumpkins from them. We even put some in our chicken nesting boxes. Ammonia levels were reduced, and they quit eating their own eggs.”
  People wanting to try the baked biochar can order it direct from the company website or by phone. Sugar beet pulp biochar is their first product. It is priced at $50 for 5 gal. or $15/gal.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Char Energy, LLC, 2852 170th Ave., Ada, Minn. 56510 (ph 218 784-3104; www.char-energy.com).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #4