Monday, March 26, 2018

Smoke Into Biochar

Can we turn our forestry burn piles into biochar?
Can we add carbon to soils, where it belongs, as we remove it from the atmosphere?
Can we make this restoration activity pay for itself?
It's a big job, but somebody has got to do it. Please join us!
These are the questions that UBET will answer with the Drew Veg Biochar Project. We hope that you will help us find the answers by contributing time or money to support this innovative pilot project. About half of the work has been done, but we need to raise money to pay a contractor to pile some of the material and we need gas money for farmers who are donating tractors to help do the work. Please pitch in and we'll give you access to some biochar in return!

We need to raise $3,000 by April 30, 2017  Click Below to Donate Funds or send checks to UBET/SURCP, 34620 Tiller Trail Hwy, Tiller, OR 97484

We need commitments from at least ten workers who can work several full days making biochar in our kilns  Click Here to Volunteer Your Time

Drew Veg Biochar is the name of a fuel reduction project on the Umpqua National Forest, near the town of Drew, Oregon. The US Forest Service conducts many such projects on National Forests every year for the purpose of reducing fire hazard by removing dense stands of younger trees, mostly in plantations and areas that were previously logged. Some of the wood may be big enough to sell to sawmills, but much of it must be piled and burned onsite. This burning produces large amounts of smoke, and the numerous piles burn holes in the forest duff, sterilizing the soil.

We have a better idea and we want to prove it.
Below are some more details about the Drew Veg Biochar Project:

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What We Have Been Up to...

UBET members have been active! Here are some pictures from events and activities so far this spring:

IVHS Careers Field Trip:
On Thursday, March 23, Kelpie Wilson and colleagues in Takilma, Oregon led a field trip for Illinois Valley High School students to the Page Creek Project, a forestry collaborative that is sponsoring projects on public and private forest land to improve forest health. Biochar is one of the forest products we have been making. We talked to students about job opportunities in forest restoration, resource management, wildland firefighting, and tourism. We also had a great time romping in the woods, playing in the creek and making S'mores over the biochar bonfire. What a great bunch of kids!

Lookinglass Garden Club meeting:

We had a great presentation at Neil Hadleys on Thursday March 16th. We fired 2  flame cap  kilns and demonstrated the art of making biochar to the Lookinglass Garden Club at Neils wonderful digs.  UBET members: M.A. Hansen, O.J Romo, Neil Hadley, and Gregory Flick participated in the demonstration.  All good. - Greg Flick

UBET member Mike Burke has been out checking on the biochar field trial plots at the Duchess Sanctuary. Here is his report: 
A spring time view of the Jim Long Biochar Plots at Duchess Horse Sanctuary, Douglas County, Oregon.  The grass is starting to grow, up 2 to 4 inches.  Some plots show more clover than others with other broad leaf plants coming back to life.  Definitely no shortage of rain this year, since 10/1/16 to date at our place there has been 49.27 inches, 30 year average from 10/1 to 9/30 is 42 inches.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

UBET Members Giving Biochar Presentations All Spring!

From Scott: On Saturday, I made presentations to “Spring into Gardening” OSU Extension one day course. The first was building healthy soils and the second was techniques for producing backyard biochar. Steve Renquist, Extension Agent, was instrumental in both classes. The effort confirmed the idea of going to the interested audience where they live. We had vigorous discussions from the students who had deep gardening experience. I expect there are a few wheels turning as I write this. We had 28 students for the first class and 12 for the second.

More upcoming presentations:

  • Neal Hadley will present to the Lookingglass Garden Club March meeting on Thursday, March 16 at 10am. Call Neal at 541-530-3953 for more information.
  • We have Tree School on March 31 at Phoenix School. This is presented by OSU Extension. Don Morrison and Scott McKain will make the presentation.
  • Kelpie Wilson will teach a biochar class, Backyard Biochar: From Woodland to Farm, for the OSU Extension Living on Your Land – Tree School Rogue conference on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at RCC in Grants Pass from 1-2:30pm. More info here:
  • The UBET display will be at the Earth Day Celebration on April 22 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Scott and other volunteers will be there.
  • The Master Gardeners Plant Sale is May 6 at the fairgrounds. Gani and Scott will have the display there.
  • On May 12 and 13, Kelpie and UBET members will be demonstrating our kilns and open burn methods at the Southern Oregon Firewise Expo at Jackson County Fire District 3; 8333 Agate Road in White City. Join federal, state and local fire, forestry and emergency partners on Friday, May 12th and Saturday, May 13th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fire personnel from multiple local agencies will facilitate several interactive demonstrations that will highlight how you and your family can better prepare yourselves and your home for fire season. This is a great opportunity to reach the general public. Friday is the day that a lot of school children will be there.

Josephine Soil & Water Conservation Symposium

On Feb 25, Kelpie Wilson gave a presentation and biochar demonstration at Pacifica Gardens in Williams for the Josephine Soil & Water Conservation Back-to-Basics Series for Southern Oregon Growers. 
Kelpie emphasized the value of biochar as an ingredient in container mixes. Biochar can substitute for perlite and peat, both of which are energy intensive and polluting to extract, manufacture and transport. Using one of the UBET kilns, Kelpie showed participants how they could make biochar from their own materials, on site. 

Report on Soil Health and Drought Resistance Keyline Design Workshop

From UBET Member David Maesulec:

I attended the “Soil Health and Drought Resistance Keyline Design” Workshop presented by Owen Hablutzel in Hesperus, CO from April 2-4, 2016. Over the course, Mr. Hablutzel covered a wide range of topics ranging from keyline design integration to permaculture to holistic management.
In addition to keyline design, we also covered permaculture and resilience science. These teach us that we must remain adaptable or transformable because there can always be change and uncertainty. In order to be resilient, we have to develop the capacity to react to disturbances to create a positive outcome.
Here, we must ask ourselves what the nature of our environment is. What will nature permit here? Most importantly, we must ask what nature will help us do. Too often, nature is pushed then broken. We see the effects of this in modern industrialized farming. Nature works best with human intervention, provided that we respect its boundaries.

Click here to read David's full report on the workshop. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Plant Growth Assay Reports Now Online

Plant Growth Assays testing different biochar compost materials made by farmer participants in the Conservation Innovation Grant are now online. You can read them here:

Growth Test #1 - cattle manure with and without biochar

Growth Test #2 - worm castings with char; composted biochar

Growth Test #3 - alpaca manure compost with and without biochar

You can see clear differences between alpaca compost with biochar (L) and without (R).

Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Report on Turning Shelterbelt Biomass to Biochar

Wilson Biochar Associates has completed a feasibility analysis on turning dead trees that were planted in shelterbelts throughout the Great Plains into biochar. The study was funded by North Dakota Forest Service and NDSU. You can read the report here:

The techniques discussed could also be useful for orchard removal. We relied a lot on the work of the Sonoma Biochar Initiative in developing the biochar technique called the Conservation Burn. You can learn more about SBI's work at:

Pictures: upper left - a typical burn pile in the Dakotas; lower left - a pile of vineyard prunings in Sonoma, California; right: Sonoma Biochar Initiative conducts trainings for farmers who want to learn the Conservation Burn method of converting burn piles to biochar.