A collaboration between Dovetail Partners, Virginia Tech, and the University of Minnesota was awarded a Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant in 2018. The project, titled Life-Cycle Assessment of Biochar in Agricultural and Forest Ecosystems: Effects on Production, Soil Fertility, and Economic Impact was developed to explore “real world” applied research into how biochars produced locally would affect soils and ultimately their crops. The study sought to determine the impact of biochar amendments on soil carbon and nutrient retention on working lands across a variety of soil types, cropping systems, and climates in the United States.
The motivation for this project arose from the perspective that little specific information has been available historically to landowners and managers about effective rates of biochar application, application methods, and anticipated benefits to crop yield, soil fertility, or carbon sequestration. Standards for testing biochar have been proposed but are not consistently used and the necessity to match biochar characteristics to soils is an added variable (as compared to chemical inputs which are fairly homogenous, with known outcomes in a given application).