About the ARS Biochar Roadmap Workshop

Biochars, which are charcoals that are added to soil, are generally derived from low-value forest and agricultural residues. Because biochars have been shown to improve plant growth, increase soil water retention, increase soil pH, sequester soil carbon, and filter and sequester pollutants, the production and use of biochar has significant potential for meeting agricultural, horticultural, and environmental remediation needs. Despite a proliferation of studies that suggest biochar’s efficacy, biochar-based management practices have not been widely implemented.  This disconnect between proof-of-function and implementation of is likely linked to a general lack of agronomic recommendations, NRCS guidelines, and biochar classification and labeling requirements.

These standards are needed because biochar is generated with a wide range of materials and methods that intrinsically define its chemical and physical properties and determine how biochar functions as a soil amendment. For ARS research to support commercial biochar usage, a critical evaluation of the most promising biochar applications is required, as well as improved sharing of research findings across the agency, and an effort to translate laboratory findings to field-scale studies. In addition, the economic and biogeochemical implications of increasing demand for biomass needs to be assessed. The aim of this project is to bring together Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists that conduct biochar research and harness guidance from key external stakeholders in a directed workshop to develop a roadmap that will enhance research on biochar. The specific objectives of this workshop are to:

1) Gather ARS scientists working on biochar to enhance and coordinate research aligning experimental designs, determining data needs on biochar to facilitate study comparison and ability to make recommendations for implementation.

2) Determine if there is enough scientific information to develop a more general statement about its benefits for an implementation guidance document.

3) Determine next steps for biochar research and brainstorm the utilization of biochar products or uses.

4) Develop a mission statement for CHARnet