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Biochar's Potential as a Soil Amendment Explored in Large-Scale Field Trial
Nebraska Ag Connection - 05/26/2023

A research team from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, in collaboration with the City of Lincoln, conducted a significant field trial to assess the impact of biochar as a soil amendment. This study, which involved the largest biochar field trial in Nebraska and one of the largest in the United States, aimed to bridge the knowledge gap regarding the effectiveness of biochar in larger-scale agricultural operations. Led by Assistant Professor Michael Kaiser, the team explored the potential of biochar, produced through the pyrolysis of organic waste material, in enhancing soil organic matter content and carbon sequestration.

The trial, conducted on 16 acres of City of Lincoln-owned farmland, focused on examining the combined effects of biochar and biosolids, a form of organic fertilizer derived from urban wastewater treatment and recycling. The researchers aimed to maximize the advantages of both amendments by using conventional agricultural techniques such as a manure spreader and disc tiller to apply the biochar. More than 64 tons of biochar were spread using conventional agricultural techniques.

Funding for this project was provided by the University of Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research and the Nebraska Forest Service. Oregon Biochar Solutions supplied the biochar, while the biosolids were sourced from the City of Lincoln's biosolid program. The research team consisted of professionals from various fields, including water science, soil health management, and agronomy.

The Department of Agronomy and Horticulture provided technical support, transportation and delivery of biosolids was facilitated by David Smith and the Northeast Treatment Plant, and site management was overseen by Adam Thien of Thien Farm Management.

The Lincoln Biochar Initiative is a collaboration between the City of Lincoln, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Forest Service, and other stakeholders to develop a biochar production facility in Lincoln. This project will contribute to the broader adoption of biochar in Nebraska and mark a milestone in the growth of the biochar industry in the Midwest.

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