Donate

Biochar

How to Make Biochar: A Step-by-Step Guide

Biochar is charcoal – organic matter heated in a low-oxygen atmosphere – that is used as a soil amendment. It can increase the soil’s ability to hold moisture, nutrients, and carbon, and increase habitat for beneficial soil microbes.

The Kerr Center’s horticulture program began working with biochar in 2010, when George Kuepper directed intern Seth Stallings to research it and develop a method for making and using it.

The program mainly uses a double-barrel nested retort for making biochar. 2013 intern Jonathan Pollnow worked extensively with this design to identify the materials available on the Kerr Ranch best suited for making biochar with it:

As a result of the Center’s work with biochar, it is now a regular part of the horituculture program’s fertilizer schedule: applied to the fields with compost, after spending time in the piles to absorb nutrients and microorganisms.

The biochar retorts are popular parts of beginning farmer and resilient farmer trainings, as well as public tours of the ranch.

Related Publications

Exploring Biochar

This intern report consists of an annotated research bibliography on biochar.

Two-Barrel Nested Biochar Retort

This is a drawing illustrating how a two-barrel nested biochar retort operates.

A Few Facts about Biochar

This intern report gives a brief overview of biochar.

The Effects of Added Mineral Salts on Biochar Yield Using a Two-Barrel Nested Retort

This intern report describes the results of a series of trials designed to determine whether adding different mineral salts affected the quality of biochar produced in a two-barrel retort of a design used at the Kerr Center.

Biochar Feedstock Research Using a Two-Barrel Nested Retort

This intern report describes the results of a series of trials designed to determine which materials produce the most suitable biochar in a two-barrel biochar retort of a design used at the Kerr Center.

Feedstock Guide for a Two-Barrel Nested Biochar Retort

This intern report describes which feedstocks produce the most suitable biochar in a two-barrel biochar retort of a design used at the Kerr Center.

Share