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.

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