Come Rain or Shine

Biochar: Uses and Potential Benefits

March 01, 2023 USDA Southwest Climate Hub & DOI Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center Season 4 Episode 3
Biochar: Uses and Potential Benefits
Come Rain or Shine
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Come Rain or Shine
Biochar: Uses and Potential Benefits
Mar 01, 2023 Season 4 Episode 3
USDA Southwest Climate Hub & DOI Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center

We have been hearing a lot about biochar recently. Biochar is the charred material leftover after partially burning organic material, which is then used to improve soil health, remediate polluted soils, sequester carbon, and even improve soil water holding capacity and soil moisture. This month we spoke with Dr. Debbie Page-Dumerose and Dr. Nate Anderson, both with the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, to learn more about biochar and its many uses. Episode image: USDA Forest Service photo by Deborah Page-Dumroese.

Relevant links:
Read this handy fire safety brochure before you try to make biochar!

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Show Notes Transcript

We have been hearing a lot about biochar recently. Biochar is the charred material leftover after partially burning organic material, which is then used to improve soil health, remediate polluted soils, sequester carbon, and even improve soil water holding capacity and soil moisture. This month we spoke with Dr. Debbie Page-Dumerose and Dr. Nate Anderson, both with the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, to learn more about biochar and its many uses. Episode image: USDA Forest Service photo by Deborah Page-Dumroese.

Relevant links:
Read this handy fire safety brochure before you try to make biochar!

If you’re enjoying this podcast, please consider rating us and/or leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or Podchaser Thanks!

Follow us on Twitter @RainShinePod

Never miss an episode! Sign up to get an email alert whenever a new episode publishes!

Have a suggestion for a future episode? Please tell us!

Come Rain or Shine affiliate links:
DOI Southwest CASC:
USDA Southwest Climate Hub:
Sustainable Southwest Beef Project (NIFA Grant #2019-69012-29853):

[00:00:00] Welcome to Come Rain or Shine Podcast of the U S D A Southwest Climate Hub and the U S G S Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center or Southwest CASC. I'm Sarah LeRoy Science Applications and Communications Coordinator for the Southwest CASC. And I'm Emile Elias, director of the Southwest Climate Hub.

[00:00:21] Here we highlight stories to share the most recent advances in climate, science, weather, and climate adaptation and innovative practices to support resilient landscapes and communities. We believe that sharing some of the most innovative forward thinking and creative climate science and adaptation will strengthen our collective ability to respond to even the most challenging impacts of climate change in one of the hottest and driest regions of the world.

[00:00:55] The contents of this podcast are for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as endorsement for any of the products, technologies, or strategies discussed.

[00:01:08] Emile Elias: All right. Welcome back. Today we're talking about biochar. Biochar is the charred matter leftover after partially burning organic material, which is then used for a whole host of things such as improving soil health, remediating polluted soils, filtering water, sequestering carbon, and even improving soil water holding capacity.

[00:01:31] We have been hearing a lot about biochar recently, partially because of the potential to reduce wildfire risk by removing excess biomass. Scientists note that by turning excess forest biomass into economically and environmentally valuable biochar managers can treat overgrown forests while improving soil health.

[00:01:54] The use of biochar is not new. In fact, it's been used for millennia. Examples of historic use of charcoal based soil amendments can be found in the Amazon Basin, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, so all over the globe. Today we speak to two research scientists about modern biochar use and the benefits and challenges of biochar.

[00:02:18] Dr. Debbie Page Dumroese is a senior research soil scientist, and Dr. Nate Anderson is a research forester and a specialist in forest economics. Both scientists work with the United States Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Thank you both for joining us today to talk about biochar. So, Deb, let's start with a little bit of an overview.

[00:02:44] What makes Biochar different from the burn debris of a wildfire or a controlled burn? 

[00:02:51] Debbie Page Dumroese: Yeah. Thanks Emile. You know, when you first look at it, you would think that they were pretty much the same. They're both black and kind of chunky, right? But biochar is much more consistent than what you would get with the wildfire or prescribed burn.

[00:03:06] And so, what we're looking for is the consistency in biochar. It, it's usually burned at a certain temperature in a certain way. And so you get a really nice uniform product in the end that could be used for a lot of different applications. And, and most of those are soil related. 

[00:03:24] Emile Elias: Excellent. Thanks.

[00:03:25] And building on that, Nate, are there different ways to make biochar. 

[00:03:31] Nate Anderson: Yeah, there are a lot of different ways to make biochar and they range from very simple and cheap to very complex and expensive, depending on what your objectives are. And as we've mentioned, the biochar has been made and used as a soil amendment for a very long time.

[00:03:47] So there are very traditional pit and mound techniques to produce biochar. We can upscale that to large wooden ricks, which are basically like a big Jenga stack of wood that can be burned in a certain way to produce a lot of charcoal that if we put it in the soil is biochar. You can also burn slash piles in certain ways that accomplish the same thing, that that result in more fixed carbon and less of that pile going to ash.

[00:04:16] And then, you know, many people, depending on where you are in the country or where you are in your country, you can see old charcoal kilns that were used to produce charcoal for industry in different places. And so those traditional charcoal making techniques can be used to make biochar. Those are often either brick or you know, sometimes earthen kilns that are used.

[00:04:39] But we can also have metal kilns. Different types of metal kilns are available for producing biochar. At small and medium scales, and then kind of up, up from there in technology we see something called a retort or a retort kiln where the, the biomass is kind of inside a container that's being heated from the outside, and that's known as a retort.

[00:05:00] And then kind of moving up in a complexity from there, there are modern advanced bio-energy systems that go from small scale to very large scale. They might just produce biochar. They might produce biochar and heat or a liquid fuel product like bio oil or maybe all three. They produce biochar, bio oil, and also maybe a gas that's used to produce heat and electricity.

[00:05:26] And then even some large scale power plants and large scale combined heat and power operations produce biochar as a byproduct. So this might be at a sawmill, for example, that has a gasifier or a a, a boiler that you, they might be actually producing biochar as well. 

[00:05:44] Emile Elias: Excellent. Thanks Nate. And I was lucky enough to attend a workshop on Biochar a few months ago, and I learned about the Char Boss, which I feel like could advance the pace and scale of use of biochar especially here in the West.

[00:06:02] So, Debbie, can you tell us a little bit about the Char Boss, what it is, and, and how that could be helpful? 

[00:06:09] Debbie Page Dumroese: Yeah. So, the Char Boss is an air curtain burner and it's made by Air Burners Incorporated, and they're located in Florida. They've been making air burners for a long time, and when I talk about an air burner, it just means that there is a curtain of air that's forced over the top of the container that the wood is being burned in.

[00:06:30] And so that keeps the smoke and particulates to a minimum. We often, as the wood is burning, we often don't see any smoke in particulates coming out, but you can see the heat waves coming out from the the burn bin. The nice thing about this Char Boss is that it makes charcoal continuously. It used to be that we were limited to batch jobs with making charcoal.

[00:06:52] So kilns, you, you make a batch and then you dump it out and you quench the coals. But the Char Boss the poles drop through a slot in the bottom of the burn bin, and then they're on, they're put on a conveyor belt and they're moved right into a quench pan. So, the wood doesn't have a chance to turn into ash, and that's a nice benefit.

[00:07:13] And we get a really nice biochar product at the end. . And the nice thing about this as well is that there are very few embers that escape. So, we could talk about extending the period of time when you could use this equipment from you know, into the summer. Or in places where they have burn bands, they're often, they're allowing air burners to operate because there's little smoke and not as many chances of a wildfire escaping because it's a contained system.

[00:07:44] Emile Elias: Excellent. Thank you. 

[00:07:46] Sarah LeRoy: Thanks Nate. So thinking about soil biochar is often used to enrich the soil. So Deb, I would wanna ask you, what soil properties does it enhance or affect? 

[00:07:56] Debbie Page Dumroese: Yeah, so I, I like to think about biochar a as increasing the soil sponge. It's, it's really great at holding water. It's re, it's a porous material and so it holds a lot of water.

[00:08:08] And it has a high exchange capacity, which means it has a lot of both positive and negative charges. And so it can hold a lot of nutrients. So the combination of those two things are probably what people are most interested in, but we also use it at log landings and on skid trails. It's really great at increasing the poor space in the soil so you can reduce compaction.

[00:08:32] and that's really great if you know, part of your operations are to build, say, pollinator species or if you wanted to just have more native species instead of invasive grasses. The biochar is really great at helping you prepare the soil to be able to grow the desired plants that you want there.

[00:08:50] The other nice thing about biochar is that because it's so porous, it helps water infiltrate into the soil, and that means that there's less overland flow, so we have less erosion events. And we can store that water longer into the growing season, which means that, say, forage for cattle would stay green longer, rather than turning brown in, say late June or early July.

[00:09:13] You could maybe keep the forage green for another two or three or four more weeks. So those are key benefits that I think, you know, in combination, they all do some really great things to improve soil health and keep the desired plants growing, keep out invasive species. 

[00:09:31] Sarah LeRoy: Thanks Deb. So Nate, I mean, Deb just, you know, started talking about and telling us about the benefits of, of using biochar as a soil amendment.

[00:09:40] Could you describe some other direct or indirect benefits? 

[00:09:44] Nate Anderson: Yeah, and I think the soil is always where you start with biochar, but then if you kind of broaden the system boundary a little bit, you see that when biochar production is integrated into land management, you get a lot of, indirect benefits as well.

[00:09:58] And so in, in forestry, especially in the western United States, a lot of times we're doing treatments on the landscape to either restore degraded forests or reduce wildfire risk or, or maybe harvest timber. And those activities generate a lot of biomass and in many places we're burning that biomass for disposal.

[00:10:17] So one of the benefits of of using some sort of technology or some sort of technique to, to make biochar. Instead of burning those piles and giving off all that smoke, we can create biochar in a more controlled way, put it back on the soil and get all the soil benefits that Debbie was talking about but also we're not putting as much smoke in the air.

[00:10:39] That smoke, it's not just annoying. It actually has negative health effects, especially for local communities, so we get better health outcomes. That's a benefit of doing this, and then, you know, we, we also see some operational benefits. You know, we can extend our burn windows and get rid of these materials in ways that have lower escaped fire risk.

[00:11:00] And so I, I just would throw out that the big picture here of integrating biochar into some of our land management practices is to really help enhance some of the ecosystem services we get from forests, and that cuts across water biodiversity. Debbie mentioned invasive species, recreation, cultural values, and all of those things we kind of have come to expect from our forests.

[00:11:23] Sarah LeRoy: Great. Thank you. So it's interesting to me that not all biochar is created equal. So Debbie, could you tell us a little bit about how the source material and production conditions impact the properties of the finished material?

[00:11:39] Debbie Page Dumroese: Sure. You know, it's, it, when you think about it, it's, it's pretty obvious, right?

[00:11:43] Wood, manure, crop residues, they all have different properties. And so when that material is made into biochar, that means that that biochar also has some specific properties. So for example, Woody biomass, mixed conifer, woody biomass is probably one of my favorites. Be mostly because I'm in forestry, right?

[00:12:04] But but it also produces a nice biochar that can easily just, you know, you can make it and use it on site. It doesn't require any pre-treatments. Other things like manures have some properties that you might not want to put immediately on your soil. So, so manure from poultry litter has a really high pH when you make the biochar, and so that means that you would probably want to do some other composting or add some amendments to make sure that that pH of your biochar better matches the place where you want to grow crops or put it on whatever soil you have.

[00:12:39] So, so that's one way that the properties of biochar vary. But the other way is how you make it. So, as Nate said, you know, you can make it in slash piles or Ricks or kilns or in fixed biomass plants where they're making bioenergy and biochar at the same time. And all of those types of processes that make biochar also give you unique properties to the biochar.

[00:13:04] So we, you know, we know, you know, we're, we're pretty good at saying, well, if it's a conifer biomass, we can make conifer biochar. And that's pretty easy to just put right back out on forest sites. But if you have high value crops or you know, you're trying to really target some sort of restoration activity, then in those cases you'd really wanna pay attention more to what the soil is like and what the biochar is like that you make.

[00:13:29] And this feed stock that you use to make the biochar. 

[00:13:32] Emile Elias: Thanks Debbie. That leads into my next question, which is about economics. So, Nate, as an economist, I'll ask you this question. There can be some financial benefits of biochar. Sometimes forest restoration projects are not always financially feasible for land managers.

[00:13:51] So can you describe for us how biochar might fit into this scenario? 

[00:13:57] Nate Anderson: Yeah, and I think it, it's, well, it's connected pretty well to what Debbie has been talking about in terms of the benefits in the soils and, and other benefits and those indirect benefits. Some of those benefits can be expressed in market transactions, right?

[00:14:10] We're thinking about if we are making biochar from a waste product, maybe in an agricultural context, things like tree trimmings or crop residues are expensive to handle and deal with and, and are a waste product. . And if we can turn that into biochar that has market value that could be sold or used on site, that can potentially generate revenues.

[00:14:34] And the same thing's true in in the forestry context that you mentioned. If we have a lot of wood waste that we're burning for disposal that has a cost of market cost to it, but also a non-market cost. And if we can get that into, into biochar that has market value to, you know, downstream users, we might be able to generate some revenues from what currently costs us a lot of money to, to dispose of.

[00:14:58] So those revenues can then turn around and help offset the cost of these treatments. Sometimes these costs are $1,200 an acre to carry out on the landscape, so that that makes a big difference. It's it be biochar becomes another forest product. But then downstream, we also have other financial benefits.

[00:15:14] So you could have in agricultural settings, sometimes you experience increases in crop yields. Those obviously have market implications. But if you even if you don't, you might save inputs in agriculture. So you might save water by biochar water holding capacity, and you might have fewer inputs like fertilizer or, or herbicides.

[00:15:35] And then you might also reduce some runoff or contamination or, or things like that. So I think the, the the market benefits of biochar are developing and it's, it, it's really cross-cutting. Excellent. 

[00:15:50] Emile Elias: Thanks Nate. And now we're gonna talk about one specific market. Debbie, you have done some research in using biochar in mine site remediation.

[00:16:00] And can you tell us a little bit about that?

[00:16:03] Debbie Page Dumroese: Yeah. You know, I, I, I'm kind of a lumper when it comes to mine sites, and I think there are two basic types. One is sites that are just old abandoned mine sites that have no contamination, but they're also not growing any vegetation. And the other is contaminated mine sites that have some specific problem like mercury or lead or cadmium. . And so those two, you know, I kind of think about those two separately. So the first one, sites that don't have any contamination, we've been really successful at using biochar, biosolids from waste treatment plants and bio and wood chips, just plain old wood chips to kind of rebuild the organic horizons on the soil surface.

[00:16:44] And that helps increase water holding capacity. It, it gives a little burst of nutrients from the biosolids and the biochar helps hold those nutrients in the soil longer, and we've been really successful at getting vegetation to come back on those sites. The ones that are contaminated, those are the ones that I think we have to think about a little bit more.

[00:17:05] And really try to target what kind of biochar, you know, the feedstock type or even if it needs some kind of pre-treatment so that it could absorb whatever you know, heavy metals or other contaminants that are on the site. And I think the combination of biochar with maybe some trees that could do phytoremediation at the same time are, are successful ways that we can start to remove the contaminants from moving into groundwater sources or through overland flow and erosion into into reservoirs. And you know, I know that there's problems, you know, in a lot of places where reservoirs are picking up a lot of the contaminants and oftentimes that limits you know, people's recreational opportunities to go fishing. And so, you know, you know, it, it all kind of, you know, trickles down from those mine sites.

[00:17:52] And so if we can keep the the heavy metals or you know, what other contaminants on site, then we don't have to have times when we cut off people's recreation opportunities in reservoirs. And so, you know, it's kind of the big picture thing. But, you know, I think if we kind of think about those in two different ways, I think we're more successful at addressing each of those different kinds of mine sites.

[00:18:14] Sarah LeRoy: Thanks, Debbie. Follow-on question for you. Are there any places where Biochar application is not recommended? You know, perhaps because of soil pH or of oversaturation of biochar? 

[00:18:27] Debbie Page Dumroese: So I, first I would say there's lots of places where you could use biochar. And we've had the biggest successes with biochar application.

[00:18:35] So success, I mean, the biggest response from you know, soil properties or vegetation on sites that are course textured and don't have a lot of organic matter, right? Because we're putting in that little organic matter piece with biochar and we're seeing a big response. But there are places like organic soils, you know, with deep organic horizons that, you know, you wouldn't wanna put biochar on.

[00:18:58] There's no reason to. And those are really different soils from the mineral soils that a lot of us are used to working in. And I think, you know, I, so far we don't see an oversaturation of biochar. Mostly because we haven't put that much biochar out a lot of sites. But, you know, maybe they'll come a day when, you know, we've harvested, you know, an area and reused a log landing several times and we've added a lot of biochar there that could lead to oversaturation, but I, I don't really foresee that might be a problem. Mostly because as the charcoal gets incorporated into the soil, it starts to break into tinier and tinier pieces and the microbes start to move in and occupy the poor spaces in there. And you know, we, you know, we've had wildfires for centuries, right?

[00:19:47] And we never really see a big buildup of charcoal on those sites. . I mean, unless there's really an active program that we're only putting biochar in one location, that I don't think that that oversaturation piece will be a problem. 

[00:20:00] Sarah LeRoy: Great. So thinking, you know, we live here in the southwest, many of us, and we have a lot of high pH soils.

[00:20:07] Which, you know, conceptually could limit the application of biochar in some areas of the region. So I'm curious, Debbie, what do you see as the areas of opportunity for large scale application in the Southwest? 

[00:20:23] Debbie Page Dumroese: I think there are lots of opportunities, but I think in order to be successful, the first step would be to compost the biochar, you know, either at a large compost facility or mix it into feed lots for absorbing all of the cattle manure and the moisture from feed lots, and then using that as an organic fertilizer or an organic amendment to your soils because that composting piece helps lower the pH enough so that it's more compatible with the soils and you're not increasing the pH even more. And so, you know, in here in the northwest we have the pro the other problem, right?

[00:21:00] We fertilized soils for so long to grow crops that the pH is really low. And so biochar is a nice alternative to, to Lyme to be able to bring the pH back up. So yeah, we all have our different problems that we have to deal with, but I I, I do think that that composting piece before applying the biochar is really useful.

[00:21:19] But that said, I think that on forest sites, because we have an input of litter. Every year from, you know, pine trees and the shrubs that are dropping their needles and leaves that, that helps lower the pH of the biochar on foresight. So I, I still think that biochar applied, you know, we make it and we use it on site. I think that's still a viable alternative. 

[00:21:40] Emile Elias: Thanks, Debbie. I'm struck by all the many different applications of biochar, you know, in agricultural systems and forest systems, and kind of that local piece that you need to consider when you're thinking about it. And it makes me think about the different markets for biochar.

[00:21:56] I'm curious about who might be interested in purchasing biochar in the future. What are the markets looking like? So, Nate, I wonder if you can start on that question. 

[00:22:08] Nate Anderson: Sure. Yeah. And we, we've, we've touched on a few, but I'll, I'll reiterate some of the, the more important ones and then some new ones as well that, that your listeners may want to hear about.

[00:22:18] The Debbie mentioned with, with animal operations, the, the potential runoff that comes from those operations biochar can be used in animal pens and animal bedding to help keep those nutrients on site and, and that's a really good use of it. There's some other interesting agricultural applications.

[00:22:35] Obviously, high, high value crops and situations where we want to increase water holding capacity of agricultural soils are really important. People are also experimenting with feeding biochar to cattle specifically, but, but putting biochar in animal feed that has some benefits in certain situations that reduce, maybe reduce methane from cattle from the ruminants.

[00:23:00] And there are other things too in horticulture and nurseries. People are used biochar in, in potting media and even in seed coatings, things like that. And a lot of filtration applications. So we've talked about mine applications and some of the, the mine runoff that can be pretty problematic. But we can also think about urban storm water runoff, other municipal water filtering applications even for drinking water in municipalities.

[00:23:27] And then thinking even more broadly to markets. There are things that are traditionally industrial. Charcoal or even industrial products that are made from fossil coal that we'll maybe able to displace with biochar. So certainly solid fuels and pellets and briquettes for, for combustion and, and power plants and things like that.

[00:23:49] That's not biochar really. It's, it's, it's more charcoal used for energy. But it is an interesting market. And industrial sorbent. So using biochar as a precursor in the manufacturer of different industrial absorbents like activated carbon and things like that. And then met carbon is actually coming on pretty strong and, and those uses kind of drift away from soil, so they're kind of drifting out of the biochar box more into the industrial carbon box.

[00:24:15] But they're important I think, for people to understand for a couple reasons. One, because if you manufacture biochar from wood waste, you may be using that in a forestry context onsite. You may be selling it offsite for agricultural operations, some other use. But diversified markets reduce risk for manufacturers, right?

[00:24:35] So that's one important thing of these other options for using biochar for different types of product. The other is if there are big companies that are already making industrial charcoal, especially from wood, it wouldn't be a big stretch for them to get into biochar markets as those markets develop.

[00:24:51] So there's a competition aspect of it as well across these different types of markets. 

[00:24:56] Emile Elias: Excellent. Thanks Nate. And building on that, I'm thinking about global carbon, greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon markets from that context, has there been any interest that you know of in biochar products related to carbon markets?

[00:25:12] Nate Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. This is really hot right now and I mentioned, you know, ecosystem services earlier in the podcast. And we think of our forests especially, and our agricultural soils, as well as being a carbon sink and trying to enhance the sink strength of those forests above ground carbon, below ground carbon and forests to help mitigate climate change.

[00:25:34] And, and biochar is a really, really exciting space, I think for carbon offsets carbon offset programs and, you know, depending on the circumstances, biochar is really an excellent target for projects that would generate carbon offsets. The, the carbon accounting that goes along with what we're talking about that is taking waste biomass and turning it into biochar and putting it into soils.

[00:25:58] You get a a lot of different benefits and, and the carbon in the soil, you know, can impact the emissions of different types of greenhouse gases as well, like nitrous oxide. So it, it, they're really good targets. An example of great progress in this space is the Climate Action Reserve, which is an offset registry for global carbon markets.

[00:26:22] Is developing a, a biochar protocol right now, and your listeners can, can look that up online and check it out, see what it's all about. You know, the base, the basics of this are really that, you know, depending on the feed stock and the conversion process and the application, those things can be, if you have a sustainable biomass feedstock and you're using a conversion process that results in long-lived biochar with that are very resistant to decay, and that's going in a soil to improve the soil carbon that is a really nice carbon accounting to, to generate offsets. So, I'd encourage folks to go out and look at some of the different protocols that are used for carbon accounting associated with these carbon offsets. It's an exciting opportunity. 

[00:27:12] Sarah LeRoy: Thanks Nate. That is really exciting and also, I think segues nicely into the second to last question about hope, and hope for the future.

[00:27:20] And I think everything we've talked about so far gives me hope with all the different applications positive applications of biochar. But I'd like to ask you both what gives you hope for the future? So, Debbie, why don't we start with you. 

[00:27:34] Debbie Page Dumroese: Absolutely. Biochar, biochar gives me hope, right? You know, it's, it's a really rapid way to mitigate climate change.

[00:27:42] And and as we're doing that, we can improve soil properties. We can do less open burning, we can sequester carbon y you know, the whole package deal is is really hopeful space because, We can engage a lot of people in making and using biochar. We can build communities around this, you know, just a hunk of charcoal, and, and, and really get people thinking about, you know, there are different ways to treat this biomass, that before we didn't think had any value, but now we can turn it into a way, you know, we're more familiar and better trained at how we can turn it into, you know, a, a tool to improve soil properties. And so, you know, that whole package kind of gives me hope. 

[00:28:24] Sarah LeRoy: Excellent, Nate. 

[00:28:26] Nate Anderson: Yeah. I'm really hopeful based on how this, how, how kind of the biochar environment in terms of the organizations and, and governments and different players are involved and how, you know, I think going back to 2009 when we first started working on biochar, it was really this, this space was dominated by academics and aficionados and early adopters, right?

[00:28:48] People who were just real, really excited about biochar and it was a pretty small club. And that's really expanded and it's accelerated. And the diversity of people who are looking at this for not just improving soils and managing waste and a as a bio-energy co-product, but as a climate change mitigation tool, we are starting to see this being built into public policy and, and starting real, really get the attention of, of policy makers that can potentially enact the types of policies that would incentivize carbon sequestration and biochar. And then you would also facilitate all these other benefits we've been talking about.

[00:29:27] And that's really exciting to me and hopeful. 

[00:29:30] Sarah LeRoy: Great. Okay, so now this really is the last question. What is the one thing that you would like listeners to remember from this episode? And Nate, why don't we start with you this time. 

[00:29:41] Nate Anderson: Sure. . Yeah. I think biochar, for a lot of people just getting into it, biochar is really, really confusing.

[00:29:48] there's, there's so much out there and it's, there's just a, this kind of tremendous fire hose of information about it. And it's, it's hard to kind of pick and choose. But what I'll tell people is that , you know, the diffusion of innovation takes time and every day new science is coming out, new research and development that's really providing the scientific underpinning for good practices in the field.

[00:30:14] And I, I think that, just keep going back to that well, and you know, the, the volume of information that's coming out is, is very daunting, but I think it's excellent to see a lot of the good science getting translated into practice now and that's, that's great. 

[00:30:33] Sarah LeRoy: Thanks Nate. Debbie, would you like to close us out? What's the one thing you want listeners to remember? 

[00:30:40] Debbie Page Dumroese: Sure. I think though, well there's a couple things, right? You know, you can make biochar in your backyard. You know, I've been making it in my backyard and using it in my raised garden bed for a couple of years. And it, it's easy to make and it has a lot of uses and I think you know, if people are really interested in biochar, you know, start in in your backyard if that, if that's okay. I mean, you know, you gotta watch out for your neighbors and, and wildfire. But, you know, if, if it's a safe space I would say just experiment in your yard with it. And you know, there's a lot of tips online for, you know, how you get started.

[00:31:17] But I would say the, you know, the takeaway is that it's easy to make and it has a lot of uses. 

[00:31:24] Sarah LeRoy: Thanks Debbie. And of course we'd like to remind our listeners that biochar production requires fire, so if you attempt to make your own biochar, at all times be aware of your surroundings and have water and tools on-hand to put out any sparks that might fly out. When you are ready, quench the coals with water and give them a good stir to ensure the fire is completely out and there’s no embers or hot ash to reignite or cause a fire. Test the air directly above the coals with the back of your hand, everything should feel cool. Thoroughly quenching the coals ensures you have some pretty awesome biochar to spread in your yard or garden.  Remember – if it’s hot, it’s not out!

I actually have some lemon trees in my backyard and one of them, for some reason, maybe it's the, the soils here in Tucson, it doesn't wanna take off. And so, Now I'm gonna go online.

[00:31:37] I'm gonna find some tips on how to make biochar in my backyard and see if it, I can get that lemon tree to, to perk up a bit. Well, thank you both for talking with us today. I have learned a ton about biochar because I came into this not knowing a lot. So I appreciate you taking the time and thank you. 

[00:31:55] Debbie Page Dumroese: Thank you. This has been fun. 

[00:31:57] Nate Anderson: Yeah, really great to be here. Thanks for having us.

[00:32:03] Emile Elias: Thanks for listening to Come Rain or Shine podcast of the USDA Southwest Climate Hub 

[00:32:08] Sarah LeRoy: and the U S G S Southwest CASC. If you liked this podcast, don't forget to rate or review it and subscribe for more great episodes. A special thanks to our production crew, Skye Aney and Reanna Burnett. If you want more information, have any questions for the speakers or would like to offer feedback, please reach out to us via our websites.