Building Long-Term Fertility with Biochar
Scholarships are available for new farmers (those growing 10 or less years) who are active NOFA/Mass members. To apply please clickhere.
For centuries, biochar was used by indigenous peoples of amazonia as a natural and easily-obtained soil amendment that builds microbial communities and long-term fertility in soils. Recently, farmers and researchers have been finding that biochar not only creates an incredibly rich habitat for microbes, nematodes, and fungi but it also adds stable carbon to the soil, which allows for more soil water retention and greater nutrient retention.
Dan Pratt of Astarte Farm has been trialling biochar on his no-till farm for several years now. During this workshop, well walk around the __ acre farm and discuss how, when, and why they incorporate biochar into their diversified vegetable farm. Dan will show us field trials that compare biochar/compost amended soils with a control. He will also discuss many of the other innovative systems on their farm, including no-till, pollinator habitat islands, and more.
Well also have special guest, Dr. Emily Cole, present to share the results of her multi-year research project on biochar. Her research focused on how soil biota changes in response to biochar. She will share best practices and talk us through creating our own on-farm trials.
Hugh Mcloughlin, owner of Nextchar, an Amherst-based biochar manufacturer, will also be on hand to talk about different types of biochar and how your choice of biochar will influence how it behaves in the soil.
About the Instructor:
Dan Pratt, Astarte Farm manager, has developed his methods of organic soil improvement over the last 45 years. Starting in 1971 with Robert Rodales basic principle, feed the soil, not the plant, he progressed through a wide variety of farming enterprises ranging in scale from 3 to 1,700 acres. In 1999 he purchased the land for Astarte Farm in Hadley, MA, a human scale market gardening farm that sells direct to customers and wholesale. Dan has also written a series of articles for Growing for Market magazine in 2009-10 detailing his organic growing and selling experiences.
Dr. Emily Cole is professor of soil ecosystems and environmental education at Westfield State University. Her research focuses on the complex soil ecosystem and its response to disturbance by anthropogenic means. She is interested in the remediation of contaminated soils, improvement of soil health and overall sustainability in agroecosystems.
Hugh Mclaughlin, PhD, has a professional consulting practice in Chemical Engineering. He is an expert on the properties and production of chars, created by pyrolyzing biomass, and the subsequent conversion to activated carbons. He has published extensively on biochar and biomass derived heat production, including co-authoring All Biochars are not Created Equal and How to Tell them Apart (2009) and U.S. Focused Biochar Report: Assessment of Biochars Benefits for the United States of America (2010).
Lunch will be potluck style from 12:00pm 1:00pm. Bring a dish to share. Coffee and tea will be available during the workshop.
To Join Nofa/Mass go to www.nofamass.org/membership
Astarte Farm (View)
123 West Street
Hadley, MA 01035