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WA Biochar Trials

We are pleased to announce that our application to the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council (NACC) to run biochar trials has been successful.

The primary aim of the biochar trials is to demonstrate potassium response to the application of wheat straw biochar to soil in a cereal crop.

Australian farmers are burning crop residue to control chemical resistant weeds. Farmers have the opportunity to capture this residue to produce bioenergy and biofuels. To achieve this outcome it is important to understand how the by-products of the bioenergy process, like biochar will affect our cropping systems.

Many farmers on soil types low in Potassium, import potassium in the form of Muriate of Potash (MOP) to use in wheat crops. Since wheat straw is quite high in Potassium, there is potential to mine Potassium from soil types typically high in Potassium, process the straw through pyrolysis to produce bioenergy and biochar and use the biochar to replace potassium in a cropping regime. This trial will test this hypothesis.

The biochar trials will also include treatments of biochars made from waste resources (such as chicken manure) blended with traditional fertilisers to ascertain yield response.

The demonstration site is Northampton shire, Western Australia. The soil is a typically, lower performing loamy sand. It is moderately acidic with low levels of Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potassium and Organic Carbon.

We have engaged Grant Thompson from Crop Circle Consulting to carry out the biochar trials.

The trial will consist of small plots, each of approx. 0.004ha for each treatment. Each plot will be seeded with a small cone seeder. There will be a minimum of 4 reps for each treatment and include:

• Control (No treatment)
• Standard farmer treatment with traditional fertiliser
• Up to 8 biochar or biochar blend treatments – We have not finalised the treatments at this stage. Biochar would applied either under (deep banded) or with the seed.

Biochar will be produced from locally source wheat straw, shredded and pyrolised by Energy Farmers. Char will be analysed for nutrient and carbon content by The University of Western Australia.

While we have run biochar trials before these trials will be our first scientific look into if there is a response from the application of biochar to low quality soils.

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About the Author:

Euan Beamont is Co-Founder/Director of Energy Farmers Australia. From a rural background Euan has always had a strong connection to the land and is very passionate about the sustainability of agriculture. Euan believes that a carbon price is a good thing for agriculture and will enable farmers to change to more sustainable farming practices and move away from their reliance on fossil based energy.
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