Special to The Ely Times

Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition (ENLC) and Pinyon Juniper Partnership are cooperating with Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest-Ely Ranger District, Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF), and Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS), Moscow, Idaho to produce biochar on site and use it as a soil application to restore depleted rangelands. Funding came from a USFS Wood Utilization Grant.

The project is located in northern White River Valley where the Ely Ranger District already conducted pinyon-juniper treatments. Woody biomass residue from cut pinyon and juniper trees are fed into the portable biochar kilns. Biochar is produced in the kilns through pyrolysis, a process which heats wood at high temperatures with limited oxygen. Biochar produced at the site will be moved to nearby USFS rangeland site to be added into the soil. At that time, grass plugs and native herbaceous seed mix will be planted on both biochar and non-biochar plots to test efficacy of the treatment.

The purpose of this project is to demonstrate 1) the ability and usefulness of producing biochar using inexpensive, mobile pyrolysis units placed at the site of a lands treatment; and, 2) The effectiveness of adding biochar to depleted rangelands to increase carbon in the soil (improving water holding capacity and vegetative productivity).

The kilns being used were designed, produced, and transported by Nevada Division of Forestry. Production of biochar by NDF crews has just begun and will continue for the next 4-6 weeks.  Smoke may be seen in the area for short periods of time when kilns are first ignited. ENLC and Ely Ranger District personnel will be monitoring production. When biochar production is complete, it will be applied with the seed mix and grass plugs under the direction of RMRS. The study will be ongoing over the next couple of years and study results will be reported by the RMRS.

Courtesy photo Eric Roussel of NDF standing with kiln during first phase of burning biomass.

Courtesy photo
Eric Roussel of NDF standing with kiln during first phase of burning biomass.