Biochar is defined by the International Biochar Initiative as “a solid material obtained from the carbonization of biomass.”
Cool Planet’s biochar is the first product to be certified by the IBI. I spoke to two executives from Cool Planet to find out more about the whole business, and what the company was up to.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced in November a grant of $9.8 million to the Colorado State University to work with Cool Planet in helping to convert some of the 42 million acres of diseased wood in western forests into fuel and biochar.
In the early stages of development, the biochar they created was actually killing the plants they tested it on.
Rick Wilson, the executive responsible for the Cool Planet biochar operations, observed that the entire biochar industry is relatively new.
The company is currently engaged in field trials in row and orchard crops in both California and Florida, and they are testing in dairy as well, where European experiments show that small amounts of biochar can improve the health of animals while increasing milk output.
Applying a rigorous process “To avoid the possibility of cherry-picking the data,” he’s looked at biochar applications with normal fertilizer levels, as well as levels reduced by 20% and 40%. Likewise, he has tested with traditional applications of water, as well as applications reduced by 20% and 40%. He observed plant growth, nutrient uptake, soil depletion, and general levels of plant response.