CBA News

Two Day Biochar Workshop at Butte College.  Feb. 21st and 22nd

This two day workshop is organized by Butte College MESA Program to review and to plan forward the BIOCHAR R&D (REGen) project it has sponsored since 2011. The project is intended to introduce students to hands-on testing and application of biochar under the direction of John Dahlgren and the mentoring of Steve Feher and Richard Roth, with the support of MESA Director Nena Anguiano. The project has received a $15,000 EPA P3 Phase I grant during 2016-17 and a Phase II grant of $75,000 awarded last February, which runs through February 2020. We have also received $50,000 donation during 2018 from PG&E for general support of this project through the Butte College Foundation.

The intended role of this workshop is to bring outside input to this project which is focused on the applications on sustainable technologies in local industries, first of all agriculture, but also in the sustainable redevelopment of thee fire devastated areas of Butte County and to improve wildfire safety in view of the recent Camp Fire.

Thursday , Feb. 21st

Workshop Session,  9:00 – 11:45 AM, group discussion by biochar practitioners and attending students on the state-of-the-art of agricultural and forestry biomass residues (waste) conversion to biochar and its applications in California / Oregon.

Lunch, 12:00 – 1:00 PM College Cafeteria (No host).

Presentations, 1:00 – 4:45 PM Open to participation by students, faculty and the public.


  • Kelpie Wilson, “Biochar 101 – What is biochar? How does it work in soil, compost and animal digestive systems? Applications in crops, trees, forestry, land remediation, stormwater management, organic waste stream management, animal feed and industrial applications.
  • Raymond Baltar, Kelpie Wilson, and Steve Feher, “Flame-Cap Burning and On-Site Biochar Production”- On-site reduction of biomass residues in an economical and environmentally acceptable way, resulting in Biochar production (Including photos of recent ROI-500 Demo in Oroville, CA).
  • Butte College BIOCHAR R&D Team – Student Interns Presentations – Progress Report for Summer and Fall 2018.
  • Steve Feher, “The Path Forward for BIOCHAR R&D Project at Butte College”
  • Valerie Navarro, “The Future of Biochar, the Big Picture”.

Friday , Feb 22nd.

 Seminar: 9:00 -11:45 AM Seminar on biochar field experiments design, execution, analysis and reporting.


  • Allison Flynn, Biochar has long been touted as “the best thing for soil since the Haber process”. Many different folks have entered into the fray of this new industry. Determining what biochar is, what it will do for soil and under what conditions is less well documented.   Setting up a field trial seems trivial until faced with the myriad questions needed to acquire useful information. This presentation works to untangle the questions of what biochar is and how we can design experiments to demonstrate its value.
  • Elizabeth Crutchfield, Biochar is pyrolyzed biomass that can be used to improve the soil. This talk will cover methods to determine biochar’s effect on crop water and nutrient use, as well as the background in soil water and nutrient movement needed to understand and work with these concepts.  Experiments cover leaching of nutrients in field and greenhouse experiments, water use, shoot and root growth, and their interaction. The properties of biochar vary with feedstock and production parameters, but we generally found improvements in crop water and nutrient use efficiency. Based on paper with coauthors: Authors: Elizabeth Crutchfield, Jonathan Montgomery, Giles Waines, Donald Merhaut,  Laosheng Wu, Raymond Baltar, David Morell, Milt McGiffen
  • Milt McGiffen, PhD. Visit to Butte College Ag-fields for on-site discussion of biochar field experiments planned for 2019 Spring and Summer of  various commercially available biochar samples, including Rouge Biochar from Oregon we already have on hand.


Lunch: 12:00 – 12:30 PM – Pizza & soft drinks furnished by MESA.


Field Trip to Paradise: 12:30 – 3:00 PM Guided tour of the fire damaged Town of Paradise by Steve Feher, including his burned down home site, where he and his wife are planning to rebuild, modeling a sustainable home in a sustainable community. Steve will explain what he means by that.

Please RSVP !

If you can only attend part of the workshop please let us know what part.

For more information, contact Steve Feher:


We have some exciting plans for CBA this year and we need your support to help expand our efforts to scale biochar production and use. Check back soon for more details.  Click on the donate button above to make a tax deductible donation.  The Sonoma Ecology Center, a 501C3 with a 25-year track record,  is our fiscal sponsor. Thank you in advance!





USBI Biochar Conference 2019



The California Strategic Growth Council has awarded two significant grants for biochar-related research. Ken Alex, Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and SGC Chair said, “The SGC research grants are designed to fill gaps in our knowledge about some of the most promising climate change solutions, and move them more quickly to fruition.”

Biochar production and use was highlighted in the most recent IPCC climate change report as one of the least expensive and easily scaled methods of drawing down carbon from the atmosphere, and this recognition has helped bring the biochar story to the forefront of many climate change mitigation discussions and actions. There is, however, much research that still needs to be done to better characterize which types of biochar will persist the longest in varying agricultural soils, under what type of farming protocols, as well as creation of a standardized system for rating biochars based on a set of common criteria and characteristics. Gaining acceptance from the farming community for biochar production and use using surplus biomass will also be critical for scaling its use, and this will also be studied. These are some of the gaps in our knowledge about biochars that should be better understood and hopefully answered once this climate-change focused research and field trials are completed.

Congratulations to Benjamin Z. Houlton of the UC Davis Muir Institute and collaborators who will be working on a $4.7 million grant project entitled “CALIFORNIA COLLABORATIVE ON CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS: WORKING LANDS INNOVATION CENTER—CATALYZING NEGATIVE CARBON EMISSIONS.”

“The Working Lands Innovation Center’s objective is to scale and sustain CO2 capture and GHG emissions reductions by deploying a suite of cutting-edge soil amendment technologies, driving substantial co-benefits for California growers, ranchers, Tribes, communities, the economy, and environment. This project will increase understanding of the mechanisms and potential for carbon sequestration in soil.”

More information on this grant can be found here:

And congratulations to Gerardo Diaz of UC Merced and collaborators who will be working on the $3 million grant project entitled “MOBILE BIOCHAR PRODUCTION FOR METHANE EMISSION REDUCTION AND SOIL AMENDMENT.”

“The overall goal of this proposal is to determine how biochar can be produced and used in a closed cycle agricultural application to reduce GHG emissions, ameliorate agricultural waste disposal problems, improve the quality of life in low-income and disadvantaged farming and adjacent communities, and identify means to gain acceptance among farmers of small-scale biochar production and use as a sustainable best practice for California agriculture.”

More information on this grant can be found here:

If you haven’t yet seen the great film Dirt Rich which profiles some of our good friends (Josiah Hunt, David Morell, Bob Wells) you can stream it for a small fee here:




Biochar Field Day

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP), in cooperation with the University of California at David,  recently held a well attended Biochar Field Day near Winters, California.

The event brought together researchers, industry representatives and other interested stakeholders to discuss the feasibility of biochar use in agroecosystems. Presentations highlighted research, showcased available resources, and provided up-to-date information on biochar use in California agriculture. CBA was well represented with a number of members in attendance and a poster presentation was given on CBA’s mission and goals. Members attending were Steve Fehrer from Butte College, Grant Sheve from Oregon Biochar Solutions, Sophia Pant from Butte College, Michael Maguire from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, Thor Bailey, Green Carbon Nexus, David Morell and Raymond Baltar from Sonoma Ecology Center, Kevin Foley from Premier Mushrooms, and Bob Norman.


State of California Natural and Working Lands Sector

GHG Reductions and Carbon Sequestration Goals for California’s Forests, Rangelands, Wetlands, and Farms

Natural and Working Lands


Stay Informed


News from CBA Members:

5/5/18  Butte College BIOCHAR R&D Team and Friends:

We had a great Biochar Lab day today at Butte College, preparing the BOG Biochar/Soil pot-test with BOG soil and biochar to be run through the Summer of 2018.
This is just a quick notice with some pictures to let you know that the long planned experiment has been started. We will publish an initial report on the experiment design and preparations. The intent is to locate the test-pots at BOG over the summer for monitoring soil moisture levels in the test-pots with various amounts of biochar cover in comparison to undisturbed in-situ soil with the same surface treatments and under the same weather exposures.
The experiment is on its way!
Great job today, BIOCHAR Team!
Stephen I. Feher
Executive Director, Sustainable Community Development Institute (SCDI)
Associate Faculty, Engineering and Technical Director, Biochar R&D Projects at Butte College
Tel: (530)872-1403
Cell: (530)327-8355


I have found this Biochar Network Twitter feed to have some great links to biochar activities around the world.  Check it out. Raymond Baltar