Re: Conservation Innovation Grant Opportunity #nrcs #cig

Dick Gallien

Hi Paul,
I like your title, "Biochar Production" and see that as a huge issue.  As you saw when visiting Winona and is repeated across this country, the torching of thousands of residential trees.  Whether the Dutch Elm in the 1960's or the Emerald Ash Bore recently, there's a steady stream of the term blessed by the DNR Foresters, "waste wood" coming out of urban areas.  

John Howard <jhoward@...>

Sep 17, 2019, 4:29 PM

Dr. Nelson,


I am hoping to find out if a potential project might be suitable for a SARE grant before we prepare a proposal or pre-proposal application. The Winona Farm and the City of Winona are looking at ways of better utilizing tree waste through converting woody material into lumber or biochar. Trees removed from city boulevards and in agricultural areas would be milled using a portable mill with non-millable wood being processed into biochar. This project is timely since the Winona area is in the midst of a massive ash tree die off from emerald ash borer, and therefore has an abundance of dead trees with nowhere to put them and no use for them. Sadly, many other communities in Minnesota are likely to experience the same in the next decade or two, so I would hope our project would serve as a demonstration project. Would such a project fit with the Research and Education grant program or the Partnership Grant Program?


If SARE grants would not be a good fit, might you have other suggestions where we may apply to grants?

 John Howard

Natural Resources Sustainability Coordinator

City of Winona

Hi John:


While it fits in that it is addressing, environment and community, and potentially economics, it's not a strong fit for SARE grants, since it leans more toward natural resources and less toward agriculture. Because the R&E program is so competitive, I don't think it would be funded in that grant program.  For the Partnership grant program (or either if you decide to submit an R&E preproposal), you'd need to be working with three farmers or ranchers who are willing to use the biochar and test it--and that would make it a better fit for SARE. Especially if, as you say, you present this as a demonstration that other areas could use as a model for setting up a similar system in their community.  If you are interested in pursuing that angle, you should also contact your Minnesota SARE Coordinators for suggestions about preparing the grant.


It might be a stronger fit for a Forestry grant program, and I'm afraid I'm not too familiar with those.

Beth Nelson
Director of Research and Education Programs
North Central Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE)
120 BAE, University of Minnesota
1390 Eckles Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
Phone: 612-626-4436 


No, she's not too familiar with the connection between waste wood, biochar and soil health.

In that the DNR Forestry Dept., for 25 yrs. has encouraged burning "waste wood",  only $5 for a yearly permit, J. Howard can't move Winona's bureaucracy to do anything but burn 1500+ ash trees. If I ask, the City will dump all their tree waste at this farm, as they have dumped 400 City truck loads of wet street leaves every yr. for 20 yrs..  At 88, all I need is the 24' end of a 10' dia. rail road tank car, cut in half length wise, including the original end and Paul is volunteering to weld 1/2" plates on the 2 open ends, plus a few nubs, so the "turtle" can more easily be rolled with the loader, when full of molten char.☺  I agree with Paul, whether sticks or logs, we can't afford chipping, especially a whole tree chipper.  Logs will have to be run through a few times, but that intense heat will eventually win.     

The 3/16" fuel tank "turtle" that Kelpie used in N.D. a yr. ago, made sense to me, but it is too flimsy. DOT 111 are only 7/16" and being decommissioned.  Every tanker derailment leaves tankers that aren't worth cutting up for scrap.  With 2 tank car turtles, we can find out whether they are practical.  If so, 6 to 8 turtles, with a grapple full being added every 10+ min., will keep a loader with a grapple busy.  

Paul was here last Sept, when the wife, and City Forester, balked at stacking City tree waste on 2 flat, tillable acres, adjoining a 40' stack of City street leaves.  That could be an experiment, for the above types.  On  1 acre systematically char with turtles, crush by driving over logs with the 34K lb. 2' wide dozer tracks, to knock of charred material.  Spread out biochar and continue.  Cover both acres heavily with compost, of which we have a huge amount--but could use an Orbit Screener.  No til both acres with a hay mix.  Compare hay production.  

Last Fall I dozed brush into a pocket of street leaves 4 times, then when burned down, dozed wet leaves on the 15' dia pile, without smashing with the tracks, which worked well.  Burning wasn't allowed until yesterday, May 16, when my pile of brush was too spread out.  Will have the City dump their leaves this Fall, so I can get behind the pile with the dozer and more easily push them onto the burned down pile, where they can pyrolysize without producing smoke, since the DNR allows me to experiment with an open flame, only between 8 and 4, though the City and County can torch day and night--forever. 

The wife says the City has the flat gravel acres where they have burned for years and the equipment, why don't they do it?  My first wife, a student in nursing at Ma. Gen., had our first child 65 yrs. ago in a Boston Hospital.  We went in just after 9 pm, so I wasn't allowed beyond the reception desk.  I wasn't allowed to visit until 7 pm the next evening.  They had bound her chest with ace bandages and given her a shot to dry her up, telling my wife, our dau. wouldn't nurse.  I asked the nurse to bring our dau. from where ever they had her hidden, took off the bandages and she nursed.  Back then, 85% bottle fed, because there's money in bottle feeding and the god like, male Dr.'s told them bottles were best.  That mice, humans and elephants have existed, without bottles, didn't register, until Mothers straightened out the authorities, to where even Dr's must know that breast feeding is best for mother and child and birthing rooms are open to families.  Same at land grant institution Mich. State soils class in 1961 with 50 farm boys and I mentioned "Plow Man's Folly" and organic farming.  I still remember Dr. Foth's angry words, "You can't increase the % of organic mater in a farm field, it is like adding brush to a brush fire !!".  Dr. Earl Butz was Dean of  Ag. at Purdue, then Sec. of Ag. and regularly mocked organic farmers, as quacks.  Those quacks and consumers are turning it around, not led by Monsanto and State Universities.  The same applies to biochar.  

I'd appreciate any suggestions.  Thanks, Dick 

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