New research with favorable economic implications for biochar. California’s Central Valley, which has been in drought to years, appears to be one of the areas that could most benefit from reduced irrigation costs when biochar is applied to their soils. (See map in the article.) 500,000 acres of California cropland are scheduled to be taken out of production due to the drought and the resulting drop in aquifer levels caused by irrigation. Jeff Waldon brought this article to our attention.
The researchers used their formulas to reveal that regions of the country with sandy soils would see the most benefit, and thus the most potential irrigation savings, with biochar amendment, areas primarily in the southeast, far north, northeast and western United States…
In one comprehensively studied plot of sandy soil operated by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Agricultural Water Management Network, Kroeger calculated a specific water savings of 37.9% for soil amended with biochar. Her figures included average rainfall and irrigation levels for the summer of 2019.
In the best-case scenarios for some regions, extensive use of biochar could save farmers a little more than 50% of the water they now use to grow crops.
"There's a lot of biochar research that focuses mostly on its carbon benefits, but there's fairly little on how it could help stakeholders on a more commercial level," said lead author and Rice alumna Jennifer Kroeger, now a fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. "It's still an emerging field."