Disclaimer: All FAQ responses are only applicable to the Scaling Up Biochar Project and associated biochar implementation focused on the reduction of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment from urban runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

Can biochar be sourced from any vendor, or does it have to come from the Project Team?

The biochar must be from the Project Team, as that is how the grant is structured.

Can I get biochar for my project?

Projects must be in the Chesapeake Bay and constructed by the end of 2024. Please read and fill out the Implementation Interest Form to determine if you qualify to receive biochar.

How long will biochar remain in the soil before breaking down?

Biochar consists of two distinct carbon pools (persistent aromatic carbon (PAC) and semi-persistent carbon (SPC)) with different degrees of persistence when applied to soil. PAC is not susceptible to degradation and has a mean residence time in soil largely exceeding 1,000 years (independent of common environmental factors such as soil humidity, freeze-thaw-cycles, and agricultural practices like tillage). SPC is more degradable in soil with some compounds degrading within the first year following soil application, while others will persist for decades or centuries depending on the composition of the biochar. Generally biochar is composed of about 75% PAC and 25% SPC, so biochar can persist in the soil for over 1,000 years.

Source: (Schmidt HP, Abiven S, Hageman N, Meyer zu Drewer J: Permanence of soil applied biochar. An executive summary for Global Biochar Carbon Sink certification, the Biochar Journal 2022, Arbaz, Switzerland, www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/109, pp 69-74)

How do you mix biochar into soil, compost, or other media?

Pre-mixed biochar blends can be sourced through soil vendors who are recognized and trained by the Scaling Up Biochar team. Contractors may also mix biochar into soils and compost using a variety of tools and methods including, but not limited to:

  • Hoppers and Conveyors for soil blending
  • Batch Mixers
  • Concrete Mixers
  • Paddle Mixer and Bucket
  • Wheelbarrow and Shovel

All contractors or soil vendors that are receiving biochar through the project must be trained by the Project Team before incorporating biochar into a practice. Not all biochars are created equal and not all biochar should be mixed the same way. For example, biochar in a sand based bioretention media should be treated more carefully during the mixing process to avoid physical degradation due to the abrasive nature of sand.

Is biochar approved for use in projects within my jurisdiction?

While biochar is not currently recognized for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL credit, the Team is actively working towards a credit. On May 2023, the Chesapeake Bay Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) hosted a workshop to discuss biochar use in the Chesapeake Bay. Once the final report from this STAC workshop is completed, it will be posted on the Scaling Up website.

Once my project is approved for biochar, what happens next?

Once a project is approved for biochar, the Scaling Up Biochar team will first reach out for any additional information needed to determine the type and quantity of biochar to be incorporated in the proposed practice. The biochar will then be provided to the implementation partner. Training will be provided to contractors and bioretention media vendors on the handling and mixing of biochar. Technical assistance for biochar implementation will also be provided as needed throughout the project such as procurement, construction oversight, installation, and maintenance. Some projects may also be selected for monitoring purposes post-construction.

Will contractors get trained on how to use biochar?

Contractors and soil vendors will receive training from the Project Team on the handling and mixing of biochar.

How do I store the biochar?

Biochar should be kept moist, but not saturated when storing to avoid the material from becoming anaerobic and heavy. Moisture content of biochar should be kept in the 30-40% range. When storing, biochar shall remain covered to avoid accumulation of excess precipitation or introduction to other pollutants or particulates from the storage environment. Please contact the Project Team for more information about storing biochar for this project.

Do I have to store the biochar?

In some cases, biochar may be stored at soil vendor facilities. Otherwise, the implementation partner or their contractor will need to store it. This will be worked out with the Project Team.

Where is the biochar for the project coming from?

The type of biochar used for the project will depend on the type of BMP proposed. Biochar for bioretention practices require wood-based biochar which will be sourced from a facility in the Pacific Northwest. Biochar for other practices does not need to be wood-based and will be sourced locally. All local sources will need to be tested before approved for use in this project.