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Opportunities for biochar production to reduce forest wildfire hazard, sequester carbon, and increase agricultural productivity of dryland soils

John Sessions
Oregon State University
Presentation file: 
PDF icon 2.4.1 Sessions, John.pdf5.28 MB

The use of biomass generated by forest thinning operations for energy production plants has long been considered as a means of offsetting the high cost of reducing fire hazard across forested landscapes. Newly emerging biochar energy production technology consumes green forest biomass and produces stable charcoal byproducts, which when applied to dryland agricultural soils, can increase food crop production and water efficiency while retaining the forest-origin carbon in stable soil pools. By extending economic, social and ecological benefits from forest restoration, through non-fossil energy production, to enhanced food crop production; biochar offers a huge opportunity where dryland food crops, water availability, green-energy delivery grids, and high fire-hazard forests all share the same landscape.   We describe a multidisciplinary landscape-level study design in Oregon to jointly explore optimization of wildfire hazard reduction treatments, biochar facility locations, and agricultural field applications to promote forest restoration, forest-related employment, increased agricultural competitiveness and carbon sequestration.   The specific aims of the study are (1) Develop a new biomass collection, production, transportation and biochar application cost model, (2) Establish preliminary estimates of biochar properties and co-products and feedstock sufficient to identify target soils, application rates, and crop response,  (3) Develop a landscape-level forest wildfire hazard reduction assignment (optimization) model considering potential forest treatment locations, biochar conversion sites and farms and (4) Apply the biochar supply model under varying assumptions of agricultural productivity increases and carbon sequestration credits to identify the level of a hazard reduction program whose direct costs could be offset by receipts from carbon credits and agricultural productivity increases. 

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