Farmer/Rancher Sustainable Soil with Biochar

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $19,952.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G221-19-W7501
Grant Recipient: Yellow Dog Farm
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Gary Betts
Yellow Dog Farm


  • Agronomic: wheat


  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    Summary for the Sustainable Soil with Biochar 2019 Project

    Problem or Need: Much of the farming soil in western United States has become degraded due to run-off of fertilizers and organic matter. Further, as organic matter is lost through run-off, the soil becomes less able to retain moisture for crops.

    Solution: A cost-effective and sustainable practice to reduce the problem is for farmers to amend their degraded soils with biochar. Application of biochar in the top 6 inches of soil can cause the soil to retain up to 25% more moisture and up to 25% more fertilizers. The cost per acre for the farmer can be as little as $35 to $60 per acre and biochar can stay in the soil for many seasons.

    Research: A comprehensive review of literature reveals that few scientific studies have been reported at a scale larger than plot size. The farmers will work with Dr. Stephen Machado of Oregon State University to collect and report research results on the moisture retention and crop yields of soil with biochar compared to crop yields and moisture without biochar. The farmers for this project will apply biochar in 4 acres of degraded farmland and use 4 acres as a control to provide a demonstration for farmers, extension experts, and other farm experts and educators.

    Outreach: The project will incorporate on-farm demonstrations; farmer-to-farmer educational outreach; and 2 field days to assist in producer adoption. In addition, the project will develop a 30-second information piece and a recorded 30-minute interview/information piece for presentation multiple times on farm-oriented radio programs. A one-page summary of the project results will be developed, and a publishable research article will be submitted for publication in a research journal.  

     The goal is to achieve sustainable results that improve income, the environment, communities, and quality of life.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    The following research objectives will include a pre-post, control group research design that includes random selection and assignment of acres to control and treatment. The measurement of results to determine outcomes will be reported at the end of each year of funding to determine :

    1. improvement of quantity of soil organic matter

    2. increase in soil water retention

    3. amelioration of soil pH

    4. increase in crop yield.

    The following education objectives will be completed duing the third year of the grant:

    1. Develop a 30-second radio spot to spread the word on biochar to other producers and researchers.

    2. Develop a 30-minute radio interview to spread the word on biochar to other producers and researchers.

    3. Develop a one-page summary about the results on use of biochar for other producers and researchers, available online.

    4. Develop a one-page summary about the research results on use of biochar and submit to one or more peer-reviewed professional journals for researchers on soil health and crop productivity.

    5. Conduct 2 Field Days

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.