Improving Soil Health with biochar and compost application in North Coast Vineyards

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $24,583.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2024
Host Institution Award ID: G351-21-W8613
Grant Recipient: Treasury Wine EStates
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Michael Sipiora
Treasury Wine EStates


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    In recent years, there has been a growing interest among the scientific community to explore how biochar can improve soil health (2,3). Many experts suggest that biochar can greatly benefit soil biology and physical/chemical properties that can enhance water and nutrient holding capacity and carbon sequestration (3). Despite these potential benefits, biochar remains underutilized as a soil amendment in agriculture. A major barrier to grower adoption of biochar are the lack of real-world case scenarios that farmers can use to guide their decision-making process and costs. It is no secret that many farmers want evidence of success among peers before deciding to adopt new practices themselves. In order to increase adoption of biochar applications it would be fundamental to establish local demonstration sites to allow farmers to experience in a risk-free environment what biochar can really do for the regional soils.

    To address this, the proposed project aims to establish an on-farm demonstration site to assess the benefits of biochar in agricultural settings. This demonstration site will serve as an educational tool to allow farmers to learn first-hand the potential benefits of biochar as a soil amendment. An expected outcome of this is an increase knowledge among the local farming community, which in turn will help increase local adoption of biochar. An increase in adoption has the potential to improve regional soil health, contribute to the mitigation of climate change through carbon sequestration, and help reduce irrigation water demand and nutrient inputs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Determine impact of biochar and compost application separately or in combination on soil health and vine health in North Coast vineyards with low organic matter due to long term farming without annual application of organic matter. The potential for soil carbon sequestration from application will also be evaluate.d In addition, the proposed project will attempt to determine if the costs of applying these amendments to the vineyard result in increased yields, which could offset these costs, during first three years after application, .

    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.