Biochar as an Ingredient for Animal Bedding prior to Composting
SoilMatrix Newsletter No. 18
The beneficial properties of biochar are greatly enhanced when amended into waste biomass such as manure and other agricultural or urban organic materials before being composted. The result is a compost that is teaming with beneficial microbes and charged with “controlled-release and stabilized” plant available nutrients.
In our very first newsletter (2017), we introduced the healthy plant-soil triangular relationships as described in this diagram.
Figure 1. Plant Roots, Nutrients, Moisture, Microbiology, and Soil matrix Triangular Relationship
Biochar as an ingredient in soil works to improve these relationships by creating an inviting environment for beneficial micro and macro biology, by absorbing and maintaining moisture conditions, and by adsorbing both macro and micronutrients. AirTerra has been selling retail and wholesale quantities of biochar across Canada for the past six years. Even though our customers have enjoyed the benefits of their biochar amended soils, we have recognized that it would be easier and more beneficial to our customers if farmers were to apply biochar directly into animal bedding prior to being composted. This retains more nutrients in the resulting manure compost while reducing odours and GHG emissions at the same time as it is being used in the animal bedding. This practice would also help to realize biochar’s potential as a climate change mitigation and adaptation method at a significant scale.
Over the past few months, we have concentrated our efforts on the potential use of biochar as an animal bedding ingredient that is beneficial for animal health and indoor air conditions in barns and arenas. Amending biochar with medium and coarse granular sizes into animal bedding provides a “sponge” that adsorbs nutrients from animal urine and manure as soon as animals produce these valuable products. Since biochar is such a powerful sponge for these elements, odours in barns are reduced at the same time as important nutrients are retained. Additionally, biochar helps to aerate the bedding to prevent anaerobic conditions that invite pathogens.
The greatest potential for this practice is on mixed farms that operate barns and grow various crops. To test this method of animal bedding amendment, AirTerra has teamed up with MiGO Ranch owned and operated by MGO Systems Inc. at a newly acquired former Hutterite Colony near Crossfield, Alberta. MiGO Ranch will be testing the use of biochar as an animal bedding ingredient with eventual composting of the spent bedding along with its amended biochar to produce a “Co-Composted Biochar and Manure” product.
The biochar compost will be used as a top dress on MiGO Ranch’s produce gardens and on its crop fields in the same way as animal bedding compost has been used for decades in Alberta. The health advantages of using biochar in the barns will then extend to further benefit the soils that are amended with this co-composted product.
We are excited to collaborate with MiGO Ranch. We will keep you more regularly posted on our progress in this direction. The following are a few early photos of MiGO Ranch from a distance, and the small poultry barn that is now being amended with biochar.
If you wish to dive more deeply into this topic, we have included a link to a white paper written on this topic in January of 2019 by Kelpie Wilson of Kelpie Wilson Associates. See: “Use of Biochar in Poultry Barns for Nutrient Recovery and Ammonia Mitigation – Literature Review and Recommendations”
We still have a few 70 litre bags of our SoilMatrix® Biochar available from our spring of 2021 inventory. These are available at $70.00 each plus shipping via Canada Post to anywhere in Canada. Larger quantities and bulk bag sizes are available at discounted prices. See our full price list provided here: SoilMatrix Biochar Price List
Thank you for staying tuned.
Rob Lavoie, CEO and Founder of AirTerra Inc.
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