Biochar Applications for Agriculture

Sustainable Use of Biomass Resources in a Semi-Arid Landscape: Connecting Chemical Engineering, Soil Science and Extension

Collaborators: April Ulery and John Idowu (Plant & Environmental Sciences), David Rockstraw (Chemical & Materials Engineering), Ram Acharya (Ag. Economics and Ag Business)

Students: Emily Creegan (PhD student, Plant & Environmental Sciences), Lindsay Keller (MS student, Plant & Environmental Sciences), Ryan Zowada (PhD student, Chemical Engineering), Elijah Wood (MS student, Chemical Engineering)

Biomass has traditionally been humanity’s source of food, fiber, and fuel. The future of sustainable biomass utilization needs engineers that understand agronomists and agriculture, and agronomists that understand engineers and engineering. The philosophy of this graduate training program is that fellows will acquire the in-depth theory and skills needed to be considered fully-trained in their chosen majors while gaining sufficient background and training in the “partnering” discipline so as to conduct research and communicate effectively.

USDA NIFA National Needs Fellowship (#2015-38420-23706)


Biochars from Excelsior Woody Biomass Residues for Improved Poplar Production

Profitable utilization of woody residues from the excelsior industry is an on-going challenge. Biochar production from the woody residue has the potential to generate income for the industry through biochars sales for soil amendments and water filtration materials. On-site pyrolysis has the added advantage of providing bio-energy to the excelsior processing facility. The objectivesof this study are to evaluate the potential of adding pyrolysis to the excelsior production processand the potential of excelsior residue-derived biochar as a soil amendment for hybrid poplar growth in an agroforestry setting in Farmington, NM.

Sun Grant Program-South Central Region

Collaborators: Mick O’Neill, Fred Christiansen, Delia Valles

Students: Kwabena Sarpong, Andrea Salazar, Jacey Payne, Keanu Telles, Antonio Ortega

Hybrid Poplar field propagation of stem cuttings

Kobby preparing the hybrid poplar and biochar research plot at the Agricultural Science Center in Farmington, New Mexico.












Biochar for Desalination Concentrate Management

Among the options for restoring salt-affected arable land are irrigation with fresh water to leach salts below the root zone and planting crops that will uptake salts (phytodesalination). Understanding salt availability in halophyte biomass, and in biochars made from that biomass, will lead to new methods for restoring crop growth potential for salt-affected soils, especially in arid regions with alkaline and calcareous soils. The objectives of this project are to identify the mechanisms by which pyrolysis converts certain salts into less leachable forms, and to quantify the amount of salt that can be removed from soils and immobilized in biochars.

NMSU-U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Cooperative Agreement

Collaborator: O. John Idowu

Students: Ali Amiri, Kwabena Sarpong, Mike Smith, Jacey Payne, Alyssa Hendren, Sterling Ellis

Equipment used to quantify amount of salt leaching from produced biochar


Salt bush biomass feed stock for pyrolysis

Biocahar produced after pyrolyzing the salt bush feed stock