NCDA&CS grant supports research of biochar combined with AD

By Appalachian State University | July 06, 2018

Thanks to a $98,599 grant from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), a team of professors in Appalachian State University’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, along with Hei-Young Kim, research assistant in the Appalachian Energy Center, will study the effects of biochar combined with anaerobic digestion (BCAD) on crop growth at Heritage Homestead Farm in Crumpler. The grant will be administered by the AEC.

Faculty members involved with the project are Ok-Youn Yu, associate professor and interim assistant chair; Jeremy Ferrell, assistant professor; Jim Houser, associate professor; and Susan Doll, associate professor.

According to Yu, researchers in the department have demonstrated the use of biomass energy for greenhouse heating to help local agricultural producers extend growing seasons and increase yields through optimization of biomass and fossil fuel resources.

In addition, he said they have demonstrated the viability of producing locally appropriate bioenergy crops at their research facility using marginal non-arable land to assist local agricultural producers in developing the use of syngas for greenhouse heating while producing the valuable soil amendment biochar to further support yields.

“The main purpose of this proposal,” Yu said, “is to investigate the viability of biochar combined anaerobic digestion (BCAD) as a means to enhance biogas production and improve soil quality to increase crop yields on marginal lands.”

Heritage Homestead Farm in Crumpler has recently agreed to participate in a BCAD technology transfer project to demonstrate the regional applicability of small-farm BCAD, Yu said.

During this project, Yu said the team will evaluate performance of the system, potential for meeting crop production, farm waste management (manure and cheese production whey) and energy needs. “Specific farm operations that could benefit from on-site BCAD include the daily hot water demands for the dairy’s cleaning needs and space heating,” he added.

Graduate and undergraduate students who will assist with the project:

- Mason Atkinson, a graduate student in the technology program from Pawleys Island, South Carolina;

- Jon Linck ’17, a graduate student in the technology program from Raleigh;

- Jordan Holder ’15, a graduate student in the technology program from Norfolk, Virginia;

- Gordon Miller, a senior sustainable technology major from Wilmington; and

- Gabbie Batzko, a junior sustainable technology major from Cedarburg, Wisconsin.