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Author Topic: Biochar experiment - to chip, or not to chip  (Read 646 times)

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Offline puriri

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Biochar experiment - to chip, or not to chip
« on: July 06, 2019, 06:44:08 PM »
My neighbor grows Christmas trees (pinus radiata). Every year he has a large number of trees that don't sell. They're not the right shape, too big, too small etc. He cuts them down, leaves them in his field until winter and then chips them and 'gets rid' of the chip. So, they're a waste product.

This year, I became interested in biochar, and they looked like willing feedstock to me. After a series of trips up the road with a huge trailer borrowed from another neighbor, I now have a pile of mostly seasoned Christmas trees. There are probably close to 1500 of them (I didn't count, but calculating how many were on the last load, and roughly how many loads I did..)

My wife is a little unimpressed that I've collected someone elses 'rubbish', but they're out of the way, and if all else fails I'll chip them and use it for mulch in the orchard.

My plan is to use the char in my market garden to help raise the pH of our volcanic soil, and to promote soil life.

To turn them to char, I'm currently thinking that I'll build a kon-tiki furnace, and feed it with limbs off these trees.

There's a bunch of work involved in limbing the trees, and then I have the trunks to deal with separately (consistently sized feedstock seems pretty key to this process).

Thinking of all that effort, I wondered whether just chipping them to start with might not be a silly idea IF the chip will char nicely. I can hire a 9" chipper easily enough, but if I do, I'll want to chip everything to make the most of the hireage. Seems like less personal effort to throw entire trees into the self feeding chipper than to lop the limbs off each tree one by one.

Any words of wisdom from people who've played with this stuff before me?

Offline jimparamedic

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Re: Biochar experiment - to chip, or not to chip
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2019, 09:07:29 AM »
Looks like I good project. I would say chipping or grinding to get a uniform material. Here the wood ash from the wood stove goes to the compost then to the garden. Kind of a Biomass project.

Offline Don P

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Re: Biochar experiment - to chip, or not to chip
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2019, 12:29:02 PM »
I'd experiment with a batch of chips before going full tilt. I think you'll have a hard time getting the inner stuff in a pile of chips to char.
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Offline GAB

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Re: Biochar experiment - to chip, or not to chip
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2019, 02:49:56 PM »
In this months issue of VBM ( there is an article on page 51 entitled "Forest, filtration and farms" that talks about biochar.  From the pictures it looks like they are feeding woodchips to the furnace.
I have no idea how fine or how coarse the chips need to be.
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Offline mike_belben

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Re: Biochar experiment - to chip, or not to chip
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2019, 10:52:43 AM »
I dont see any reason why not to just chip it and compost it with high nitrogen materials.  Any grass, manure, moldy hay or whatever else you can get.  Im not sold on biochar other than someone else trying to develop a market for their waste stream.
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