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Pacific Northwest Biochar Atlas

The Pacific Northwest Biochar Atlas is a regional resource for biochar users and producers. Learn what biochar is, its benefits, how to make it and who is producing it. Read case studies describing benefits of using it. This resource provides guidance to farmers, gardeners, and other end-users on the potential benefits of biochars, including decision support tools to assist with soil amendments including: exploring soil data from NRCS, selecting a biochar type and amendment rate using the Biochar Selection Tool, and a Cost-benefit analysis tool. This site supports producers of biochar by sharing current scientific research on biochar as well as industry evaluation of biochar in the Pacific Northwest region.

Biochar is a soil amendment that is produced when organic waste material (i.e. timber and hay) is partially combusted in the presence of limited oxygen. Soil amendments improve plants access to water, oxygen and/or nutrients and are materials you add to soil to improve its physical or chemical properties. Biochar can be used by itself or can be blended with other soil amendments to address a wide range of environmental and agricultural challenges. These applications include improving soil health, remediating polluted soils, sequestering carbon, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and improving soil moisture. 

Biochar has been used for millennia to improve soil health and plant productivity. An example in the Amazon basin are terra preta soils that were created before the year 900 are characterized by very high concentrations of charcoal and other organic matter. These soils have a high concentration of nutrients, minerals and microorganisms due to the high concentration of charcoal. Finding these soils inspired scientists to examine the properties and benefits of biochar.