The need to maintain healthy agricultural soils has never been greater as we face the challenges of climate change and feeding an expanding human population.
At Cornell, sustainability is a guiding principal across campus. Education, research, and public activities all implement sustainable practices. It is also an integral part of Cornell’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for reaching carbon neutrality by 2035. Cornell is exploring new options for their organic wastes, and finding solutions using slow pyrolysis to create biochar, and composting. Researchers are studying the benefits of using biochar and compost as soil amendments. Both biochar and compost can help renew depleted soils while diverting waste from landfills. Together, these practices fight food insecurity.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), solid waste landfills are the third largest source of human-related methane in the United States. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) and emissions can be cut by reducing materials sent to landfills. Diverting waste to biochar and compost may reduce overall methane production. Biochar and compost can have the added benefit of storing carbon.
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“Soil is fundamental to humans and we’re losing this stuff. Char is a way of reinvigorating depleted soils, of preserving or improving existing soils, managing or sustaining agricultural yields in the face of not so great climatic conditions. Char can improve nutrient use efficiency, water holding capacity of the soil… this is moving forward.” - Akio Enders, Cornell University
Available resources from this tour:
Hub Video Interviews
- Cornell Compost Facility
- What is Pyrolysis?
- Climate Benefits of Pyrolysis
- How Does the Pyrolysis Kiln Work?
- Helping Farmers Adapt to Climate Change
- Largest Biochar Facility in U.S. Opens at Cornell (David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future)
- Johannes Lehmann finds key to new energy, soil fertility in biochar (Cornell University)
- Carefully Unraveling the Intricacies of Biochar (USDA ARS AgResearch Magazine)
- Compost Use for Improved Soil Poster Series (Cornell University)
- Terra Preta: Soil Improvement and Carbon Sequestration (Cornell University)
- Compost Microorganisms (Cornell University)
- Water Quality Protection (Cornell University)
- Compost Pads (Cornell Waste Management Institute)
- Improving and Maintaining Compost Quality (Cornell Waste Management Institute)
- Farming Success in an Uncertain Future (Cornell Cooperative Extension)
- Cornell University Renewable Bioenergy Initiative
- Mission-Linked Carbon Offsets
- Biochar Inoculants Project
- Village Scale Pyrolysis for Liquid Biofuels
- Campus Composting
- Campus Climate Literacy
- Cornell University Biochar Projects
- Cornell's Climate Action Plan
- Biochar Feedstocks (International Biochar Initiative)
- Making and Using Composts (SARE)
- Making Compost (SARE)
- Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health (Cornell University)
- Basic Information about Landfill Gas (EPA)
- Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (EPA)
- NYS Compost Facilities Map (Cornell Waste Management Institute)