Land Reclamation Study | Utah Biomass Resources USU

    Land Reclamation Study

    Questar Energy Project Biochar Trials Project 2014-2015

    Funding sources:

    • Plot installation and initial monitoring: Fuels for Schools Grant (Utah Department of Agriculture and Food)
    • Subsequent monitoring: Bureau of Land Management Grant


    May 2016 Year 1 Summary

    August 2015 Biochar Application FLYOVER

    October 2014


    Biochar has been shown to be an effective soil amendment in reclamation sites, especially in areas with compacted and arid soils. Because of these unique properties, we are studying whether biochar can be applied where oil and gas pads have been abandoned and reclamation is desired.


    Determine if using biochar for site reclamation will:

    • reduce the cost and time to achieve bond release
    • increase revegetation success, especially for sensitive native species
    • improve soil conditions (soil moisture, reduced crusting, compaction, soil organic fraction, CEC)
    • reduce impacts of salinity
    • increase efficacy of herbicide treatments
    • reduce occurrence of non-native species
    • improve the effect of existing reclamation techniques (gypsum, snow fences, fertilizer, compost)


    Treatments were selected based on initial greenhouse trials and include low and high application rates. We are also exploring how biochar in combination with traditional amendments and micro-snow fences might provide synergistic effects. We are monitoring changes in climatology, soil chemistry and soil physical parameters, as well as vegetation response using multiple types of measurements.

    thermal map
    biochar spread onto field

    Working Hypotheses:

    • how does biochar addition impact seed germination and initial cover of planted species?
    • does biochar change the soil moisture status following precipitation?
    • does biochar reduce soil compaction, soil aeration, and / or biological activity for soils stored as berms or piles? Does this impact vegetation?
    • do micro snowfences impact vegetation in the presence or absence of biochar?
    • how does the rate of biochar application impact vegetation vigor or species composition?
    • does the spacing of the micro snowfences impact overall soil moisture?
    • how long do the micro snowfences maintain structural integrity?

    Biochar application in the field: See the process here!

    bucket full of biochar