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Research project to test viability of biochar

Published on: 7/5/2013 11:42:38 AM
By: Northern Ontario Business staff

Collège Boréal and EACOM Timber Corp.’s Nairn Centre sawmill are collaborating on the school’s first applied research project on the analysis and use of wooden ash produced by the forest industry as charcoal for agricultural use (biochar).

The ashes from the biomass combustion, a source of energy for EACOM’s sawmill, will be analysed during the first phase of the research process. Various doses of ashes (biochar) will also be applied to soil samples to assess their effect on the growth of jack pine and birch seedlings. This laboratory test phase will eventually be followed by observations in the field, in Collège Boréal’s experimental forests.

As early as summer 2014, the results of the research will allow a first set of large-scale experiments using biochar in the Greater Sudbury area. Results of the research could encourage the use of this charcoal, which has a high content of mineral nutrients, to remediate soil used by the mining and forest industries.

The project was made possible by the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

“Our efforts, along with the knowledge acquired with over 15 years in environmental research, are all the more noteworthy now that, with the support of the NSERC, Collège Boréal will benefit for the first time from recognition by an agency with one of the highest levels of research in Canada,” said Brian Vaillancourt, dean of the School of Trades and Applied Technology, in a news release.

“This new research project is another one among the many initiatives that already enrich our students’ curriculum, allowing them to work to preserve our lakes and our regions and acquire real field experience thanks, among other things, to our two experimental forests.”

Collège Boréal’s Xstrata Nickel Biodiversity Applied Research Centre, as well as professors and students in the natural resources and environmental chemistry programs will conduct the present study, which will be completed in November 2013.

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