Crews tend kilns as they make charcoal from pinion-juniper trees near Ely, NV. Courtesy, Nevada Division of Forestry
In Nevada, state land stewards are experimenting with an ancient method to improve the health of Nevada forests and make use of the renewable resource — baking tree trunks and limbs in a slow cooker to turn them into charcoal. This "bio-char" is used to improve soil nutrients and water retention.
The idea is a result of the out-of-the-box thinking about the the untended, pinyon and juniper encroachment of Nevada's mountain ranges that are threatening sage-steppe habitat and at extreme risk of devastating wildfires, disease and insect infestations.
With funding from the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition and the Forest Service, the state agency now has 10 portable ovens, or kilns. Each measures 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide and can convert about 1,200 pounds of tree material into 600 pounds of biochar. The biochar is mixed with other compost materials for use at state nurseries. Besides holding water, biochar adds nutrients to soil, aiding plant growth.
The Cohesive Strategy supports innovative ideas that deal with overstocked and unhealthy forests and create useful markets for the biomass.