Applying biochar to forest sites can be problematic and costly because of the need to keep the forest floor as undisturbed as possible during and after harvest operations. The Missoula Technology and Development Center of the U.S. Forest Service, working with Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists, developed and tested a high-capacity biochar spreader that can be mounted on a log forwarder and used on skid trails and log landings to distribute either pelleted or bulk biochar. This spreader can be modified to carry a variety of payloads and adjusted to apply biochar at many different spread rates. In our field trials, we detected no change in soil bulk density when using the spreader on sites with an intact forest floor, but found that compaction increased by 11 percent from forwarder ground pressure when using the spreader on a flat area with no forest floor. However, biochar applied to forest sites adds organic matter and helps to retain water, thereby potentially resulting in a decrease in soil bulk density over time. Field trials also demonstrated that biochar can be effectively and efficiently applied to forest sites at commercial scales by using existing and modified logging equipment.
Page-Dumroese, Deborah S.; Anderson, Nathaniel M.; Windell, Keith N.; Englund, Karl; Jump, Kevin. 2016. Development and use of a commercial-scale biochar spreader. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-354. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 10 p.