Hoosier National forest experiments with wood harvest debris

Looking for ways to improve the soil in the Hoosier National Forest as well as better utilize woody debris left over after timber harvests led Chad Menke, a hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service, to try something new: making biochar.

Posted: Jun 8, 2020 9:28 AM
Updated: Jun 8, 2020 11:59 AM

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Looking for ways to improve the soil in the Hoosier National Forest as well as better utilize woody debris left over after timber harvests led Chad Menke, a hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service, to try something new: making biochar.

It’s something that is done on some Forest Service properties in the West, where there’s more timber harvesting and a need to capture moisture and amend the soil. But the biochar produced by K&K Dirtworks of Evanston was the first that’s been used in the Hoosier National Forest — and the first in the eastern region of the Forest Service.

The first experimental site was a half-acre section within the Uniontown North Restoration Project in Crawford County. The area had a timber harvest that left lots of woody debris, known as slack, on the compacted soil. At most timber harvest sites, the slack is left to decay, which does eventually add nutrients to the soil.

In early May, the slack was burned in a special kiln for eight hours. Five tons of biochar was produced and applied to the half-acre area, which was later seeded with native vegetation. The area was chosen for the experiment because it isn’t likely to get a lot of recreational use that would disturb the soil and plantings.

“I’m hoping we can utilize it in a number of applications,” Menke said.

Those would include other timber harvests but also areas where trees are blown down due to storms and areas that have been disturbed with bare soil needing more nutrients and better filtration so plants and trees can grow. Plans for the first test site are to create early successional habitat — with bushes, shrubs and small trees that provide habitat for many species of wildlife.

“We’re using our own material left behind,” Menke said, adding biochar also increases the growth rate of vegetation.

While holding moisture in the soil isn’t a real problem in the Hoosier National Forest, the biochar can help improve water quality, Menke said. Biochar holds water in soils, helping control erosion. It also holds nutrients within the soil, and since it’s a carbon-based product, it can mitigate climate change by increasing the carbon pool within soils.

The Hoosier National Forest is shipping samples of the biochar to the regional lab to assess how much carbon is in the finished product and the overall quality of the char produced.

Menke plans to determine how cost-effective creating and using biochar will be for the Forest Service and other agencies and landowners in Indiana and beyond.

“We want to make it economically viable, a long-term bang for our buck,” he said. “If when a (timber) harvester is done, he can leave the excess (slack) in one place and we can figure out the cost versus benefit at each site.”

The study will continue for at least two years. The hope is to compare the biochar area with other forest projects to see what treatments for soil are most effective and efficient.

“I would like to see more strategies for harvests,” Menke said, adding that the money needed for the study came from funds from the timber harvest. The harvests also help fund projects including water crossing improvements, invasive plant removal and building and maintaining trails.

Once an area in the national forest is harvested for timber, Menke said it’s left alone for 20 years or more.

“This is to replenish what has been done,” he said. “When you walk away from that replenished site, you won’t touch it for another 20 years.”

__

Source: The Herald-Times

West Lafayette
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: °
Kokomo
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 36°
Rensselaer
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 35°
Fowler
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 35°
Williamsport
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 38°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
42° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 42°
Frankfort
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 40°
Delphi
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: °
Monticello
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 41°
Logansport
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 43°
Dry and Cool for Remainder of Weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 157713

Reported Deaths: 4092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion25392789
Lake13805355
St. Joseph9277163
Elkhart8890135
Allen8278230
Hamilton6215113
Vanderburgh588261
Tippecanoe375915
Hendricks3302133
Monroe326638
Porter322049
Johnson3151129
Delaware297074
Clark296762
Vigo264840
Madison240595
LaPorte226658
Cass225522
Warrick195265
Kosciusko187826
Floyd180167
Howard164066
Bartholomew143358
Marshall140026
Dubois139626
Wayne132130
Henry128430
Grant127839
Boone124550
Hancock119944
Noble117434
Jackson114416
Dearborn98028
Morgan94840
Lawrence90837
Daviess89334
Gibson88612
Clinton86716
Shelby83531
LaGrange81015
Knox77410
Harrison77324
Putnam73716
Posey7236
DeKalb72011
Fayette69018
Steuben6338
Miami6305
Jasper6175
White59215
Montgomery59022
Greene55337
Scott52413
Decatur50739
Adams5027
Whitley4636
Clay4537
Ripley4538
Sullivan44414
Wells43511
Wabash4219
Starke4157
Orange40925
Huntington4015
Spencer3956
Washington3783
Franklin37625
Jennings36913
Fulton3653
Randolph3659
Jefferson3435
Pike33518
Carroll32913
Perry32614
Jay3116
Fountain3073
Tipton27823
Vermillion2531
Parke2374
Newton23011
Blackford2193
Rush2184
Owen2071
Martin2000
Crawford1591
Pulaski1562
Brown1433
Ohio1327
Benton1120
Union1110
Switzerland960
Warren841
Unassigned0234

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events