The Potential of Biochar for NL Agriculture


Common Ground Community Development Corporation is hosting two days of workshops in November about biochar, an exciting organic soil amendment. Read on for the full press release and workshop details:

Biochar Poster



ST. JOHN’S – This November, Common Ground Community Development Corporation presents two free public workshops in St. John’s to promote the agricultural use of biochar, an organic soil amendment which is making waves internationally for its ability to dramatically improve soil health and fertility, restore degraded lands, and increase crop yields.

On Friday, Nov. 8, from 10am to 4pm, Dr. Julie Major, Faculty Lecturer at McGill University, and former Agricultural Extension Director of the International Biochar Initiative, will deliver an in-depth, full day workshop at the Courtyard Marriott on Duckworth Street, entitled “The Potential of Biochar for Newfoundland and Labrador Agriculture”. The workshop will include detailed information on the applications and benefits of biochar, scientific findings of current studies and practical considerations for the use of biochar in the field. The event will also include a presentation by Dr. Bob Helleur of Memorial University’s Department of Chemistry on the findings of his recent study of biochar produced from locally sourced municipal solid wastes, supported by The Harris Centre and The Multi-Materials Stewardship Board.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, Dr. Hugh McLaughlin, Director of Research at Alterna Biochar, will conduct two workshops at the North Bank Lodge on Nagles Place in Pippy Park; “An Introduction to Biochar” from 12pm – 1pm, (geared especially to those who are interested in biochar but who could not attend the full day workshop on Friday), and “Do It Yourself Biochar” from 1pm-4pm, a hands-on instructional workshop demonstrating small scale biochar production using inexpensive and readily available materials.

Biochar is a form of charcoal produced by baking organic matter, (e.g., wood and agricultural wastes), resulting in a porous, carbonaceous material which when added to soil, increases microbial activity and water retention while reducing the need for fertilizers. By boosting yields, reducing the need for agricultural inputs, and converting waste to a valuable agricultural product, biochar can have very positive economic impacts for agricultural operations.

Biochar also has significant environmental benefits including the production of bio-fuel as a by-product, diverting waste and reducing stress on landfills, reducing fertilizer run-off into waterways, and reducing emissions of nitrous oxide and methane, all while permanently sequestering carbon in soil. According to the International Biochar Initiative, sustainably produced biochar could store 2.2 gigatons of carbon in soils annually by 2050.

The workshops are especially relevant to Newfoundland and Labrador farmers and gardeners, given the limited agricultural land available in our province. It will also be of special interest to horticulturalists, agronomists, nursery and greenhouse operators, landscapers, agricultural industry representatives, researchers, environmental organizations and food security advocates.

Seating is limited and pre-registration by Monday, Nov. 4 is recommended. To register, to obtain a detailed schedule or directions, or for any other information, please contact Common Ground Executive Director, Lori Heath at 709-738-7542, 709-753-3594 or at More information can also be found on our website at   or at the website of the International Biochar Initiative at

“The Potential of Biochar for Newfoundland and Labrador Agriculture”

A day long seminar on the benefits of biochar, its applications and benefits, featuring:

Julie Major, agr., PhD

Faculty Lecturer, McGill University Former Agricultural Extension Director, International Biochar Initiative

Friday, November 8 , 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Courtyard Marriott, 131 Duckworth St., St. John’s

“Introduction to Biochar” and “Do-It-Yourself Biochar Production”

A hands-on afternoon workshop on small scale biochar production, featuring:

Hugh McLaughlin, PhD, PE

Director of Research, Alterna Biochar

Saturday, November 9,

12:00 -1:00pm Introduction to Biochar

1:00 – 4:00pm “Do-It-Yourself Biochar Production”

North Bank Lodge, Nagles Place, Pippy Park, St. John’s