CPAVTS - First PA School to Produce Biochar

Cumberland Perry AVTS partnered with DCNR (Department of Conservation for Natural Resources) for a federal wood utilization grant.  CPAVTS completed the first grant process with a portable sawmill.  This equipment is a 38 horse powered gas engine, portable woodmizer sawmill.  It is a computerized sawmill with 16 different size programs to cut tree logs to planks.  Felled trees from cities unable to dispose of them, have been rolling off the truck at CPAVTS where they are cut down for usable lumber.

Carpentry students contribute scrap wood pieces to create biochar for the Horticulture program.  The wood is placed in 55 gallon drums and burned for a few hours.  Only wood that doesn’t have nails, glue, OSB, plywood, or is not pressure treated can be used to make biochar.  Bio Char is Charcoal that is used to nutritionally supplement soil and increase water holding capacity.  It holds water and nutrients in the soil so plants can more readily use them.  Once the charcoal is cool, horticulture students crush it and use it in the greenhouse as well as landscaping areas on Cumberland Perry school grounds.  CPAVTS is the first school in the area to create and use biochar.  One of the many advantages to having this process at CPAVTS, is Carpentry has a lot less waste that is placed in the dumpsters which means the trash bill is lessened. 

The first trees grown with biochar at CPAVTS are called bare root trees.  Horticulture students dug two trenches; one with biochar, organic matter, and topsoil added and one just regular ground soil.  The tree whips were planted in May and by October, the bare root trees planted in biochar were 1.5 to 2 feet taller than the regular soil trees.   These trees have minimal roots and many neighborhoods want them as they tend to not crinkle up sidewalks with tree roots.  They are cheaper to purchase and much easier to plant!  Currently there are no nurseries in Pennsylvania that grow bare root trees. 

Utilizing this process makes the earth a better place to live!  It also produces better quality plants and a healthier environment.