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Kathy’s initial interest in biochar was related to its value as a habitat for microbes and mycorrhizal fungi, essential elements in building the fertility of her Manjimup farm's degraded soils. At that time she was unaware of a local source of biochar so the interest was theoretical.
Life changing circumstances led to Kathy leaving a thirty year career in education and joining Warren Catchments Council, the local not-for-profit Natural Resource Management organisation. This coincided with the then Labor government's introduction of a price on carbon where biochar then took on a new value, that of carbon sequestration.
The past seven years has seen extensive involvement in biochar - sourcing funding for trials, building a network of producers, researchers and farmers willing to trial its use, convening workshops and a Biochar Forum in November 2015, delivering presentations promoting the benefits of biochar and co-authoring research papers. Over the years, support from people such as Dr Paul Blackwell (ex-DAFWA), Euan Beamont (Energy Farmers Australia), Prof Stephen Joseph (UNSW), Dr Zakariah Solaiman (UWA), Dr Lukas Van Zweiten (DPI NSW), local farmer-researcher, Doug Pow, and Kees Visser (Simcoa) has been instrumental in achieving the progress to date. The goal has been to demonstrate that biochar can play a role in improving farmers' productivity and profitability as well as improving environmental conditions.
The ideal outcome would be the development of local biochar production facilities, value-adding organic waste and building employment opportunities. Kathy continues using biochar - in compost, added to fermented biofertiliser - foliar and fertigation, fed to livestock and poultry shed bedding material. More recently, in supporting a trial in its use in aquaculture.
The burgeoning interest and uptake of innovative practices is driving the formation of the Biochar Network of Western Australia Inc. Collectively, experiences can be captured to build knowledge and capacity to capitalise on the benefits of biochar production and its use across a wide range of applications.