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A robust cover crop has grown at this vineyard location after the addition of biochar.

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Biochar mixed with compost, ready for vineyard application.

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Vineyard rows receive a top-dressing of biochar mixed with compost.

The Benefits of Biochar

Biochar is a form of charcoal that is being tested as a soil amendment in several vineyards throughout Napa County as growers look to improve soil health, increase carbon capture and reduce nutrient inputs.

The use of biochar has the potential to provide the same or better vine growth with less fertilizer and nutrient inputs, and with less irrigation water, and that is the goal. It can also provide longer-term carbon benefits…the life in the soil is what it’s all about for us.

Among those exploring the use of biochar are Cakebread Cellars, Spring Mountain Vineyard and the Napa Resource Conservation District (RCD), which manages an experimental vineyard in Carneros. In Sonoma County, the Bedrock Wine Co.is adding the material to key vineyard properties. Elsewhere in California, larger-scale experiments are being conducted by Monterey Pacific vineyard management company and Bonterra Vineyards, with trials on both newly planted and existing vineyards.

Water conservation can be a long-term game but nitrogen is very immediate; it’s easily lost and critically important. Charcoal is a filter - it has a high surface area and adsorptive surface, binding nutrients in a way that is mostly plant available yet resistant to loss through volatilization or leaching.

On one block at a Bedrock property in Geyserville, a sizeable portion of the topsoil was scraped off and the subsoil contained low organic matter. In 2017, the cover crop didn’t properly establish leading the Bedrock team to explore how biochar might help rehabilitate the site. They worked with Pacific Biochar to apply a compost and biochar mix this past fall and the results have been dramatic. Vineyard manager Jake Neustadt recently reported that waist-high barley and a thick mat of sub-clover have taken root at the site. Jake acknowledged that he sees a profound impact of adding biochar on depleted soils.

A one-time application could have an impact on the soil that lasts for 500 years.

The Napa RCD also worked with Pacific Biochar at their Huichica Creek vineyard to apply a blend prior to a new vineyard planting in 2016. RCD also applied a blend to an existing vineyard in fall 2017 establishing controls for comparison in both cases. Two years after planting, early results show that the area with biochar has a higher carbon concentration and more organic matter. The RCD has also quantified a higher aggregate stability – improving soil structure and resilience to erosion.

In most every case biochar and compost together are better than either alone. When biochar and compost cure for a month or more we see increased benefits. But even without curing, a biochar blend is still better than raw - increasing and extending the benefits of the compost, with almost immediate reductions in ammonia smell.

Cost and Availability: Josiah Hunt with Pacific Biochar recommends a blend of 10-20 percent by volume of biochar mixed with compost for existing vineyards and a 20-60 percent blend for new plantings. Biochar is approximately $90 per cubic yard or ~$400/ton and a common application rate for an existing vineyard is a half-ton per acre. Annually, a grower should budget for $200 per acre, plus compost and hauling.
For existing vineyards, the total biochar application might be 3 to 4 tons spread over 6-8 years. For new plantings, a one-time application of 2 to 4 tons per acre has been effective in supporting more vigorous growth. Although the cost can be significant, the soil benefits can last for generations. Pacific Biochar works primarily through a distribution system and has worked with Napa Recycling and Waste Services, who will perform the compost blend and product delivery. Cool Planet is another California biochar provider with a product called Cool Terra.
Donation for Data: Is your vineyard interested in near-term biochar and compost application? Pacific Biochar is rolling out a Donation for Data program in April, offering a free truckload of their new premium biochar every month for the remainder of the year to a select number of applicants that can offer field trial data in return. Their biochar is sourced from California forestry residues, primarily from designated high fire hazard areas, contributing to productive utilization of dead standing wood and tree trimmings. For more information on the Donation for Data program, contact Josiah Hunt.

Biochar and compost can provide benefits if you have soil nutrient issues or low organic matter. Biochar can increase nutrient availability, soil organic carbon and water availability or water holding capacity, depending on the type of soil.

Napa Green is about producing wine responsibly and being proud of our respect for the environment and for future generations.

Economic benefits & ROI of workshops: In a time of changing consumer trends, we want you think of us as extended members of your team. We are here to help share information of ways to not only increase your sustainability but also share with you how these things bring with them ROI, decrease in cost, consumer approval & many other economic benefits. 

Join us at our All Things Bottle Sustainability Workshop to hear from our panel of experts. Registration is $20 and the link can be found in our profile. Cheers!
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📣 Don’t miss these events! 

April 26th - All Things Bottle Sustainability, Pine Ridge Vineyards, 9:00am.

May 23rd - The Future of Water Workshop, 9:00am. 

On April 26 we have 12+ speakers covering all aspects of climate smart glass and packaging. Digging in on the truly most sustainable recyclable/compostable/reusable options, with some product show and tell. 

On May 23 we have keynotes from two incredible speakers and internationally renowned experts: Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute and author of The Three Ages of Water, and Mimi Casteel, vineyard manager at Hope Well Wine and forest ecologist. 

Register now!
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Join us for a dinner that brilliantly combines luxury and sustainability with Vintner Kia Behnia, acclaimed Chef Dave Cruz and The Wine Bible Author, Karen MacNeil! 

This event will help Napa Green raise much needed funding to keep our non profit thriving. For more info head to the link in our bio or email social@napagreen.org!
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We invite you join us at a very special wine dinner with @karenmacneilco, Chef Dave Cruz and @neotempowines to raise funds for climate action in the wine industry. 

For further details please go to the link in our profile or email social@napagreen.org. 

We hope to see you there. Cheers!
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Happy Earth Month! While our members celebrate the Earth every day of the year, this month is a great time to showcase those sustainability practices and tell consumers what you do to be green! Be sure to tag @napagreen in your posts, join us @earthdaynapa, and reach out for more ways to get involved!
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Meghan brings her passion for wine and sustainability together in her role as @napagreen’s social media manager. She is both a Vintner and Certified Sommelier and helps our members share their sustainability stories, emphasizing how caring for nature and community elevates both quality and guest experience. 

Thanks for your unwavering passion and dedication @mvino1!
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Join the @napagreen team this earth month at events around the valley at @cliffamily @earthdaynapa @silveroakcellars and more.

We look forward to talking (and drinking) sustainability with you!
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Say hi to @marisataylorwines, our Winery & Climate Specialist. Marisa has supported sustainable farming and green practices from vineyard to cellar and across all winemaking operations and continues to leverage her expertise to help wineries become climate action champions. 

Thanks for all you do!
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Last week we had a great climate smart burn and alternatives demonstration @gloriaferrerwinery where attendees learned techniques for a conservation/low-smoke burn with demonstrations from @thecleanburncompany and @napa.char. 

Additionally, speakers from @naparcd and Treasury Wine Estates presented the results from a recent vineyard biochar application research project. 

Learn more on our website.
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Have you met Sierra, our Climate & Soil Specialist? Sierra works tirelessly to advance climate resiliency in the Napa Valley by collaborating with growers to realize their climate action aspirations. 

Say hi to @growresiliently next time you see her in the field. Thanks for all that you do, Sierra!
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On average 40-60% of a vineyard and winery’s carbon footprint is from packaging and distribution alone. Join us to explore climate smart, sustainable glass, closures, the future of reusable glass, alternative packaging. Hear case studies. Learn what is truly recyclable, and new opportunities to recycle film wrap and label backing. Since 2020, climate smart marketed CPG products have doubled in sales to $3.4 billion. Wine bottles and packaging can be leveraged to meet rising consumer demand for climate smart products.

Get tickets to this workshop @pineridgewine to hear from @napagreen @consciouscontainer @revinobottles @keystonecapsules @cork_supply @neotempowines @estal_packaging @uppervalleydisposal @naparecycling and more!
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You may have seen Megan, our Winery Program Manager, out and about sporting her @napagreen shirt and talking about green practices. Utilizing her background in hospitality, sustainability and engineering she is dedicated in guiding businesses toward a more sustainable future. 

Thanks for all you do @love.dream.breathe!
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Join us for All Things Bottle Sustainability on Friday, April 26th. Link in bio to register!
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Cheers to @abrittain! Anna has worked locally, nationally and internationally on environmental management, including leading @napagreen and @naparise to the forefront of the wine industry climate action movement. 

Keep an eye out for her with our unofficial mascot, Lily, sharing our best practices, facilitating action and growing resilience in our industry and community. 

Thank you for all you do!
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