Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Forest Resource Management

Committee Chair

David W McGill

Committee Co-Chair

Shawn T Grushecky

Committee Member

Jamie L Schuler

Committee Member

Jeffrey G Skousen


Energy consumption has drastically increased over the past 150 years and the pressure put on the environment to provide these resources has increased as a consequence. At least 2.5 million hectares of land in the United States has been disturbed as a result of surface mining for coal. Biomass crops have been explored as an alternative energy source. In West Virginia little land is available for those crops; however as a result of coal extraction, at least 50,000 acres of previously strip or surface mined area has been deemed suitable for reclamation with biomass crops. Due to the challenges associated with the reclamation of mine sites, biochar was investigated for its potential as a soil amendment. Field trials of shrub willow (Salix spp.) were established at four sites in West Virginia to assess their potential production in these highly disturbed sites. To characterize their potential as a feedstock for fuels, thermogravimetric analysis, analysis of elemental concentrations, and heating value were measured. Wood properties for 1 year old material were generally within the specifications for woody biomass. Ash content was slightly higher (2.7% vs. 1%) as was nitrogen (0.98% vs. 0.35%). Volatile matter was lower than general a guideline (79.8% vs. 82%) which is beneficial for heating values and greenhouse gas emissions. It was also observed that biochar was an effective soil amendment. Test plots that received applications of biochar had higher growth, yield, and survivorship than reference plots at the end of the first year.