Similar to coral reefs that serve as habitat for fish and marine life, Cool Terra creates a house-like environment for soil microbes that helps crops thrive, says CEO Jim Loar.
The engineered biocarbon is made from pine or coconut. It works by holding water and nutrients in the rhizosphere—the soil region surrounding plant roots where bacterial activity occurs—and making them available to the plant.
In corn and soybeans, Cool Terra is applied at planting at a rate of 15 lb. to 20 lb. per acre through insecticide boxes. It costs $11 to $15 per acre. Eventually, it could be an in-furrow or seed treatment application, Loar says.
With alfalfa, the material is broadcast and lightly incorporated at seeding at 50 lb. to 100 lb. per acre depending on soil type.
Yield bumps average 12% to 15% across all trials and crops, though some yield gains have been as high as 40%, Loar says.
Biochar is of interest because of its potential to rebuild organic matter, says Francesca Cotrufo, a soil ecologist at Colorado State University who is helping study Cool Terra in the field. The material is rich in carbon, persistent in soils and capable of adding structure to the soil to ease water infiltration and retention, she says.
Cool Terra, produced by Denver-based Cool Planet, is sold through Helena, Simplot, Crop Production Services and other distributors.