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We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Blog Archive

Friday, 24 April 2009

BioChar and the wonders of the soil.

Look after the soil, keep it chemical free, and it will look after you.

Thanks to Replanting the Rainforest and EcoInteractive for the heads up on this fascinating video and the following excerpts.

BioChar and Terra Pretta"What is Biochar? Biochar is charcoal that is created by heating biomass (plants) under low oxygen conditions, which sequesters the plants’ carbon, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. When Biochar is used to amend soil, the resulting Terra Preta sequesters more carbon, increasing its own volume. The activity of friendly microorganisms, called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, increases as well. The fungi spread beyond the original carbon, fix additional carbon, stabilize the soil and assist in nutrient uptake by plants. Biochar also improves soil fertility, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. It conserves water, prevents erosion and acts as a natural carbon filter for water by removing chemicals from runoff.

Biochar is inert and remains in the soil for thousands of years. It cannot be cut down, burned down, nor is it susceptible to erosion. It is self-renewing.

Biochar could be a solution for:

  • Hunger and Food Insecurity
  • Deforestation and Biodiversity Loss
  • Excess Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere
  • Methane and Nitrous Oxide emissions from soil
  • Renewable Energy"


Erich J. Knight said...

Biochar Soil Technology.....Husbandry of whole new orders of life

Biotic Carbon, the carbon transformed by life, should never be combusted, oxidized and destroyed. It deserves more respect, reverence even, and understanding to use it back to the soil where 2/3 of excess atmospheric carbon originally came from.

We all know we are carbon-centered life, we seldom think about the complex web of recycled bio-carbon which is the true center of life. A cradle to cradle, mutually co-evolved biosphere reaching into every crack and crevice on Earth.

It's hard for most to revere microbes and fungus, but from our toes to our gums (onward), their balanced ecology is our health. The greater earth and soils are just as dependent, at much longer time scales. Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, Methane & Nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel.

Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,

Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth, TP), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!
Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration,10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration, Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw;
"Feed the Soil Not the Plants" becomes;
"Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !".
Free Carbon Condominiums with carboxyl group fats in the pantry and hydroxyl alcohol in the mini bar.
Build it and the Wee-Beasties will come.
As one microbiologist said on the Biochar list; "Microbes like to sit down when they eat".
By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders of life.

This is what I try to get across to Farmers, as to how I feel about the act of returning carbon to the soil. An act of pertinence and thankfulness for the civilization we have created. Farmers are the Soil Sink Bankers, once carbon has a price, they will be laughing all the way to it.

One aspect of Biochar systems are Cheap, clean biomass stoves that produce biochar and no respiratory disease. At scale, the health benefits are greater than ending Malaria.
A great example;
http://www.unccd.int/publicinfo/poznanc ... 0Stove.pdf

Also , I would like Rebut the BioFuelWatch folk's recent criticisms with the petition of 1500 Cameroon Farmers;
The Biochar Fund
and to explain their program; http://biocharfund.org/index.php?option ... &Itemid=46

The USDA-ARS have dozens of studies happening now to ferret out the reasons for char affinity with MYC fungi and microbes, but this synergy is solidly shown by the Japanese work, literally showing 1+1=4

Senator / Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has done the most to nurse this biofuels system in his Biochar provisions in the 07 & 08 farm bill,
http://www.biochar-international.org/ne ... ation.html

Charles Mann ("1491") in the Sept. National Geographic has a wonderful soils article which places Terra Preta / Biochar soils center stage.
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/ ... /mann-text

Biochar data base; TP-REPP

NASA's Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper and letter to the G-8 conference, placing Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.

The many new university programs & field studies, in temperate soils; Cornell, ISU, U of H, U of GA, Virginia Tech, JMU, New Zealand and Australia.

Glomalin's role in soil tilth, fertility & basis for the soil food web in Terra Preta soils.

UNCCD Submission to Climate Change/UNFCCC AWG-LCA 5
"Account carbon contained in soils and the importance of biochar (charcoal) in replenishing soil carbon pools, restoring soil fertility and enhancing the sequestration of CO2."

This new Congressional Research Service report (by analyst Kelsi Bracmort) is the best short summary I have seen so far - both technical and policy oriented.
http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/R40186_20090203.pdf .

Given the current "Crisis" atmosphere concerning energy, soil sustainability, food vs. Biofuels, and Climate Change what other subject addresses them all?

This is a Nano technology for the soil that represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.

Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.
Erich J. Knight
Shenandoah Gardens
540 289 9750

Biochar Studies at ACS Huston meeting;

Most all this work corroborates char soil dynamics we have seen so far . The soil GHG emissions work showing increased CO2 , also speculates that this CO2 has to get through the hungry plants above before becoming a GHG.
The SOM, MYC& Microbes, N2O (soil structure), CH4 , nutrient holding , Nitrogen shock, humic compound conditioning, absorbing of herbicides all pretty much what we expected to hear.
578-I: http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/we ... n4231.html

579-II http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/we ... n4496.html

665 - III. http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/we ... n4497.html

666-IV http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/we ... n4498.html

Company News & EU Certification

Below is an important hurtle that 3R AGROCARBON has overcome in certification in the EU. Given that their standards are set much higher than even organic certification in the US, this work should smooth any bureaucratic hurtles we may face.

EU Permit Authority - 4 years tests
Subject: Fwd: [biochar] Re: GOOD NEWS: EU Permit Authority - 4 years tests successfully completed

Doses: 400 kg / ha – 1000 kg / ha at different horticultural cultivars

Plant height Increase 141 % versus control
Picking yield Increase 630 % versus control
Picking fruit Increase 650 % versus control
Total yield Increase 202 % versus control
Total piece of fruit Increase 171 % versus control
Fruit weight Increase 118 % versus control

HOMEPAGE 3R AGROCARBON: http://www.3ragrocarbon.com


EcoTechnologies is planning for many collaborations ; NC State, U. of Leeds, Cardiff U. Rice U. ,JMU, U.of H. and at USDA with Dr.Jeffrey Novak who is coordinating ARS Biochar research. This Coordinated effort will speed implementation by avoiding unneeded repetition and building established work in a wide variety of soils and climates.

Hopefully all the Biochar companies will coordinate with Dr. Jeff Novak's soils work at ARS;
http://www.ars.usda.gov/pandp/people/pe ... onid=24434

I spoke with Jon Nilsson of the CarbonChar Group, in their third year of field trials ;
An idea whose time has come | Carbon Char Group
He said the 2008 trials at Virginia Tech showed a 46% increase in yield of tomato transplants grown with just 2 - 5 cups (2 - 5%) "Biochar+" per cubic foot of growing medium. http://www.carbonchar.com/plant-performance

Low Tech Clean Biochar;
http://holon.se/folke/carbon/simplechar ... char.shtml

Erich J. Knight said...

Sorry ......Better links:
One aspect of Biochar systems are Cheap, clean biomass stoves that produce biochar and no respiratory disease. At scale, the health benefits are greater than ending Malaria.
A great example;

Also , I would like Rebut the BioFuelWatch folk's recent criticisms with the petition of 1500 Cameroon Farmers;
The Biochar Fund
and to explain their program;

C Robb said...

Thanks for that very in depth and informative comment.