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Re: Biochar Soils.....Husbandry of whole new Orders & Kingdoms of life

erich Knight


Joined: Jul 27, 2010
Posts: 17
Dear Peraculture,
I searched your forum and found no central thread for Char. Allow me to start one.

Albert Bates' new book will be out september, His book blurb;


The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change

Civilization as we know it is at a crossroads. For the past 10,000 years, we have turned a growing understanding of physics, chemistry and biology to our advantage in producing more energy and more food and as a consequence have produced exponential population surges, resource depletion, ocean acidification, desertification and climate change.

The path we are following began with long-ago discoveries in agriculture, but it divided into two branches, about 8,000 years ago. The branch we have been following for the most part is conventional farming - irrigation, tilling the soil, and removing weeds and pests. That branch has degraded soil carbon levels by as much as 80 percent in most of the world's breadbaskets, sending all that carbon skyward with each pass of the plow.

The other branch disappeared from our view some 500 years ago, although archaeologists are starting to pick up its trail now. At one time it achieved success as great as the agriculture that we know, producing exponential population surges and great cities, but all that was lost in a fluke historical event borne of a single genetic quirk.

It vanished when European and Asian diseases arrived in the Americas.

From excavations on the banks of the Amazon river, clearings of the savanna/gallery forests in the Upper Xingu, and ethnographic studies of Mesoamerican milpas, science has now re-traced the path of the second great agriculture, and, to its astonishment, found it more sustainable and productive that what we are currently pursuing.
While conventional agriculture leads to deserts, blowing parched dirt across the globe and melting ice caps, this other, older style, brings fertile soils, plant and animal diversity and birdsong. While the agriculture we use has been shifting Earth's carbon balance from soil and living vegetation to atmosphere and ocean, the agriculture that was nearly lost moves carbon from sky to soil and crops. The needed shift, once embarked upon, can be profound and immediate. We could once more become a garden planet, with deep black earths and forests of fruit and nuts where deserts now stand. We can heal our atmosphere and oceans.

Come along on this journey of rediscovery with The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change.

Albert Bates teaches permaculture and appropriate technology and has written several books on energy and the environment including The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook.

6x9"/208 pp
Technology & Engineering /
Agriculture/Sustainable Agriculture
PB ISBN:978-0-86571-677-3
Price: US/Can $17.95





I got to review this book, it is as enlightening as "1491" by Charles Mann and as jaw dropping as "Guns, Germs & Steel" by J. Diamond.





To me, in the long run,  the final arbiter / accountancy / measure of sustainability will be
soil carbon content. Once this royal road is constructed, traffic cops ( Carbon Board ) in place, the truth of land-management and  Biochar systems will be self-evident.

A dream I've had for years is to base the coming carbon economy firmly on the foundation of top soils. My read of the agronomic history of civilization shows that the Kayopo Amazon Indians and the Egyptians were the only ones to maintain fertility for the long haul, millennium scales. Egypt has now forsaken their geologic advantage by building the Aswan dam, and are stuck, with the rest of us, in the soil C mining, NPK rat race to the bottom. The meta-analysis of Syn-N and soil Carbon content show our dilemma;
http://jeq.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/36/6/1821
and
http://jeq.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/38/6/2295


The Ag Soil Carbon standard is in final review by the AMS branch at USDA.
Contact Gary Delong . www.novecta.com 
Read over the work so far;
http://www.novecta.com/documents/Carbon-Standard.pdf


With the Obama administration  funding an inter-departmental climate effort of NASA, NOAA, USDA,  & EPA, and now even the CIA is opening the data coffers, then soil carbon sensors may be less than 5 years away. I'm told by the Jet Propulsion Lab mission specialists responsible for the suite of earth sensing satellites, that they will be reading soil carbon using multiple proxy measurements in 5 years. Reading soil moisture to 3 foot dept in two year with SMAP, Reading GHG emissions and biomass from the tree tops down next year when the Orbital Carbon Observer (OCO, get it is rebooted, to 1 Ha resolution.

Then, any farmer can click "Google Carbon maps" to see the soil carbon accounted to his good work, a level playing field to be a soil sink banker.
The Moon Pie in the sky funding should be served to JPL


Since we have filled the air , filling the seas to full, Soil is the Only Beneficial place left.
Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.

WorldStoves in Haitihttp://www.charcoalproject.org/2010/05/a-man-a-stove-a-mission/   and
The Biochar Fund   http://biocharfund.org/   deserves your attention and support.
Exceptional results from biochar experiment in Cameroon

NSF Awards $600K to BREAD:
Biochar Inoculants for Enabling Smallholder Agriculture
http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=0965336

Thanks for your efforts.
Erich

Erich J. Knight
Chairman; Markets and Business Review Committee
US BiocharConference,  at Iowa State University, June 27-30
http://www.biorenew.iastate.edu/events/biochar2010/conference-agenda/agenda-overview.html

EcoTechnologies Group Technical Adviser
http://www.ecotechnologies.com/index.html
Shenandoah Gardens (Owner)
1047 Dave Barry Rd.
McGaheysville, VA. 22840
540 289 9750
Co-Administrator, Biochar Data base & Discussion list  TP-REPP
http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/?q=node




Biochar current Developments in Research, Legislation & Reports:



Biochar Soils.....Husbandry of whole new Orders & Kingdoms 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. Agriculture allowed our cultural accent and Agriculture will now prevent our descent.

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.

Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration (= to 1 Ton CO2e) + Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels = to 1MWh exported electricity, 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.
Microbes like to sit down when they eat.
By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders & Kingdoms of life.
( These oxidised surface charges; carbonyl. hydroxyl, carboxylic acids, and lactones or quinones,  have as well a role as signaling substances towards bacteria, fungi and plants.)

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 penitence 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.
Unlike CCS which only reduces emissions, biochar systems draw down CO2 every energy cycle, closing a circle back to support the soil food web.  The photosynthetic  "capture" collectors are up and running, the "storage" sink is in operation just under our feet.  Pyrolysis conversion plants are the only infrastructure  we need to build out.


Legislation:

May 14, 2010, Important Biochar Provisions Included in the Amercian Power Act
IBI is pleased to announce that the American Power Act (APA), a plan to secure America's energy future, contains several important provisions to support deployment of biochar as a climate mitigation and adaptation tool. Senators Kerry and Lieberman released a discussion draft of the legislative plan on Wednesday.
The APA contains three specific provisions related to biochar. The first provision is under the domestic offset program, under Title II, Subtitle A - Global Warming Pollution Reduction. Under Part D - Offset Credit Program for Domestic Emission Reductions, Section 734 lists projects that are eligible for offsets. This list includes "projects for biochar production and use".

The second and third biochar provisions fall under Title II, Subtitle C - Achieving Fast Mitigation, Part II - Black Carbon.

Senator Baucus is co-sponsoring  a bill along with Senator Tester (D-MT) called WE CHAR.  Water Efficiency via Carbon Harvesting and Restoration Act!
WashingtonWatch.com - S. 1713, The Water Efficiency via Carbon Harvesting and Restoration (WECHAR) Act of 2009



Biochar systems for Biofuels and soil carbon sequestration are so basically conservative in nature it is a shame that republicans have not seized it as a central environmental policy plank as the conservatives in Australia have; Carbon sequestration without Taxes.

Another significant aspect of   low cost  Biomass cook stoves that produce char  is removal of BC aerosols and no respiratory disease emissions. At Scale, replacing "Three Stone" stoves the health benefits would equal eradication of Malaria
The Biochar Fund :
Exceptional results from biochar experiment in Cameroon
http://scitizen.com/screens/blogPage/viewBlog/sw_viewBlog.php?idTheme=14&idContribution=3011
The broad smiles of 1500 subsistence farmers say it all ( that , and the size of the Biochar corn root balls )
http://biocharfund.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55&Itemid=75

Major Endorsements:

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/newinformationevents/newlegislation.html

NASA's Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper places Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.
http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0804/0804.1126.pdf

Dr. James Lovelock (Gaia hypothesis) says  Biochar is  "The only hope for mankind"

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/2008/09/soil/mann-text

Al Gore got the CO2 absorption thing wrong, ( at NABC Vilsack did same), but his focus on Soil Carbon is right on;
http://www.newsweek.com/id/220552/page/3

Tony Blair & Richard Branson in the UK and conservative party opposition leader  John Turnbull and Abbott in Oz.




Research:

This is the finest explanation I have read on the process of biochar testing. Hugh lays it out like medical triage to extract the data most needed for soil carbon sequestration. A triage for all levels of competence, the Para-Medic Gardener to the Surgeon Chem-Engineer.
http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/Characterizing_Biochars

The Ozzie's for 5 years now in field studies
The future of biochar - Project Rainbow Bee Eater
http://www.sciencealert.com.au/features/20090211-20142.html

Phosphorous Solution;
http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/nishio

The Japanese have been at it dacades:
Japan Biochar Association ;
http://www.geocities.jp/yasizato/pioneer.htm

UK Biochar Research Centre
http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/sccs/biochar/

ICHAR, the Italian Biochar Association
http://www.ichar.org/

Field Trial Data Base; The new version of BiocharDB has been released! To see it, please visit http://biocharbazaar.org.

Virginia Tech is in their 4 th year with the Carbon Char Group's "CharGrow" formulated bagged product.  An idea whose time has come | Carbon Char Group
The 2008 trials at Virginia Tech showed a 46% increase in yield of tomato transplants grown with just 2 - 5 cups (2 - 5%) "CharGrow" per cubic foot of growing medium.  http://www.carbonchar.com/plant-performance

USDA in their 2 nd year;  "Novak, Jeff" <Jeff.Novak@ars.usda.gov>, &  "david laird" <david.laird@ars.usda.gov>,
There are dozens soil researchers on the subject now at USDA-ARS.
and many studies at The  ASA-CSSA-SSSA joint meeting;
http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2009am/webprogram/Session5675.html

Nikolaus has been at it 4 years. Nikolaus Foidl,
His current work with aspirin is Amazing in Maize, 250% yield gains, 15 cobs per plant;
http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/content/trials-maize-reactivating-dormant-genes-using-high-doses-salicylic-acid-and-charcoal

My 09 field trials with the Rodale Institute & JMU ;
Alterna Biocarbon and Cowboy Charcoal Virginia field trials '09
http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/node/1408


Most recent studies out;

Imperial College test,
  This work in temperate soils gives data from which one can calculate savings on fertilizer use, which is expected to be ongoing with no additional soil amending.
http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/1755-1315/6/37/372052/ees9_6_372052.pdf?request-id=22fb1902-1c23-4db8-8801-2be7e2f3ce1b


The BlueLeaf Inc./ Dynamotive study are exciting results given how far north the site is at 45 degrees, and the low application rates. I suspect, as we saw with the Imperial College test, the yield benefits seem to decrease the cooler the climate. In 2008, a 20% increase in grain yield was shown and for a forage mixture in 2009 a 100% increase in fresh biomass was obtained. Other parameters showing increases with CQuest Biochar included earthworm, nematode and mycorrhizal root colonization, supporting the hypothesis that biochar may serve as a refuge for soil microbes. Surface soil water infiltration was also greater in biochar amended soil.
http://www.biofuelsjournal.com/articles/BlueLeaf_Inc__and_Dynamotive_Release_2nd_Year_Field_Trial_Results_With_Dynamotive_CQuestT_Biochar-90009.html





Reports:

For those looking for an overview of biochar and its benefits, These authors have done a very nice job of distilling a great deal of information about biochar and applying it to the US context:

US -Focused Biochar report: Assessment of Biochar's Benefits for the USA http://www.biochar-us.org/pdf%20files/biochar_report_lowres.pdf



This PNAS report (by a Nobel lariat) should cause the Royal Society to rethink their report that criticized Biochar systems sequestration potential;
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Reducing abrupt climate change risk using
the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory
actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/10/09/0902568106.full.pdf+html
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Joop had a similar idea:

http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/4677_0/organic-practices/terra-preta

Maybe the threads should be merged?


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
                  


Joined: Jun 27, 2010
Posts: 59
Location: NW Ontario
Here's a good synopsis of both sides of the biochar debate:

http://www.energybulletin.net/52714
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
seems to be older than all of us but a new concept to me in the last 10 years..but I have been adding "char" from our wood furnace to our soil for the past several years and have noticed a lot of increase in fertility.

Always great to continue to learn more about these types of processes. I watched a program on NATGEO this weekend that talked about the ancient Americans using char and carbon for fertilizing their land..seems to be gaining a lot of attention lately


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
              


Joined: Jan 13, 2010
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
Seems like a lot of carbon wasted on sensing equipment actively dishing out doses of focused wavelengths, for good or bad, to depths of 3 feet (or more). What good will come out of this? More laws to burn more carbon in the name of saving carbon? Sounds like traffic lights to traffic cameras to red light cameras to an increase in accidents and traffic jams. What were those traffic lights for? What are all of these sensors going in for?
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
biochar should be made from waste material, its what we use here to make it. ive been using biochar in my soils for years now. and will NEVER go without it. for it bring great fertility to the soil.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Morgan Morrigan


Joined: Oct 16, 2011
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
It appears bio char cooked at high temps is more effective at holding nutrients, and interrupting pathogenic bacterial signalling too.

Might help in soils that have potato and tomato rot.

http://m.phys.org/news/2013-09-biochar-quiets-microbes-pathogens.html


Get involved -Take away the standing of corporations MovetoAmmend.org
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6498
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
interrupting pathogenic bacterial signalling too.


It is just as possible that it also can interrupt the signalling of beneficial microbe as well.

What worked well in tropical soils, is not necessarily good for those of us in temperate soils.
Biochar does upset the natural life cycles in soils. Beneficial in some cases, harmful in others.

John Elliott
pollinator

Joined: May 08, 2013
Posts: 2029
Location: Augusta, GA
    
  63
John Polk wrote:

It is just as possible that it also can interrupt the signalling of beneficial microbe as well.

What worked well in tropical soils, is not necessarily good for those of us in temperate soils.
Biochar does upset the natural life cycles in soils. Beneficial in some cases, harmful in others.



Not to worry, John, given enough global warming, we're all going to be working with tropical soils in a few years (decades?).

I did a biochar burn today. I like to age it so that I don't cause a lot of upset to the soil life. Letting it sit for a while and mixing in dirt and compost tea and leaf litter is my way of conditioning it before it goes out into the garden. I keep it in black plastic pots (recycled from the local garden center) sitting out on the deck, so it gets rained on and bugs can crawl through it. Sometimes when I get a trowel full to throw in the compost tea, I disturb some ants or crickets that have taken up residence. I figure if it can support that kind of insect life, it's not going to upset the karma in my garden.
nancy sutton
volunteer

Joined: Feb 22, 2010
Posts: 299
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
    
    9
Just want to put this info into the mix.... most biochar info warns against using 'bbq briquettes', however, Trader Joe's are advertised in their Frequent Flyer, as "harvested from sustainably grown hardwoods, with no additives except cornstarch as a binder, and so innocuous that the ash can be used in the garden". Plus, the price is pertty good :)

Seems to me that this might be converted to biochar with the addition of organic nutrients (urine, etc)... and the exposure John practices... leave outdoors in black pots to incorporate clean rainwater, bugs, floaters, etc. I'm also assuming that crushing, as much as possible, to reduce particle size, would be helpful.... or not necessary?

John, have you seen any result from the biochar in your soil? Where are you located ?...hoping for a northern area :)



It's time to get positive about negative thinking    -Art Donnelly
John Elliott
pollinator

Joined: May 08, 2013
Posts: 2029
Location: Augusta, GA
    
  63
nancy sutton wrote:Just want to put this info into the mix.... most biochar info warns against using 'bbq briquettes', however, Trader Joe's are advertised in their Frequent Flyer, as "harvested from sustainably grown hardwoods, with no additives except cornstarch as a binder, and so innocuous that the ash can be used in the garden". Plus, the price is pertty good :)

Seems to me that this might be converted to biochar with the addition of organic nutrients (urine, etc)... and the exposure John practices... leave outdoors in black pots to incorporate clean rainwater, bugs, floaters, etc. I'm also assuming that crushing, as much as possible, to reduce particle size, would be helpful.... or not necessary?

John, have you seen any result from the biochar in your soil? Where are you located ?...hoping for a northern area :)


I'm way south in zone 9, Nancy.

There is part of my garden where the old owners must have burned all their trash. The dirt had lots of burned bits in it. The soil even looks darker than other areas. Most productive part of my garden.

So I continue to add biochar anywhere and everywhere. Whenever I burn some trash, I don't let it burn all the way, when it's a nice bed of coals I quench it with water. After you've done a few burns, it's pretty easy to tell when the organic matter is mostly charred and to let it burn further would only turn char into ash. I can't really separate out the effect of the biochar from the effect of mulching, from the effect of having a hugelkultur mound, so I will leave that to the controlled experiments done by universities.

There probably is an optimal size for biochar particles in soils. Fine powders can be home to bacteria and fungi, but too small a particle and it could get covered over with clay minerals. Large chunks are going to have smaller total surface area, and the interior of such particles is not going to be able to support bacteria and fungi because of lack of food. One good feature of biochar is that it is friable, meaning that large chunks turn into smaller pieces over time. What I do with my biochar is to smash it in a big tin can with a wooden pestle until the largest chunks are the size of pea gravel. At that point, I can mix it in with soil that is being moved, or stir it in with the compost tea.
nancy sutton
volunteer

Joined: Feb 22, 2010
Posts: 299
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
    
    9
Thanks, John... "most productive part of my garden"... tells me a lot.. even though you are in balmy GA. I'm going to crush my TG briquettes, soak, expose, and incorporate, etc. I did wonder about pH, but got cheap strips and it seems the resulting associated liquid is mostly 6.5 or 7... and I'm going to give it a shot of vinegar to tip it a tad acid. Plus, OT, for my sandy soil (even with lots of org matter) I'm incorporating bentonite... aka cheapest no-thing-added kitty litter to up the clay content for water retention.l..fyi :)
 
 
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