Biochar Soil Technology.....Husbandry of whole new orders of life // 04.23.2009 at 11:46 AM

by Erich J. Knight

Categories: Business Innovations in Community Development, Business Innovations in Sustainability, Quality of Work Life, Social Responsibility


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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, build it and they will come.
As one microbologist said on the TP list; "Microbes like to sit down when they eat". By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders of life.

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

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

Biochar data base;    TP-REPP

http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/?q=node

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.

http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0804/0804.1126.pdf

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."

http://www.unccd.int/publicinfo/AWGLCA5/menu.php



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.

Cheers,
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/webprogram/Session4231.html

579-II http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/webprogram/Session4496.html

665 - III. http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/webprogram/Session4497.html

666-IV http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/webprogram/Session4498.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


Also:

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.
www.EcoTechnologies.com

Hopefully all the Biochar companies will coordinate with Dr. Jeff Novak's soils work at ARS;

http://www.ars.usda.gov/pandp/people/people.htm?personid=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/simplechar.shtml


6/7/09 UPDATES:

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/poznanclimatetalks/docs/Natural Draft Stove.pdf

The biochar Fund is also doing amazing work in the developing world;
http://terrapretapot.org/

Also , I would like Rebut the BioFuelWatch folk's recent criticisms with the petition of 1500 Cameroon Farmers;
The Biochar Fund
http://biocharfund.org/
and to explain their program;
http://biocharfund.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=26&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=3

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.


Soil Carbon Sequestration Standards Committee.  Hosted by Monsanto, this group of diverse interests has been hammering out issues of definition, validation and protocol. The past week, this group have been pressing soil sequestration's roll for climate legislation to congress.
http://www.novecta.com/documents/Carbon-Standard.pdf

Along these lines internationally,  the work of the IBI fostering the application by 13 countries for UN recognition of soil carbon as a sink with biochar as a clean development mechanism  will open the door for programs across the globe.
http://www.biochar-international.org/biocharpolicy.html.


Reports:
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 .

This is the single most comprehensive report to date, covering more of the Asian and Australian work;
http://www.csiro.au/files/files/poei.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.
Cheers,
Erich


Erich J. Knight
Eco Technologies Group Technical Adviser
University of California Riverside advisory board member
Shenandoah Gardens (Owner)
1047 Dave Barry Rd.
McGaheysville, VA. 22840
540 289 9750
Co-Administrator, Biochar Data base & Discussion list  TP-REPP


I will be speaking at the first North American Biochar Conference, in  Boulder Aug 12-15, about my efforts to network the many disciplines and organizations researching and implementing biochar systems.
Keynote speaker Secretary Tom Vilsack & Dr. Susan Solomon (NOAA's head atmospheric scientist) at.
 http://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?eventid=684390

 My attendence is thanks to the folks at EcoTechnologies Group .
( http://www.ecotechnologies.com/index.html ,  they have also fully funded my field trials with the Rodale Institute & JMU)
 

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



 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. and Dynamotive study are exciting results given how far north the site is,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.
The study showed infiltration rates for moisture are almost double. The lower leaf temperatures puzzles me however, I thought around 21C was optimum for photosynthesis.

BlueLeaf Inc. and Dynamotive Announce Biochar Test Results CQuest(TM) Biochar Enriched Plots Yield Crop Increase Ranging From Six to Seventeen Percent vs. Control Plots  
http://www.usetdas.com/TDAS/NewsArticle.aspx?NewsID=13603

The full study at Dynomotives site;
http://www.dynamotive.com/wp-content/themes/dynamotive/pdf/BlueLeaf_Biochar_Field_Trial_2008.pdf



 




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Asia Pacific Biochar Conference 17 - 20 May, 2009

http://www.anzbiochar.org/AP Biochar Conference 2009 Program.pdf

See: Australia and New Zealand Biochar Researchers Network

http://www.anzbiochar.org/

Hopefully all the Biochar companies in the US will coordinate with Dr. Jeff Novak's soils work at ARS;

http://www.ars.usda.gov/pandp/people/people.htm?personid=24434

Erich J. Knight on 05.13.2009 at 11:33 PM
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