Biochar (Terra Preta): The last hope for humanity.

One last chance to save mankind by Gaia Vince

So are we doomed?

There is one way we could save ourselves and that is through the massive burial of charcoal. It would mean farmers turning all their agricultural waste – which contains carbon that the plants have spent the summer sequestering – into non-biodegradable charcoal, and burying it in the soil. Then you can start shifting really hefty quantities of carbon out of the system and pull the CO2 down quite fast.

Would it make enough of a difference?

Yes. The biosphere pumps out 550 gigatonnes of carbon yearly; we put in only 30 gigatonnes. Ninety-nine per cent of the carbon that is fixed by plants is released back into the atmosphere within a year or so by consumers like bacteria, nematodes and worms. What we can do is cheat those consumers by getting farmers to burn their crop waste at very low oxygen levels to turn it into charcoal, which the farmer then ploughs into the field. A little CO2 is released but the bulk of it gets converted to carbon. You get a few per cent of biofuel as a by-product of the combustion process, which the farmer can sell. This scheme would need no subsidy: the farmer would make a profit. This is the one thing we can do that will make a difference, but I bet they won’t do it.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126921.500-one-last-chance-to-save-mankind.html?full=true

Black is the New Green by Fiona Harvey

This ancient product of the Amazon is now the subject of intense scrutiny by climate change scientists. The tenacity of the charcoal of terra preta – retaining its fertilising properties over centuries – has given them an idea. Charcoal is a form of carbon, the burnt remains of plant and animal material. If it can stay intact in the earth for so long, without being released as carbon dioxide gas, why not lock up more carbon in the earth in this manner?

Scientists have begun to refer to the charcoal made from plants for the purpose of storing carbon as “biochar”. The theory is that biomass – any plant or animal material – can be turned into charcoal by heating it in the absence of oxygen. By taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, the impact on climate change could be huge.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/67843ec0-020b-11de-8199-000077b07658.html

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2 Responses to Biochar (Terra Preta): The last hope for humanity.

  1. 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;

    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;

    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

    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.

    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

    There is list of the additional beneficial effects of the 3R FORMULATED BIOCHAREU DOSSIER for permit administration and summary of the results from 4 different Authorities who executed different test programme is under construction
    I suggest these independent and accredited EU relevant Authority permit field tests results will support the further development of the biochar application systems on international level, and providing case evidence, that properly made and formulated (plant and/or animal biomass based) biochars can meet the modern environmental – agricultural – human health inspection standards and norm, while supporting the knowledge based economical development.

    We work further on to expand not only in the EU but in the USA as well. My Cincinnati large scale carbonization project is progressing, hopefully the first industrial scale 3R clean coal – carbon plant will be ready in 2009.

    Sincerely yours: Edward Someus (environmental engineer)
    HOMEPAGE 3R AGROCARBON: http://www.3ragrocarbon.com

    http://www.terrenum.net
    EMAIL 1: edward@terrenum.net

    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.
    http://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

  2. Amber says:

    It was nice to see your blog.Just Keep Writing!

    ______________________________
    Don’t pay for your electricity any longer…
    Instead, the power company will pay YOU!

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