….Because of all the things human beings do to it, a
…Among the world's richer soils is terra preta, the "black earth" found in certain swaths of the Amazon basin. It is dark, loose and loamy, and unlike the pallid earth that characterizes most of the Amazon, it is strikingly fertile.
In the last few years, archaeologists have established something else intriguing about terra preta: it is man-made. It contains high concentrations of charcoal, along with organic matter such as manure and fish bones - essentially the household trash of a pre-Columbian society practicing a distinctive brand of slash-and-burn agriculture.
Researchers trying to replicate the fertility of terra preta have concluded that its secret is in the charcoal. Work by soil scientists like Laird, Johannes Lehmann of
....Even its champions concede that there's plenty we need to learn about how to produce it on a mass scale. Researchers today are looking at how it might best be applied to the soil - in a dust, perhaps, or in pellets, or in a slurry mixed with manure. Two American companies, Eprida and BEST Energies, are working on bringing it to market.
Other scientists are looking at an even more ambitious project: making new soil from scratch. The challenge is to make truly synthetic soil that matches the stability and longevity of natural topsoil….
Terra preta is on the right. Photo by Bruno Glaser, Wikimedia Commons,
Terra preta is on the right. Photo by Bruno Glaser, Wikimedia Commons,under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2