Sunday, April 12, 2009

‘Biochar’ could ease Colorado beetle-kill pain

Aspen Times: As the U.S. Forest Service looks for ways to use vast amounts of beetle-killed wood, an ages-old process called biochar is emerging as an option. Pre-Columbian natives in North and South America already knew that adding charcoal to certain soils would help with fertility and water retention. Now, scientists say it can also help prevent the build-up of greenhouse gases.

“I got tuned into a different way of looking at our treatments for biomass,” said Bernie Weingardt, explaining how scientists working at Forest Service research stations started exploring the idea of trying to prevent the decaying wood from adding heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Weingardt is a retired Forest Service ranger who headed Colorado's Dillon Ranger District between 1986 and 1989. He later became the Pacific Southwest regional forester. He spoke Thursday morning at a forest health task force meeting in Frisco.

“We’ve been logging and burning all along and never looked at the carbon emissions issue,” Weingardt said. “So we started some pilot projects to track the carbon footprint.” Scientists with the agency’s research stations used data from biomass and co-generation facilities in the region to get an idea of how much carbon can be captured or used through alternate processes.The biochar process is yet another tool that could be used in conjunction with other treatments, he said.

Along similar lines, Summit County has started an ambitious composting program, combining wood chips from beetle-killed trees with other organic materials to manufacture a marketable product that can used in landscaping and re-vegetation projects.

One byproduct of the biochar process is a synthetic gas that can be used as fuel. Weingardt suggested that the gas could help run a pellet plant, or some other industrial facility that processes beetle-killed wood as part of a big-picture solution. At the end of the process, the charcoal can be used to amend soil. In California, vintners have been using it successfully to boost vineyard productivity, Weingardt said. It could also be used on a broader scale in reforestation projects….

The Pine Forest of Mio, 1858, from 36 Views of Mount Fuji

2 comments:

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, 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

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