2008-12-08

Biochar getting more press

The Independent:
Ancient techniques pioneered by pre-Columbian Amazonian Indians are about to be pressed into service in Britain and Central America in the most serious commercial attempt yet to reverse global warming.

Trials are to be started in Sussex and Belize early in the new year, backed with venture capital from Silicon Valley, on techniques to take carbon from the atmosphere and bury it in the soil, where it should act as a powerful fertiliser.

The plan is to scale up rapidly into a worldwide enterprise to reverse the build-up of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, in the atmosphere and eventually bring it back to pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

The ambitious enterprise – which on Friday received its first multimillion-pound investment from California – is the brainchild of two of Britain's most successful environmental entrepreneurs: Craig Sams, one of the founders of the best-selling Green & Black's organic chocolate, and Dan Morrell, who co-founded Future Forests, the first carbon offsetting company.

They aim to grow trees and plants to absorb CO2 and then trap the carbon by turning the resulting biomass into "biochar", a fine-grained form of charcoal that can be buried in the soil, keeping it safely locked up for thousands of years.

The pre-Columbian Indians used biochar to make the poor soils of the rainforest – which otherwise quickly become exhausted – productive for harvest after harvest. It is still there today, many hundreds of years later, forming islands of black fertile earth in the otherwise unpromising ground.

But it is now being widely cited as a possible solution to global warming by scientists shocked at how climate change is taking place much faster than predicted and convinced that the world must now start not just rapidly to reduce CO2 emissions, but to get the greenhouse gas out of the air.

Among them is Professor James Hansen, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute of Space Studies and probably the world's most respected climate scientist, who believes CO2 concentrations must urgently be reduced from its present 385 parts per million to 350 if global warming is not to run out of control. International negotiations – continuing this weekend in Poznan, Poland – are aimed at stabilising them at the higher level of 450ppm.

Trees and plants soak up carbon dioxide as they grow, but release it again as they are burned or left to rot. But burning them largely in the absence of oxygen, through pyrolysis, reduces the amount of the gas emitted by 90 per cent, and stores the carbon in the charcoal instead. It also gives off energy that can be used as an efficient biofuel.

If the resulting biochar is then buried in the ground it will stay there for some 5,000 years, keeping the carbon out of the atmosphere, and nourishing the soil while it is there. It also cuts down on the use of fertilisers; reduces the emission of methane and nitrous oxides, which are also greenhouse gases, from the ground; filters out pollutants; and retains water, thus combating flooding.

The new enterprise will start with wood grown in Suffolk and with prunings from the Belize cacao trees that supply Green & Black's chocolate. But its founders hope that it will rapidly become a worldwide industry.

Mr Sams calculates that if just two and a half per cent of the world's productive land were used to produce biochar, carbon dioxide could be returned to pre-Industrial Revolution levels by 2050.

He said: "Biomass from trees and plants, which captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is a treasure to be buried in the earth."

2 comments:

Erich J. Knight said...

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth), 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.

Charles Mann ("1491") in the Sept. National Geographic has a wonderful soils article which places Terra Preta / Biochar soils center stage.
I think Biochar has climbed the pinnacle, the Combined English and other language circulation of NGM is nearly nine million monthly with more than fifty million readers monthly!
We need to encourage more coverage now, to ride Mann's coattails to public critical mass.

Please put this (soil) bug in your colleague's ears. These issues need to gain traction among all the various disciplines who have an iron in this fire.
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/09/soil/mann-text

I love the "MEGO" factor theme Mann built the story around. Lord... how I KNOW that reaction.

I like his characterization concerning the pot shards found in Terra Preta soils;

so filled with pottery - "It was as if the river's first inhabitants had
thrown a huge, rowdy frat party, smashing every plate in sight, then
buried the evidence."


Biochar data base;
http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/?q=node

I also have been trying to convince Michael Pollan ( NYT Food Columnist, Author ) to do a follow up story, with pleading emails to him

Since the NGM cover reads "WHERE FOOD BEGINS" , I thought this would be right down his alley and focus more attention on Mann's work.

I've admiried his ability since "Botany of Desire" to over come the "MEGO" factor (My Eyes Glaze Over) and make food & agriculture into page turners.

It's what Mann hasn't covered that I thought should interest any writer as a follow up article and your transition team

The Biochar provisions by Sen.Ken Salazar in the 07 & 08 farm bill,
http://www.biochar-international.org/newinformationevents/newlegislation.html

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, New Zealand and Australia.

Glomalin's role in soil tilth, fertility & basis for the soil food web in Terra Preta soils.

The International Biochar Initiative Conference Sept 8 in New Castle;
http://www.biochar-international.org/ibi2008conference/aboutibi2008conference.html

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.

Michael Pollan is well briefed about Biochar technology, but did not include it in his 8000 word, "Farmer & Chief" NYT's article to President Obama, but I'm sure Biochar will be his 8001th word to you.

Erich
540 289 9750




Total CO2 Equivalence:
Once a commercial bagged soil amendment product, every suburban household can do it,
The label can tell them of their contribution, a 40# bag = 150# CO2 = 160 bags / year to cover my personal CO2 emissions. ( 20,000 #/yr , 1/2 Average )
http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html

But that is just the Carbon!
I have yet to find a total CO2 equivalent number taking consideration against some average field N2O & CH4 emissions. The New Zealand work shows 10X reductions.If biochar proves to be effective at reducing nutrient run-off from agricultural soils, then there will accordingly be a reduction in downstream N2O emissions.

This ACS study implicates soil structure as main connection to N2O soil emissions;
http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/webprogram/Paper41955.html


biochar papers at the ACS Huston meeting see Ron Larson's post http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/biochar/message/1852



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.

4 MYC mechanisms ?
Why the Massive Fungi growth?
4 mycorrhizae(MYC)mechanisms;
These mechanisms are (in decreasing order of currently available evidence supporting them): (a) alteration of soil physico-chemical properties; (b) indirect effects on mycorrhizae through effects on other soil microbes; (c) plant–fungus signaling interference and detoxification of allelochemicals on biochar; and (d) provision of refugia from fungal grazers. We provide a roadmap for research aimed at testing these mechanistic hypotheses.


Company News & EU Certification

Below is an important hurtle that has been 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
EMAIL 2: edward.someus@gmail.com


Also:

October 28, 2008

U.S. Department of Agriculture to Evaluate CQuest™ Biochar

Non-Funded Cooperative Agreement Signed

The objective of the biochar research is to quantify the effects of amending soils with CQuest™ Biochar on crop productivity, soil quality, carbon sequestration and water quality. Field trials will involve incorporation of biochar in replicated field plots and on-farm strip trials with monitoring of crop yields, soil quality, water quality, emissions of greenhouse gasses, and soil carbon sequestration. Laboratory studies will involve amending soils with biochar and quantifying changes in soil quality and microbial activity during incubations.

Biochar will be shipped from Dynamotive's West Lorne facility to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) locations in Iowa, South Carolina, Idaho, Washington, and other ARS locations. Initial results are expected during the 2009 growing season.



http://www.dynamotive.com/en/biooil/biochar_tests.html

new_biochar_land said...

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