A 'black magic' CO2 fix

A 'black magic' CO2 fix
The cover of the December-January issue of ECOS magazine. Image: CSIRO

Biochar, similar to charcoal used by pre-Columbian Amazonian cultures to boost crop yields, could help the fight against climate change by securely locking carbon away in soils for thousands of years, according to the December-January issue of ECOS magazine.

Biochar is made by heating woody waste at high temperatures without oxygen, a process that also produces biogas and usable ‘bio-oil’, renewable energy sources. The stable black carbon-rich solid left after these are captured can remain in soil for up to 5000 years.

Used in agriculture, it could increase crop production and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from fertilisers. Biochar appears to be especially effective as a soil additive for rehabilitating contaminated soils and boosting crop yields on marginal land.

Prominent climate change figure, Professor Tim Flannery, has publicly advocated biochar's potential, stating it; “…provides a unique, powerful solution, for it allows us to address food security, the fuel crisis and the climate problem, and all in an immensely practical manner.”

Australia’s food future

ECOS investigates how we can make more sustainable choices about what we eat, and how smart policy can accommodate food security priorities for future rural prosperity.

Is an organic banana produced in northern NSW and trucked down the east coast a better option nutritionally and environmentally than one produced by conventional means in the Philippines and shipped to an Australian market?

Scientists are analysing our food products in terms of carbon consumption and environmental impacts across their entire life cycles, from paddock to plate. The energy (and thus emissions) used to supply food is now often expressed as food miles (fuel consumed in the production, transport and processing of food). Another source of greenhouse gas emissions are nitrogen-based fertilisers used to increase crop productivity on depleted soils.

“The food system is a major component of export income, our largest manufacturing sector, a huge employer, the largest water user and the second largest cause of greenhouse gas emissions,“ says sustainability consultant, Andrew Campbell.

“Most Australians think of their water use in terms of showers, toilets, gardens and swimming pools, but by far the largest component of household water use is through the food we consume.

“We need to grow much more food over coming decades, from probably less land and with less available water than we have now, with much higher costs for energy, water and nutrients, in a much more difficult climate, especially in southern Australia.”

The power of a green economy

ECOS looks at the impact of the recent financial crisis on climate change action. In the past, a prevailing assumption that green investment comes at a cost to the economy meant that momentum for action on the environment was lost when global economic recessions hit in 1973 and 1992.

But, as Australia's key advisor on emissions trading, Professor Ross Garnaut, has pointed out, climate change will be around long after the worst impacts of the current financial crisis.

Today, some leaders – including USA President-elect Barack Obama – are seeing the opportunities that long-term investment in environmentally-aligned initiatives provide to revive the economy and job growth, and tackle climate change.

The UK's Sir Nicholas Stern has said: “There are more incentives to invest in energy efficiency during a recession and when oil prices are high. Spending on renewable and other low-carbon industries could help stimulate the economy.”

Page 17 of this issue discusses how CSIRO also sees investment in a green collar workforce as a major growth opportunity, and the key to a ‘triple bottom line’ in Australia.

Provided by CSIRO

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Dec 09, 2008
"Today, some leaders %u2013 including USA President-elect Barack Obama %u2013 are seeing the opportunities that long-term investment in environmentally-aligned initiatives provide to revive the economy and job growth, and tackle climate change. "


Dec 10, 2008
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%u2026 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.

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;

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,

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.

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;

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.

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 )

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;

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

Biochar Studies at ACS Huston meeting;

578-I: http://a-c-s.conf...231.html

579-II http://a-c-s.conf...496.html

665 - III. http://a-c-s.conf...497.html

666-IV http://a-c-s.conf...498.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%u2013fungus 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 %u2013 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

EMAIL 1: edward@terrenum.net
EMAIL 2: edward.someus@gmail.com


October 28, 2008

U.S. Department of Agriculture to Evaluate CQuest%u2122 Biochar

Non-Funded Cooperative Agreement Signed

The objective of the biochar research is to quantify the effects of amending soils with CQuest%u2122 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.


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