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Biochar Soil

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  1. Biochar Increases Wheat Productivity (
      "BC application also has positive effects up to 30% on biomass production and yield, with no differences in grain nitrogen content. Moreover no significant differences between the two BC treatments were detected, suggesting that even very high BC application rates promote plant growth and are, certainly, not detrimental. The effect of the biochar on durum wheat was sustained for two consecutive seasons when BC application was not repeated in the second year." 02-16

  2. Biochar for Long-Term Carbon Sequestration (
      "Biochar is a type of charcoal produced by heating crop wastes, wood or other biomass in a simple kiln designed to limit the presence of oxygen. This process, known as pyrolysis, creates rather than consumes energy, as more combustible gases are released than are needed to heat up the kiln."

      "Biochar is made largely of carbon, which the crops or trees previously sucked out of the air in the form of CO2. Unlike crop wastes and wood, it's an extremely stable substance, which if mixed into soil will safely lock up its carbon content for hundreds or even thousands of years – a biological form of carbon capture and storage."

      "If biochar is mixed with poor-quality tropical soils, it has an important added benefit: it can significantly boost crop productivity, reduce nitrous oxide and methane emissions and improve soil structures." 08-09

  3. Biochar for Soil Improvment and Long-Term Carbon Sequestration (
      "Biochar offers a strong link between the three Rio conventions as it simultaneously addresses climate change, soil degradation and biodiversity." 05-09

  4. Biochar in Brief (
      "Biochar is created by slowly heating biomass (wood and other plant materials) in a low-oxygen environment, such as a kiln, until everything but the carbon is burned off and then putting it into the ground."

      "Adding biochar to just 10 percent of the world’s croplands would store 29 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This roughly equals the world’s annual greenhouse emissions." 10-13

  5. Time Lapse Photography of Plant Growth in Biochar-Amended Soil (
      Provides a 28-day time lapse photography. 02-15 08-09

  1. A Guide for Conducting Biochar Trials (
      "Biochar has been shown to benefit crop growth and yield, and is a promising material for use in agriculture. However, as is the case for any soil amendment, its efficacy must be shown in a variety of cropping systems, and at this time (2009) optimal application rates have yet to be determined. Also, many groups and individuals coming from a variety of backgrounds are interested in testing biochar. This is why the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) has produced this guide, to help those interested in testing biochar in soil to design and run sound experiments, the results of which can be used to draw strong conclusions and can be disseminated to a wide audience." 04-11

  2. Biochar Benefits (
      "Nitrous oxide is 270 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas and it lasts for 150 years in the atmosphere. Use of nitrogen fertilizers is a major source of the gas, and a difficult one to mitigate. But agrichar applied to fields seems to have a significant damping effect on nitrous oxide emissions."

      "Australia has some of the poorest soils in the world - 75 percent of Australia's soils have less than one percent carbon." 06-09

  3. Biochar Classification Tool (
      "The IBI Biochar Classification Tool—derived from the paper A biochar classification system and associated test methods1—classifies biochars based on a set of physicochemical properties (most of them tested for in the IBI Biochar Standards). At present, four biochar properties are classified:"

      "Carbon storage value"

      "Fertilizer value (P, K, S, and Mg only)"

      "Liming value"

      "Particle size distribution" 06-19

  4. Biochar Cooking Requirement (Science Daily)
      "Backyard gardeners who make their own charcoal soil additives, or biochar, should take care to heat their charcoal to at least 450 degrees Celsius to ensure that water and nutrients get to their plants, according to a new study by Rice University scientists." 05-12

  5. Biochar Increases Water Holding Capacity of Soil (
      " 'Each 1 percent increase in soil organic matter helps soil hold 20,000 gallons more water per acre.' " 05-17

  6. Biochar for Gardening (
      "When gardeners add biochar to garden soil, we are, in effect attempting to follow in the footsteps of the originators of Terra Preta. Because we don't know exactly how that process worked, nor how we can best adapt it outside its area of origin, we are left to discover much of this by experimenting with our own gardens and comparing observations within our own communities."

      " If you are satisfied with a very rough estimate, we would venture that a target application rate of 5 kg/m2 (1 lb/ft2) [of biochar] would be sufficient to achieve these results in most gardens. However, there are substantial benefits related to soil biology at rates well below 1 kg/m2." For temperature for burning biomass to make biochar, the author suggests "The theoretical high end [of temperature], between biochar and more traditional charcoal, depends on the process and feedstock used, but is seldom indicated in excess of 600 deg C. [or 1,112 Fahrenheit]." 05-09

  7. Biochar for Long-Term Carbon Sequestration (
      "Early results from Australian-first research at the Tamworth Agricultural Institute have found the use of bio-char has the potential to improve water use efficiency in pastures."

      " 'The initial results are pleasing and show the plots which incorporated bio-char, at a rate of ten tonnes per hectare together with fertilizer, were up to 17 per cent more water efficient than those without bio-char.' ” 06-11

  8. Biochar for Soil Productivity: How Much Biochar? ( research article found that an estimated 1.75 tons of biochar per acre yielded an average increase in crop productivity of 25 percent.

  9. Biochar for Soil Productivity: How Much Biochar? (" 'The average BioChar requires between 500 lbs and 1 ton per acre to be effective," states Amanda Knorr, Mantria`s Chief Operating Officer. "We`re thrilled to offer EternaGreen which with its high carbon yield is effective at only 25 to 50 lbs per acre.' "

  10. Biochar to Reduce Climate Change: Facts, Not Fiction (
      "We offer the following brief list of corrections to some common misunderstandings about biochar in an effort to support organizations like BiofuelWatch, Econexus, the and others in their efforts to help save forests, protect native peoples, and improve the environment." 08-10

  11. Biochar, Jobs, and Long-Term Carbon Storage (CNN News)
      "Day says biomass -- that otherwise would be thrown away --could be developed into entirely new markets for biofuels, electricity, biomass extracts and pharmaceutical applications, in addition to biochar."

      " 'We have 3 billion people out there who are at risk for climate change and they can be making money solving our global problem,' said Day."

      "Industries can now begin to look at farmers around the world and pay them for their agricultural wastes, said Day. 'They can become the new affluent.' " 05-09

  12. Biomass: Beyond the Hype (
      "The hype surrounding biochar as a climate change mitigation tool, soil amendment or power source is mesmerizing with promises of miraculous results. Too much talk and not much action, however, has raised doubts about its potential." 09-10

  13. Carbon Capture and Storage (
      "Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an approach to mitigating the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming, based on capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point sources such as fossil fuel power plants. It can also be used to describe the scrubbing of CO2 from ambient air as a geoengineering technique. The carbon dioxide can then be permanently stored away from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide capture and storage can also be used to describe biological techniques such as biochar burial, which use trees, plankton, etc. to capture CO2 from the air. However, it is more conventional to use the term 'carbon capture and storage' to describe non-biological processes." 03-09

  14. European Progress on Research in Using Biochar (
      Provides data for researchers. 06-13

  15. How Biochar Helps (CNN News)
      "Biochar helps clean the air two ways: by preventing rotting biomass from releasing harmful CO2 into the atmosphere, and by allowing plants to safely store CO2 they pull out of the air during photosynthesis." 05-09

  16. Pros and Cons of Biochar (PeaceMagazine)
      "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."

      "Four cautions must be borne in mind: firstly that making biochar on this scale by modern methods would require enormous investment in kilns in all agricultural areas of the globe." 05-09

  17. Rebuttal of Swedish Biochar Experiment (
      "...David Wardle of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences published the results of an experiment done within a ten-year period in Sweden. Wardle is an ecologist who stated simply that biochar is no way to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. How? In the ten-year controlled experiment whose results were acquired in 2006, Wardle and his team scattered hundreds of bags of mixed leaf litter and charcoal, pure charcoal, and pure natural leaf litter in various sites in Sweden. At the end of this experiment, they found out that the bag with the charcoal and leaf litter mixture had shrunk and lost the carbon content within the first 2 years."

      "In Wardle's experiment, as a matter of fact, the bags of leaf litter and charcoal were NOT buried in the soil. This is probably their biggest mistake. Supporters of biochar argue that in order for biochar to be effective in preventing the release of more CO2 in the atmosphere, IT HAS TO BE BURIED IN THE SOIL, NOT KEPT IN BAGS AND SCATTERED ON THE TOP OF THE SOIL. The key is to trap the CO2 inside the earth instead of emitting it forcefully in the atmosphere, just like energy plants do when burning fossil fuels." 03-12

  18. Requirements for Biochar Production (
      "When the possibility of USDA/Rural Development funding for fabrication of a farm-scale retort (an Adam-Retort fabricated by New England Biochar, LLC) presented itself, NESFI requested that MassDEP provide formal guidance on pyrolysis system requirements. The result was the “MassDEP Interim Requirements for the Installation and Operation of Biochar/Charcoal Production Units,” a document approved and signed by Assistant Commissioner James Coleman on 11/30/2010. Essentially an expanded articulation of the May 2010 communication, the document specifies thresholds for energy input (expressed in MMBtu/hour) and air contaminant emissions – sufficient to enable design and fabrication of a farm-scale retort (Adam-Retort) that can meet MassDEP regulatory concerns."

      "Throughout the process, it has become apparent that communication between MassDEP and the NESFI/PVBI has proven pivotal in achieving an interim regulatory framework. The value of this achievement is that all parties now posses a clear understanding of what is allowed, what is not allowed, and which regulations apply to a variety of scales of biochar production equipment. Notably, the November 2010 document issued by MassDEP contains specific references for determining the thresholds for compliance on the air emission limitations without resorting to cost-prohibitive stack testing of individual devices."

      "Based on the experiences of the group in New England, it is recommended that if you are operating a pyrolysis unit anywhere in the United States and have questions regarding your area's environmental requirements in regard to biochar production/utilization, you should contact the local Department of Environmental Protection for more information. It may be that your local DEP will also be starting this process from a zero baseline, as in Massachusetts, but by working with your DEP you can help to foster a positive dialogue and lay the groundwork for additional adoption and uptake of relevant guidance in other states." 04-11

  19. Soil for Life (
      "Soil is becoming endangered, and this reality needs to be part of our collective awareness in order to feed nine billion people by 2050, say experts meeting in Reykjavík."

      " 'Keeping and putting carbon in its rightful place,' needs to be the mantra for humanity if we want to continue to eat, drink and combat global warming, concluded 200 researchers from more than 30 countries."

      "In the past 40 years, 30 percent of the planet's arable (food-producing) land has become unproductive due to erosion. Unless this trend is reversed soon, feeding the world's growing population will be impossible." 06-13

  20. Tools to Match Biochar with Soils (
      Provides the PNW Biochar Atlas that includes the following tools: "Soils Data Explorer - Explore soils data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to decide whether biochar can help you."

      "Biochar Property Explorer - This tool shows the agricultural properties of different biochars made from feedstocks common to the Pacific Northwest. Explore the data to see how feedstock and production conditions impact biochar properties."

      "Biochar Selection Tool - This tool guides users to assess their soil needs, select the most appropriate type of biochar, and establish an appropriate amendment rate."

      "Cost Benefit Analysis Tool - This tool guides users through a cost-benefit analysis to assess whether biochar could be a good investment." 06-19

  1. Using Charcoal Dust (
      "The dust is brought to the factory which is on the outskirts of Nairobi. Here, 70 employees grind the dust with coffee, rice husks and sawdust into a mix to form the briquettes that burn longer. They are also said to be cleaner than charcoal, are smoke, smell and spark free. This helps conserve the trees."

      "Also, when applied to the soil, charcoal dust repels ants. Some farmers use charcoal dust to keep the ants, and especially termites away from their mud and stick structures. This is by putting a layer of charcoal dust around the structure." 07-09

  1. How Much Biochar to Use (
      "Researchers and their interns used precious hours of sunshine this week as the Rodale Institute kicked off its exploration of biochar as a carbon-sequestering practice, applying at the rate of 5,000 pounds per to selected plots. By charring biomass (say nitrogen-fixing trees) under controlled conditions (pyrolysis), farms could generate power by capturing released syngas while transforming half of the incoming carbon into the super-stable charcoal form. The application rate was chosen for study because it’s an order of magnitude (10 times) greater than carbon sequestered (per acre per year) by a good cover crop stand." 06-09


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