Friday, August 31, 2012

Grassland Biochar Surprise

 The surprise here is that grassland soils retain elemental carbon or close enough equivalent to forty percent of total organic carbon in the grassland soils of the USA. That is very good news. Recall however that these original grasslands held many times as much carbon as grasslands than they do at present. Thus the terra preta effect is also a result of natural concentration caused by the conversion to annual cropping.

The take home though is that many other soils will retain residual carbon in this form and we need to measure for it.

In fact, it may well be a key fertility determinant that has to date been overlooked.

In time, I anticipate all working soils will be augmented on a regular basis with the direct intent of optimizing fertility in general and outright eliminating any need for chemical augmentation whatsoever.

I have also pointed out that char allows us to manufacture soils anywhere we can find water or produce atmospheric water.

Abundant and Stable Char Residues in Soils: Implications for Soil Fertility and Carbon Sequestration


Large-scale soil application of biochar may enhance soil fertility, increasing crop production for the growing human population, while also sequestering atmospheric carbon. But reaching these beneficial outcomes requires an understanding of the relationships among biochar’s structure, stability, and contribution to soil fertility. Using quantitative 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, we show that Terra Preta soils (fertile anthropogenic dark earths in Amazonia that were enriched with char >800 years ago) consist predominantly of char residues composed of 6 fused aromatic rings substituted by COO– groups that significantly increase the soils’ cation-exchange capacity and thus the retention of plant nutrients. We also show that highly productive, grassland-derived soils in the U.S. (Mollisols) contain char (generated by presettlement fires) that is structurally comparable to char in the Terra Preta soils and much more abundant than previously thought ( 40–50% of organic C). Our findings indicate that these oxidized char residues represent a particularly stable, abundant, and fertility-enhancing form of soil organic matter. 

1 comment:

Erich J. Knight said...

I landed the opening speakers slot at the third US Biochar conference, 2012 Sonoma Biochar Conference 2012 US Biochar Conference | Building Soil - Redirecting Carbon

My talk and slides are actually listed as the closing session, with no projector at the outdoor opening ceremony.
"Carbon Conservation for Home, Health, Energy & Climate"

If you are tantalized by the Biochar platform for biofuels, the cutting edge Big dog, Elephant in the room, at the Sonoma Biochar conference was CoolPlanet Energy Systems. In a nutshell, they have such control over carbon bonding in their thermal conversion process, they can squeeze out 75 gallons of bio- gasoline and 1/3 ton of Biochar from one ton of biomass. Their tag line; "The more you Drive… The Cleaner the Atmosphere". They state their production cost at $1.25/gallon, they turn a dial and can produce $2/gallon jet fuel. I can hear you saying this is too good to be true, however Google, GE, BP and Conoco believe it is true.
CoolPlanet Biofuel's CEO Explains his energy cycle:

This all leaves me very optimistic, for the CEO and Google share the same ethos, farm scale skid mounted reactors will be the first to production next year. This farmer friendly, scalable reactor, they plan to deploy at the village scale in the Third World and at the farmer scale here.

I believe this technology will allow the American public to have their carbon free energy lunch without paying a premium for it.


Erich J. Knight
Shenandoah Gardens
1047 Dave Berry Rd. McGaheysville, VA. 22840