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Author Topic: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice  (Read 42635 times)

Bruce Steele

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #50 on: February 03, 2019, 04:55:44 PM »
Neven, I know bio char doesn't belong on the Mauna Loa CO2 thread. It is so easy to get off subject,my apologies.
 After rereading the old thread I have a few comments.
 I think Wili is correct and collection of feedstock needs to utilize equipment that doesn't negate any positive carbon sequestration effects with more fossil fuel emissions. One of the reasons I am planning on building a little bio char plant is to use the extra heat to render fat for making biodiesel. The biofuel will fuel the tractor for collection of feedstock, distribution and incorporation into the soil, and chipping wood . I am also interested in methanol from wood gas but I need to figure out how to do that without blowing myself up. I would also like to capture exhaust heat to heat a mass of rocks with some sort of radiator to help heat my house.
Another angle for me is to utilize pig waste added to the new bio char to both help age / biologically activate the char before burial and use extra nitrogen in the pig waste so it doesn't leach away unused.
I have sandy soil that tends toward alkali so lowering pH is probably benifitial and easy to monitor. I have land that is natural pasture I don't currently use that needs more nutrients and would make a good place to sink carbon.
 So there are multiple things I am trying to do to utilize extra heat in the pyrolysis process as well as deal with pig waste, improve pasture, and potentially synthesize methanol for biodiesel production.
 I have always put a winter cover crop on the land I use for my gardens and I will probably stick with cover crops and compost additions for that area. Building enough compost to cover more than my garden areas utilizing farm produced feedstocks however is just too difficult. I hope bio char and pig waste can serve multiple purposes but I don't trust or use pig waste in any garden areas. Pastures yes, gardens no.
 The garden is now over two acres with a two foot stand of peas, fava, and oats. I haven't used any fossil fuel there in three years. Not for fertilizer, tractor fuel or irrigation. It is time to plow in the cover crop and get to planting . We got about eight inches of rain over the last couple weeks so I am as happy as a pig in ....
 

wili

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #51 on: February 03, 2019, 05:01:29 PM »
I gotta ask, Bruce, does your place just smell like bacon all the time? :)

And if you give it enough time, composted pig manure should be fine on anything. It can't be more dangerous the humanure, can it? And I assume you are familiar with that book/concept? But maybe that would require using too much space for too long?
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

Bruce Steele

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #52 on: February 03, 2019, 05:42:57 PM »
Wili, Good to see you survived the deep freeze! 
In order to run a farm you have to carry a farm insurance policy . Mine got cancelled a couple years ago because the insurance carrier found out I was selling both pigs and vegetables from the same farm. It became obvious I wasn't going to get another carrier unless I chose one or the other, pigs or vegetables . I chose pigs . I can still grow vegetables but I can no longer sell them .
 I am pushing what is legal I am sure by producing biofuel or building a bio char plant. Running a still for methanol would undoubtably terrify anyone of authority. Human waste goes into a septic system and nobody seems ready to broach the notion that we should compost the stuff . A bridge too far although humorous.
 I can grow Cannibus as a feedstock for compost but I have to pay over a thousand dollars a year for permits and pay to show it doesn't have any THC in it. I can raise pigs without much oversight but I have to get my wells checked for nitrates if I grow vegetables. I live in an upside down world and trying to do the right thing is the quickest way to irritate the authorities. Sidd could better fill us in on permits and hassles of bio production . If I tried to sell the stuff I'd really be screwed !
 My bio char plant will have to double as some sort of barbecue pit to skate regulation. I have to make my own fat for bio to avoid the nutty regulations it takes to collect resturant grease. I can't sell organic vegetables produced without fossil fuel and have insurance . I can't grow a useless ( not really useless) weed without userous permitting.
 Good morning from the other side. I think I have already polluted the bio char thread.
 
   

« Last Edit: February 03, 2019, 07:23:31 PM by Bruce Steele »

dbarce

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #53 on: February 05, 2019, 09:39:19 PM »
It is time to plow in the cover crop and get to planting .

sorry for the non-biochar question in advance, but how are you planning to plow in the cover crop without using fossil fuels?

Bruce Steele

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #54 on: February 05, 2019, 11:51:37 PM »
dbarce, I render lard , convert it to biodiesel , and run my tractors on my homemade fuel.
Technically not totally fossil fuel free yet because I buy barley for the pigs and there is embedded fossil fuel in the purchased feed. I am confident however that I could feed the pigs without purchased food if I only kept a few pigs rather than trying to make a living as a pig farmer. Making money is always a trick without fossil fuel consumption.
 Any carbon I might be able to sink on my farm from feedstocks for compost and cover crops I produce without fossil fuel should be potentially negative carbon. Bio char should contribute to long term soil carbon content furthering potential negative carbon goals.
A question for you dbarce, do you know any examples of anyone sinking more carbon than they consume ?
 

sidd

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #55 on: February 06, 2019, 06:38:18 AM »
Re: "little bio char plant is to use the extra heat to render fat"

process heat is interesting. i am using solar hotwater collectors to preheat biod feedstock and then burning some feedstock to get to temperature. (need to adjust the burners on the furnace ... not the same as for fuel oil or for biod.) If the restaurants didnt like the glycerine soap so much, i might burn the glycerine too. What do you do with the glycerine that comes out the bioD processing ?

Re: "methanol from wood gas"

yeehaa, explosion proof everything, all switches, pumps, exhaust fans, breakers ... might wanna invest in nonsparking tools. Also, as Mr. Steele knows, in addition to explosion risk, methanol makes you blind, mad, dead in that order.

Re: capture exhaust heat

this is trickier that it sounds. if you capturing it under the house, be real careful of leaks into the house. better do outside, then heat water as xfer fluid for water based home heat. also there are issues with cooling the exhaust too much and doing bad things to the combustion chamber and flue.

Re: "regulations it takes to collect resturant grease"

not too onerous as far as i see. Need the right tanks. Amish welder puts em together for me, with the heating tube and float gauge and sight glass and all, or you can buy em from that outfit in indiana. Trucking costs are a bitch tho, unless you buy a trailer load, but mostly cheaper to weld em up yourself. Tanks got to be in the right locations, permitted, but that's the restaurants problem. Bigger problem is smalltown law enforcement slapping tickets on everything they dont like. Cost of doin business. Eventually, hopefully, you get to know them and work out a modus vivendi. Or else pull out of the territory. In couple cases we actually got restaurant owners trucking used oil to us rather than deal with local enforcement issues.

Re: cannabis for compost

hell with that. cannabis for compost ?! if i growed cannabis, i'd smoke it. just like growing crops for ethanol for transport fuel is crazy, if i make ethanol i intend to drink it. your mileage may vary.

Re: no farm insurance

Ouch. Ouch. OUCH. I couldn't live like that.

Also Mr. Steele, i take it you are zoned ag ? do you really need a permit for biochar pit ? Ifso i guess CA is really a different country.

sidd

« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 06:57:49 AM by sidd »

sidd

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #56 on: February 06, 2019, 07:27:11 AM »

Martin Gisser

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #57 on: February 06, 2019, 08:31:40 PM »
So I rediscovered this thread once more :)

Meanwhile I've moved into an old crumbling farm house here in Bavaria. The polar opposite to a modern insulated house like Neven's. Most of the house currently (winter) is a huge walk-in fridge. My bedroom upstairs has 2°C (36F) right now.

Heating and cooking with wood: some axed myself, some commercial compressed saw dust.

Now I can produce nontrivial amounts of biochar while using the energy. I've got a barrel full at the moment, could be 5, but I'm lazy and the old oven is not yet optimized: I just put out the grate (which is for stupid coal burning) and replaced it with a fireclay plate, so I can harvest glowing embers. Requires some skill to avoid mess when quenching the embers in water.  Luckily the chimney sweeper saw no problem with this change - usually you are not allowed to modify an oven, or even build your own serious one.

The char barrel has a little hole at the bottom and I use it to filter my urine. This saves a lot of water - peeing into a stupid flush toilet is a ridiculous abomination. In summer I'll mix it into the compost. The saw dust gives very fine char, so the pore space between the bigger chunks from the wood is filled - else the filter barrel wouldn't work.

I'm still developing my "carbon negative" household procedures. Then I might do a video, because the details a hard to explain in writing.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 08:44:45 PM by Martin Gisser »

sidd

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #58 on: February 06, 2019, 10:19:03 PM »
Re: filter urine thru char then compost

beautiful. I need to talk to my neighbours about this idea, mix in char with the hay bedding under the animals, find out if it will hurt livestock.

Thanks for the tip, Mr. Gisser.

sidd

dbarce

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #59 on: February 06, 2019, 11:47:05 PM »

bruce, after reading your post history in more detail, I truely find your approach laudable, and it sounds like the right way to go towards a carbon negative life. Would be super interesting to get some numbers on how much C you are sinking. The processes you describe do sound complicated to a layman. Or are they not? Do you know of others doing this with pigs?

A question for you dbarce, do you know any examples of anyone sinking more carbon than they consume ?

I've thought long and hard about this. The answer is a negative thus far. On a Carbon Atom by Carbon Atom basis there are always hidden carbon costs (like your barley, or the C used to build the tractor).

IMO the best theoretical path to achieving this goal is to reduce C consumption to a minimum. An extreme case I have met in person was a very isolated hunter gatherer tribe in southern sudan. Their C consumption was low (as far as I can think, only the wood used for fire). I am very aware that voluntarily turning society back to the paleolithic is improbable. But if we want to get serious about our predicament, at the very least 'making money' has to disappear as a priority. Do I see it happening? Nay.




Martin Gisser

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #60 on: February 07, 2019, 01:12:00 AM »
Re: filter urine thru char then compost

beautiful. I need to talk to my neighbours about this idea, mix in char with the hay bedding under the animals, find out if it will hurt livestock.

Thanks for the tip, Mr. Gisser.

sidd
Actually I'm not yet sure how long it will work.
Started last week only. It is a mixture of anaerobic biological and chemical: Top layer is old Terra Preta and a little pond sludge. Then comes washed-out char. Bottom is highly alkaline (pH10+, test strips maxed out) where I haven't washed out the ashes much.
On the lid there's a funnel with a ping pong ball to close against smell. (The pingpong ball in funnel is quite amazing and counterintuitive. Works only when barrel is filled and airtight. Else the ball blocks. (Nice kitchen sink experiment: A world class theoretical physicist predicted it wrong.))

The barrel inside I smeared with clay, because the sides can serve a shortcut for the waters and the alkaline can corrode the barrel's plastic.

The char should sink in water. What doesn't sink gets boiled 2x (no extra energy as the oven runs anyway for heating.) Then it sinks down.

----------
P.S.: The fireclay plate I mentioned above can (and almost surely will) crack. Just put a log of ice cold wood on the hot thing. It is supported from below with a brick and stuff, where the ash tray was before. This also keeps it hot. Front and back I left some opening for primary and secondary air. Know what you do before tinkering the oven.
The whole modification is already worth it for the reduced ashes.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2019, 02:19:18 AM by Martin Gisser »

Villabolo

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #61 on: July 22, 2019, 01:30:44 AM »
Here's a question I posed on the 'stupid' thread...

Is it possible to produce bio char in a repurposed coal power-plant?

TerryM

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #62 on: July 22, 2019, 02:04:49 AM »
Here's a question I posed on the 'stupid' thread...

Is it possible to produce bio char in a repurposed coal power-plant?


How many forests/week would it require just to fire up one of those behemoths?
I've crawled through a number of "Bee Hive Kilns" constructed to provide charcoal for mines in Nevada and it's my understanding that they stripped many old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to feed these tiny by comparison charcoal kilns.


Letting trees live and sequestering what carbon they can, for as long as they can seems preferable to burning them for any purpose. If scavenging already dead trees is the plan I'm all for it - but the energy expended in removing only the dead trees is going to be substantial.
Terry

Villabolo

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #63 on: July 22, 2019, 02:49:50 AM »
Here's a question I posed on the 'stupid' thread...

Is it possible to produce bio char in a repurposed coal power-plant?


How many forests/week would it require just to fire up one of those behemoths?
I've crawled through a number of "Bee Hive Kilns" constructed to provide charcoal for mines in Nevada and it's my understanding that they stripped many old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to feed these tiny by comparison charcoal kilns.


Letting trees live and sequestering what carbon they can, for as long as they can seems preferable to burning them for any purpose. If scavenging already dead trees is the plan I'm all for it - but the energy expended in removing only the dead trees is going to be substantial.
Terry

I see your point Terry, but I was wondering whether coal can be transformed into bio-char. My apologies if that is not possible.

TerryM

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #64 on: July 22, 2019, 04:47:35 AM »
Here's a question I posed on the 'stupid' thread...

Is it possible to produce bio char in a repurposed coal power-plant?


How many forests/week would it require just to fire up one of those behemoths?
I've crawled through a number of "Bee Hive Kilns" constructed to provide charcoal for mines in Nevada and it's my understanding that they stripped many old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to feed these tiny by comparison charcoal kilns.


Letting trees live and sequestering what carbon they can, for as long as they can seems preferable to burning them for any purpose. If scavenging already dead trees is the plan I'm all for it - but the energy expended in removing only the dead trees is going to be substantial.
Terry

I see your point Terry, but I was wondering whether coal can be transformed into bio-char. My apologies if that is not possible.
My mistake - I assumed you were asking about the possibility of burning wood in a repurposed coal burning facility.
AFAIK coal can not be transformed into bio-char - but this is far from any expertise that I may have.


Sorry for my misinterpretation.
Terry

etienne

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #65 on: July 28, 2019, 09:42:31 AM »
Hello,
Just one out of topic question regarding to what had been discussed above. What is the need to filter urine before putting it on the compost? I always hear that you could simply go to the compost and let it out.

Also an out of topic comment about using canabis for the compost. I believe that there are other plants that grow fast and can be used . I will try comfrey next year, but there is also miscanthus, alfalfa, mustard, nettles... that can be used. I am not a spcialist, but I'm sure that it is possible to find something producing high volume of biomaterial that is legaly easier to handle. Of course canabis becoming legal everywhere, it could be a good thing to gather some exeriences. Please don't believe I agree with this evolution. As a father of two teenagers, I'd be happy to just say that it is bad and illegal.

be cause

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #66 on: July 28, 2019, 10:38:56 AM »
.. while I as a 'user' for over 40 years would be happy to tell them the health benefits .. reduced cancer risk , healthy liver . prevention of symptoms of many illnesses , pain relief without addiction and endless other bodily and spiritual benfits . Learn the truth about cannabis and you will want some yourself .. b.c.
2007 + 5 = 2012 + 4 = 2016 + 3 = 2019 ...

El Cid

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #67 on: July 28, 2019, 12:33:51 PM »
Hello,
Just one out of topic question regarding to what had been discussed above. What is the need to filter urine before putting it on the compost? I always hear that you could simply go to the compost and let it out.



Urine is sterile (and perfectly safe unless you take drugs) unlike faeces, and it will not cause any problems on the compost heap - unlike faeces. The only "problem" is that it contains lots of nitrogen, that is why you should not put it directly on plants. If you dilute it at least 1:5 with water it is great to water plants - a much better use than putting it on the compost heap which does not need it anyway, unless you put many "high-carbon" materials like dried leaves on it).

Also, you can get a bale of hay or a heap of woodchips or leaves even, keep pissing on it and pretty soon you will have the perfect compost (as wood has a high carbon ration relative to nitrogen, and urine adds the necessary nitrogen for the microbes to break it down).


Bruce Steele

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #68 on: July 28, 2019, 06:04:55 PM »
El Cid , Feedstock for compost is an issue around here. Dry Mediterranean climates don't produce lots of grass, alfalfa or green leafy compost that supplies nitrogen for your compost pile. We tend to get woody mulch and without lots of green waste you need to add some form of nitrogen to get compost to cook up to temperatures that kill weed seeds and pathogens. Without abundant grass we also don't have a dairy industry nearby so manure sources are also hard to come by. Coppiced wood lots use fast growing trees that need lots of water so not an option either.
 Tillage and long dry seasons make sinking carbon in soil a difficult task. Pastures can be composted with some good effects at sinking carbon  but the gains are reversed if the ground is plowed. I am not opposed to using animals for human food if the protein can be produced at carbon costs similar to those achieved by growing plants. I think the idea of a crop like hemp that can supply both seeds for animal feed and lots of plant material for composting may have some benefits but it requires cultivation. There might be a way to remove the plant material and compost it and then use a seed drill to replant without tillage. Trying to figure out how to move around tons and tons of compost or compost feedstocks requires heavy equipment and unless you can produce biodiesel to run everything you are not going to make much headway in sinking carbon. At a small scale, garden size , you can do much of the work by hand and ultimately that is probably the only solution , go small, do lots of labor by hand and forget making a living/ making money. How that feeds all the city people I have no idea.

TerryM

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #69 on: July 28, 2019, 07:25:49 PM »
El Cid , Feedstock for compost is an issue around here. Dry Mediterranean climates don't produce lots of grass, alfalfa or green leafy compost that supplies nitrogen for your compost pile. We tend to get woody mulch and without lots of green waste you need to add some form of nitrogen to get compost to cook up to temperatures that kill weed seeds and pathogens. Without abundant grass we also don't have a dairy industry nearby so manure sources are also hard to come by. Coppiced wood lots use fast growing trees that need lots of water so not an option either.
 Tillage and long dry seasons make sinking carbon in soil a difficult task. Pastures can be composted with some good effects at sinking carbon  but the gains are reversed if the ground is plowed. I am not opposed to using animals for human food if the protein can be produced at carbon costs similar to those achieved by growing plants. I think the idea of a crop like hemp that can supply both seeds for animal feed and lots of plant material for composting may have some benefits but it requires cultivation. There might be a way to remove the plant material and compost it and then use a seed drill to replant without tillage. Trying to figure out how to move around tons and tons of compost or compost feedstocks requires heavy equipment and unless you can produce biodiesel to run everything you are not going to make much headway in sinking carbon. At a small scale, garden size , you can do much of the work by hand and ultimately that is probably the only solution , go small, do lots of labor by hand and forget making a living/ making money. How that feeds all the city people I have no idea.
How long before long pig appears on the menu - at least as feed for our porcine companions?
Will we be feeding city people, or feeding on city people?


Sorry if the above is too gruesome to speak of, but in every major disaster/famine that I'm aware of nothing much was left out of the cooking pot.
Terry

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #70 on: July 28, 2019, 07:45:23 PM »
Bruce,

I am certainly talking about garden-scale here. With lots of woody materials, your own urine is the best solution at this scale to produce compost.
Also, let's not forget that currently only 1-2% of the population works in agriculture and I do not see why that could not be say 5 or even 10%. Lots of small market gardens around cities are ideal for fresh produce (greens, rootveg, tomato, berries etc). And these farms can be tremendously productive, managing 2-3 crops per year using not much else than a glasshouse (for growing transplants), compost (some of it made on site) and human labour. As the demand for local, organic food grows this seems viable to me.
As for your Mediterranean-type of climate I have no experience, as I live in a temperate zone (getting closer to subtropical thanks to AGW), with even distribution of rain (500-600-700 mm/yr), and winter lows of cca -10 to -15 C, summer average daily highs of 25-30 C. So my experiences are with this setting. But growing for example a sunnhemp-sudangrass mix could work even at your climate I suspect. Or maybe not. Some people started to use this as a cover crop here after wheat harvest as it creates huge yield and "grows" its own nitrogen and does not need much rain either. At least that is what they say

Bruce Steele

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #71 on: July 28, 2019, 08:51:19 PM »
El Cid, I remember my first morning in Hungary . Jet lag had me up early wandering the mostly empty streets of Eger. I followed an  elderly woman carrying a large basket of apricots as she walked to sell them at the morning vegetable market downtown. A local vegetable market was the center of activity at that hour and the customers could walk there to buy what they needed.
 I have seen and experienced very similar mercados in Mazatlan and Tepic Mexico. Vegetables, fruit local food, in season , fresh and aromas unique to each market and each season. A farmers market around here involve farmers that likely travel one hundred miles to sell their produce and zero locals selling the excess of what their orchard or garden might produce from their home garden efforts. As far as carbon or fuel use goes I don't think selling fresh produce in the city of LA is ever going to be local or low carbon. The distance of moving food into cities means farmers markets are not local in many population centers around the world.
 How small farmers can grow food, cut emissions to near zero , sink carbon, service distant markets, and pay their bills is a conundrum I have never figured out. I believe you could do all those things at a small scale but distance is a deal breaker.   
 

wili

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #72 on: July 28, 2019, 09:00:50 PM »
Bruce wrote: "Trying to figure out how to move around tons and tons of compost or compost feedstocks requires heavy equipment and unless you can produce biodiesel ..."

Or until you can figure out how to use your acorn-fed pigs as draft animals to pull cartloads full of silage??  :)
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #73 on: July 28, 2019, 09:07:02 PM »
Bruce,

I heard about a couple of smaller scale ( a few acres) market gardens who seem to have figured it out. I've never visited them but saw a couple of videos with them for example:

http://www.singingfrogsfarm.com/our-farming-model.html

El Cid

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #74 on: July 28, 2019, 09:12:13 PM »
Besides, it also would not be so bad if many people transformed at least a few square meters of their lawn into a veg garden using their own homegrown compost. Huge amounts of food can be grown in a small area if you have big compost beds. Eg. Last year I dug up something like 13 kgs of sweet potatoes from cca 2m2 (and I have never grown them before and did nothing with them other than plant 'em - just experimenting with it). Same amount of carrots (cca 6-7 kg /m2 with basically zero input), not to talk about salads greens which can be grown on 1-5 m2 for the whole family. So have hope!!!

:)

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #75 on: July 28, 2019, 09:20:08 PM »
Having dealt with this idea of using biochar for a decade, I decided some years ago to actually do my own experiments. A loadful of bonfire charcoal and a bag of - very expensive - organic charcoal went through my compost bin two years in a row.

Every year, I noticed that eathworms disappeared as soon as the "organic" and nutrient-enriched charcoal had been buried in the soil. I don't blame the worms. In real life, the smell of burnt material should scare away any sensible earthworm destined to survive on green surface litter. It simply does not make sense for an earthworm to stay below a burned piece of land. However, over the past couple of years I had all sorts of worries about poisening myself and my family with PAHs and even worse carcinogens through the vegetables we eat from the garden.

Finally, last year and this spring in particular, the earthworms had returned in greater numbers, and since spring came early this year (first sowing in greenhouse mid-Feb), I decided to plan for two crops this summer. Everything has grown according to plan, despite some severe drought periods since Apr.

Currently, potatoes, carrots, peas, beens and courgettes are eaten every day with great pleasure. When I dig out my half-a-pound potatoes, I even reckognize my old charcoal fragments, as I turn the soil.

So, from a personal experience, I would recommend to use charcoal as much as you possibly can. Put it through the compost bin, piss on it if you like, bury it in strips, so the earthworms will have a refuge in the strips in between, and just wait for the bumper crops to appear after some  years of drought and flooding.

Bruce Steele

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #76 on: July 28, 2019, 10:15:39 PM »
Singingfrogfarm is beautiful and productive and if every small farmer had access to free compost that a local municipality donated it would be a good model. The carbon cost of the green waste that the city collects probably exceeds the amount you could ever sink. I think carbon neutral means keeping track of all the inputs. That is why doing it on your own land means cover cropping , composting, and maybe some bio char . Manure is important IMO. Buying lots of supplements is usually an indication of bigger problems.
 P-Maker.   Thanks for the tip about placing bio char in strips.

El Cid

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #77 on: July 29, 2019, 08:00:51 AM »
Back to topic:

I have never seen any use of biochar. I guess that in easily dissolving tropical soils it is very useful to stabilize them and keep the nutrients for centuries, but in much more stable temperate zone soils, compost is a much easier and useful solution. Biochar is too much hassle with no added use beyond what good compost gives you. I think biochar is not for the midlatitudes.

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #78 on: July 29, 2019, 03:19:54 PM »
We won't kill you, but isn't the idea of biochar also to store carbon?
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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #79 on: July 29, 2019, 04:12:19 PM »
As far as I understand biochar, its main "sellingpoint" is very long term storage of carbon and its stability-it degrades very slowly. However, it takes very much work and very much energy to create biochar. is it worth it? It is much easier and energyefficient eg to mulch with a thick layer of woodchips, to put compost on top of the soil, or covercropping/soilregeneration/regenerativeag on a larger scale in most environments and gets the same or better results. I think biochar has no advantage but many disadvantages in the midlatitudes. In a rainforest-climate (Amazonas Basin) where soils lose their nutrients very quickly due to continuous leaching, the above solutions might not be enough and biochar might be better it seems exactly because of its extreme stability. But I think it is a special situation with huge amounts of rain and heat all year.

Bruce Steele

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #80 on: July 29, 2019, 07:25:36 PM »
I would agree that compost is the easiest and also the heathiest option for plant growth and health. The plant growth also means extra root production and surface carbon moved to depth but much of that carbon is in the form of simple sugars that are rapidly consumed by fungi, bacteria, a viruses. Some polysaccharides , humic acid and fulvic acids produced by plants are semi labile and consumed at a much slower pace but charcoal from pyrolysis is very stable and will last a very long time buried in the soil.
 Compost and carbon transfer by plants must be constantly be renewed or it's benefits diminish over time and almost all the sunk carbon moves back into the atmosphere. So I think some addition of bio char can much improve the timeframes of carbon retention in soil . Maybe a pain in the ass but there is no reason to let that stop you.
 I need heat to render fat for bio fuel production. There is no good reason that heat couldn't be supplied with bio-char as a by product, it is just a way of burning wood with minimum oxygen supplied.

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #81 on: July 29, 2019, 07:54:39 PM »
WRT the energy required to generate biochar.  It turns out that by providing a continual supply of agricultural and forestry waste streams the biochar manufacturing facility could also be used to generate electricity.  In this system the exhaust stream is still hot enough to catalyze the incoming material, causing degasification with those gasses captured and used to further drive the electric turbine. 


Even after the exhaust is used to char the incoming material it's heat could then be used for space heating in cold weather climates (or thermal storage for nighttime use).


This process is seen to be profitable under a very low carbon price.


The use of biochar is not a permanent storage system but rather one that slows the process of release to the atmosphere from land-use sources.  However, if applied to wholescale agricultural practices thin increased health of the soil biome would effectively sequester more carbon than is currently being released to the atmosphere each year from all anthropogenic sources.


This would require the global ban of the use of all penetrating herbicides, like glyphosate.
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El Cid

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #82 on: July 30, 2019, 03:42:49 PM »
I understand what both of you say but I can not conceive that it could be done on such a large scale that it would matter for the planet. Reforestration/soilhealth practices seem doable on a planetary scale but biochar? How many million tons would need to be produced?

And what Bruce wrote above: yes, once you added the chips/compost etc, you need to grow things continously, keep the soil covered, keep photosynthetizng, etc to keep the carbon in the system. But that is not a problem, that is what regenerative ag is all about, isnt it?

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #83 on: July 30, 2019, 05:02:46 PM »
1Gt/y of biochar seems realistic. Plus there is synergistic organic soil carbon accumulation - if done right (pre-load with nutrients from overflowing CAFO manure pools). That can make quite a dent.

Especially when the wood comes from dying forests that would otherwise dissolve into CO2.

Here in Bavaria we now have German Waldsterben 2.0. Not only spruce are dying, even beech getting sick from drought and heat. Right on the hill behind my house. :( Wood prices now are so low that local farmers with forest can no longer make money from their necessary work in the woods. Another nail in the coffin.

So, there is also straight-forward agro-economical reason that calls for biochar producing wood gas power plants. Alas, even German technocrats don't yet get it.

https://www.zeit.de/wissen/umwelt/2019-07/klimawandel-waldsterben-milliardenschaeden-wiederaufforstung
« Last Edit: July 30, 2019, 05:09:31 PM by Florifulgurator »
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El Cid

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #84 on: July 31, 2019, 08:30:08 PM »
As for your German forests: we have much less rain than you and still have nice beech-oak forests so I do not believe that the lack of precipitation is the problem. As for spruce: both in Germany and Austria huge monocultures were planted that are prone to all kinds of sicknesses. If you plant monocultures instead of biodivers forests, do not be surprised that they get sick by the first sign of trouble. Any trouble

Florifulgurator

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #85 on: September 28, 2019, 08:36:47 PM »
As for your German forests: we have much less rain than you and still have nice beech-oak forests so I do not believe that the lack of precipitation is the problem.
Our forests were used to some more precipitation. Another factor seems the lack of water holding soil due to long-term non-sustainable forestry. (Despite the concept of Sustainability coming from historic German forestry. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09505431.2010.519866 )

Quote
As for spruce: both in Germany and Austria huge monocultures were planted that are prone to all kinds of sicknesses. If you plant monocultures instead of biodivers forests, do not be surprised that they get sick by the first sign of trouble. Any trouble
Plus, spruce is actually an alpine tree. Its natural habitat is not Lower Bavaria. Foresters have told it 15 years ago already that Lower Bavarian spruce is going to die off. Now here we are.

Still also the deep rooting trees are struggling at many places. Around my place there are patches of dying larch, pine, beech trees.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2019, 04:36:25 AM by Florifulgurator »
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El Cid

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #86 on: September 28, 2019, 09:04:06 PM »

Our forests were used to some more precipitation. Another factor seems the lack of water holding soil due to long-term non-sustainable forestry.

I can totally agree with both points. The water-holding capacity of forests is key though. Increase carbon in any soil (pasture, cropland or forest) and you will have much more drought-resistent plants.

Coppice with standards was a pretty sustainable practice for millenia (since 4-6000 BC in Europe!). Maybe we should return to it where we can

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #87 on: November 29, 2019, 02:40:08 PM »
"This dark material: the black alchemy that can arrest carbon emissions "

"While scientific research has established the benefits of biochar in theory, deploying it in a way that makes a real difference is a challenge. One of its most obvious uses is in tree planting, which is poised to become a major activity in the UK over the coming years.
...
 Dr Saran Sohi leads the UK Biochar Research Centre in Edinburgh which is injecting biochar made from forestry residue such as bark around tree roots as part of a tree-planting project near Loch Ness. “It really does seem to offer some quite marked benefits in terms of tree health, early stage growth and nutrient management,” says Sohi. “Turning this particular part of the tree into biochar allows the nutrients to be returned to the forest sites in the process of replanting.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/29/this-dark-material-the-black-alchemy-that-can-arrest-carbon-emissions

El Cid

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #88 on: November 29, 2019, 07:40:52 PM »
“Turning this particular part of the tree into biochar allows the nutrients to be returned to the forest sites in the process of replanting.”


You don't need biochar for that. You simply chip the tree (much cheaper and uses less energy!) and mulch around the new seedling. Puts the nutrients back into the soil, and stops weeds from growing. Much better than char actually

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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #89 on: December 08, 2019, 08:20:02 PM »
“Turning this particular part of the tree into biochar allows the nutrients to be returned to the forest sites in the process of replanting.”


You don't need biochar for that. You simply chip the tree (much cheaper and uses less energy!) and mulch around the new seedling. Puts the nutrients back into the soil, and stops weeds from growing. Much better than char actually

meh, I kind of thought the idea of Biochar is to get some energy without losing nutrients in smoke/burned gases. Of course you can till the stems back into soils and get a fungus infection next year if you don't change the crop.
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Re: Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice
« Reply #90 on: December 09, 2019, 07:09:22 PM »
simply chip the tree
Ideally the wood chipper is self-powered by wood gas and leaves behind charred chips.

Gas turbine/pyrolysis powered vehicles are known since 50 years. E.g. the M1 Abrams battle tank.

Here is an old kitchen table experimental estimation of numbers, showing that with wood pellets a wood gas hybrid electric car is something totally realistic. Pellets have higher energy density than the battery. -- Wood chips have much higher volume, but seem realistic as fuel for large forestry/farming machinery that can dump the char in situ. https://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Experiments+in+biochar

(I need to drop this every now and then, hoping that some serious engineers pick it up.)
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