[Homestead] Terra preta
lynnw1366 at hotmail.com
Sun Jan 25 11:11:27 EST 2009
Funny you should post this. I was reading just yesterday that James Lovelock
(The Gaia Theory) suggests sequestering carbon in the form of
charcoal....massive amounts of it. He thinks it's the only way to get enough
CO2 out of the atmosphere.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Gene GeRue" <genegerue at ruralize.com>
To: <homestead at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2009 7:54 AM
Subject: [Homestead] Terra preta
On Jan 25, 2009, at 12:03 AM, Frank Fries wrote:
> Some of the people who have done quite a bit of work on this
> actually think
> it matters what temperature the charcoal is "cooked" to. But again
> really knows.
Wikipedia has an extensive entry on terra preta here:
It includes the following:
"Topoliantz and Ponge's work, summarized in a synthetic article in
“Soil Biology & Biochemistry”, shows that the peregrine earthworm
Pontoscolex corethrurus (Oligochaeta: Glossoscolecidae), widespread in
all Amazonia and notably in clearings after burning processes thanks
to its high tolerance of a low content of organic matter in the soil,
has been shown to ingest pieces of charcoal and to mix them in a
finely ground form with the mineral soil. The authors, who
experimentally verified this process, point at this as an essential
element in the generation of Terra preta soils, associated with
agronomic knowledge involving layering the charcoal in thin regular
layers favourable to its burying by Pontoscolex corethrurus. . . .
The last graph reads:
"Efforts to recreate these soils are being undertaken by companies
such as Biochar Energy Corporation, Eprida and Best Energies .
Research efforts are underway at Cornell University, the University of
Georgia, Iowa State University and Geoecology Energy Organisation.
Biochar is the main (and likely key) ingredient in the formation of
terra preta. One focus of these researchers is the prospect that if
biochar becomes widely used for soil improvement, it will involve
globally significant amounts of carbon sequestration, remediating
While fascinating, especially regarding fertility longevity, I don't
see a direct use by home gardeners. As we have noted before, each
garden is unique in its many features: soil origin, moisture,
drainage, temperature, organic content, soil community, and sun aspect
and duration. Each gardener is thus a scientist for their individual
plots. While there are many generalizations that are applicable to a
broad range of soil and climate conditions, it is likely foolhardy to
attempt to adapt this unique Amazonian condition to a North American
Soil science is a huge subject and homesteaders can easily find books
on the subject. Simplistically, plants cannot eat chunks of nutrients.
These nutrients are processed by a myriad community of microscopic
organisms whose excretions are absorbable by fine root hairs. The
number of microorganisms in good, living garden soil is so great as to
be incomprehensible. The population of a handful of such soil is far
more than the human population of the largest city on earth. The
earthworm is the giant of the soil community and of inestimable value,
but North American soil most likely does not include the peregrine
earthworm noted above.
Should the production of miracle charcoal become feasible we will
expect its availability soon. We will also expect misleading claims
and high prices.
Learn how to feed the soil community; that community will feed your
plants and then the plants will feed you. A closed circle.
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