[permaculture] Biochar

Cory Brennan cory8570 at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 18 18:13:39 EST 2011


Biochar is not indicated for every climate and soil and is not a cure all.  I don't see any need for it in clay soils, personally.  It works in the Amazon and it can work in places like Florida, with sandy soils almost devoid of organic material (because it washes right thru the soils, or bakes off in the sun, etc). Note that "terra preta" is a combination of organic materials, minerals and biochar, and they all work together to create the end results.The jury is still out, research is still being done, but biochar could end up being very useful for stabilizing soils in Florida. One can argue that we could just plant plants that grow well in sand, and that is true, we could, and some people do. Understand that in much of Florida, especially near the coasts, the "soil" is actually beach sand, with almost nothing else there where it has been disturbed at all.   We are having good results with gardens by adding copious amounts of organic material that is
 well protected from run off and sunburn.  But if biochar can be sustainably produced (which it can, from fast growing woody plants rather than trees, and proper pyrolysis), it very well could be an important aspect to soil building.  

Cory


________________________________
From: John D'hondt <dhondt at eircom.net>
To: permaculture <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, November 18, 2011 2:51 PM
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Biochar


Hear, hear,
john

> My objection is that we can use a given biomass only once: we either 
> return it to the soil to maintain humus and feed the microbes and other 
> soil organism or we turn it into charcoal.
>
> Humus is capable of providing both the living environment and the food for 
> microbes.  There is no reason to assume that the microbes and other soil 
> organisms in my soil would suddenly want prefabricated charcoal “apartment 
> buildings” after having evolved without them for billions of years.
>
> I live in a semi-arid climate on heavy clay soil.  The positive effect on 
> fertility of adding biomass to the soil is immediately visible.  According 
> to a figure I came across recently, there can be 10 tons or more of soil 
> organisms in 1 hectare of rich soil.  These organisms need to be fed!  I 
> return every ounce of biomass available in my place to the soil.  To turn 
> biomass into charcoal would reduce the food I can provide to the soil 
> organisms.
>
> The last 100 years have seen an unprecedented destruction of biomass. 
> Many of our environmental, health and other problems can be directly or 
> indirectly traced back to this destruction of biomass.  Not aware of the 
> importance of biomass for maintaining humus and soil fertility, the public 
> is likely to favor any plan to destroy even more biomass - considered a 
> waste by most – that, like biochar or biofuel, promises a quick fix to our 
> environmental problems and allows us to continue the wasteful lifestyle 
> made possible by industrial methods.
>
> On a global scale it doesn’t matter if someone wants to try out charcoal 
> in his backyard.  However, to have the effect on global warming that is 
> claimed by biochar advocates, we need to turn biomass into charcoal on a 
> large scale.  Added to the destruction that is already ongoing and the 
> devastation caused by biofuel production, this will greatly reduce the 
> future prospects for organic farming, which relies on feeding the soil 
> with biomass.
>
> Dieter
>
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