[Market-farming] Tera Preta Soil Technology

Christine & Marlin glenecofarm at planetcomm.net
Thu Feb 8 21:39:44 EST 2007

Recently I was contacted by someone in our area about a soil enriching
technology apparently practiced over 1000 years ago by indigenous peoples in
parts of the Amazon River Basin in Brazil.  This technology involved the
production of charcoal and incorporating it into the soil to build high
fertility that has endured until modern times.  These soils are known as
"Tera Preta" soils and occur in specific areas where the technology was

I have always thought Amazonian soils in general are not very fertile and
quickly lose what fertility they do have when the rain forest is cleared and
they are exposed to modern agricultural technology and to the high leaching
conditions of the tropical high seasonal rainfall patterns.

I find this interesting enough to spend a little time digging for more
information on the Internet.  I am having some difficulty understanding how
this "carbon sequestering" technology would have worked and how it would
apply to agricultural soil management in this part of the world.  I am also
wondering how I could have missed learning about Tera Preta during the years
that I studied Agronomy at the university level.  Is there real science
behind this or is this another form of "Hooey" that can often be found
circulating around the world?

I would be interested in what some others of you think or know.

Marlin Burkholder
Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

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