[Market-farming] Tera Preta Soil Technology

Allan Balliett aballiett at frontiernet.net
Thu Feb 8 22:03:20 EST 2007

Marlin, I assume you are screwing with me for not believing that 
VIrginia Biological Farmers actually exist!

You didn't learn about terra preta in school because, although it is 
projected that 30% of the Amazon is comprised of this man made soil, 
it was outside of mainstream science's assumption of how the New 
World worked so it was never 'discovered.' Oh, European discovery of 
it was presented to science as long ago as 1860, but terra preta was 
never really looked into until recently, because, of course, it was 
'not possible.'

Read "1491" by Charles C. Mann to find out about recently 
demonstrated limitations of science and the history of terra preta, 
and, even better, the history of civilization on this continent.

Terra Preta does work in this temperate zone. Cornell has already 
claimed yield improvements of 800% through 'terra preta nova,' modern 
man-made terra preta.

Terra preta, it is currently believe, does not work primarily through 
the carbon content, but through the arbuscular myco. (AM) that thrive 
in hi carbon environments. It's the AM that makes the humus that 
actually GROWS in terra preta beds. This is emerging information, of 
course, I wouldn't run and start putting charcoal fines or coal dust 
in my soil if I were you until science knows more about terra preta. 
Of course, we are doing it here this year because there appears to be 
nothing to lose and so much to gain (water control and nutrient 
management, for starters). If you need sources for terra preta 
quality charcoal or bio-char or coal, let me know. I'll turn you on 
to some sources.

In the meantime, the cover story of the current issue of ACRES USA: 
The Voice of Eco-Agriculture is something like "TERRA PRETA Magic 
Soil of the Lost Amazon" This magnificent article gives a lot more 
detail on what we know about terra preta than I've given here. I 
wrote that article. I'm happy to send you a pdf of it if you send me 
an email at info at freshandlocalcsa.com

Which reminds me: carbon placed into the soil, like logs into a lake, 
is considered to be 'sequestered.' Charcoal incorporated into 
reasonably good soil promotes microbial life so profoundly that 
tremendous amounts of additional carbon is sequestered within the 
bodies of the microbes. It is possible to produce bio-char and 
incorporate it in the soil and achieve a negative carbon situation 
for 'incinerating' agricultural waste (or bio-mass). In theory, in 
the future, US farmers will be paid for the amout of carbon they 


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