[Market-farming] soil fertility continuing ed

Marty Kraft martyk at allspecies.org
Tue Mar 22 10:07:08 EDT 2011


Thanks Bill.

What i have read seems to indicate that temperate soil with  
mineralized charcoal added do very well. I'm not sure that they do  
better than adding compost. However compost cycled through and id  
back up in the atmosphere within 20 years or less. Charcoal on the  
other hand can last thousands of years in the soil.

I have a carbon debt to repay or at least get started on. In my years  
of driving and taking advantage of petroleum in so many other ways i  
have added to global warming. Even if i never used any fossil fuel  
and only fed myself i still was part of creating global warming  
through the agriculture i supported. Before the industrial revolution  
there were cycles of global warming and cooling that coincided with  
population expansion requiring more AG and population contractions  
due to plagues that let AG soils go fallow and take in more carbon  
through the increase in forests or grasslands.

Albert Bates in The Biochar Solution http:// 
www.thebiocharsolution.com (see video) makes a pretty good case for  
using biochar. There is enough evidence for me to begin incorporation  
biochar into my beds. I've got a whole lot more questions than  
answers but the more we explore together the sooner we can show the  
advantages or disadvantages. As a steward of some soil i am going to  
do what i can to sequester all the carbon that i can even if soil  
productivity stays the same. Future gardeners, farmers and  
grandchildren as well as nature will be affected by how i respond today.

I have some biochar videos on http://www.organotill.org

Marty


On Mar 21, 2011, at 11:07 AM, William H Shoemaker wrote:

> I'm going to be the friendly skeptic on biochar. I don't know  
> enough about
> it, but I have questions about its utility in temperate zone soils.
>
> If I understand correctly, it works by creating exchange sites for  
> holding
> nutrient ions in the soil. In other words, charged nutrient ions are
> attracted to oppositely charged sites in the biochar. These biochar  
> sites
> then release amounts of the nutrients to create an equilibrium of  
> available
> nutrient ions in the soil solution. The released nutrients are  
> available for
> plants to consume.
>
> The idea of exchange sites is critical for fertile soils because  
> they're
> like bank accounts. Withdrawals are made as needed to maintain  
> nutrient flow
> into the soil solution, where plants have access to the nutrients.  
> Where
> biochar was discovered, in the Brazilian tropics, the soils are almost
> sterile because they're so washed out and organic matter just  
> deteriorates
> rapidly in the constant heat. The biochar then becomes an exchange  
> site
> resource for soils that wasn't there previously. It makes a great
> difference, at least temporarily, in those soils.
>
> In temperate zone soils, we have two other resources that provide  
> lots of
> exchange sites in the soil. Certain clays, like montmorillonite and  
> illite
> are two examples. Soils with these clays have high CECs (Cation  
> Exchange
> Capacities), or lots of charged sites for attracting and holding  
> nutrients.
> We also have accumulating organic matter because we have cold  
> seasons that
> slow the breakdown by biological digestion. As OM breaks down into
> fundamental tissues like humus, it not only releases nutrients that
> originated in the organic matter but it creates exchange sites on OM
> particles. So these are critical reasons why temperate zone  
> agriculture is
> so important to feeding the world. The soils in these regions have  
> ancient
> organic matter that helps facilitate nutrient availability.
>
> So I wonder if we really need, or benefit from biochar in the  
> temperate
> zone? I suspect it's a great technique in the tropics but I'm a little
> skeptical about it in the area most of us grow our crops in. I  
> actually have
> become less concerned about nutrient management over the years than  
> I have
> water management in crops. Water is the bulk of crop tissue (>90%)  
> in annual
> plants and is key to nutrient availability and transport into  
> roots. I've
> found that in our soils if water is maintained optimally that it has a
> bigger impact on yields and quality than nutrient management.  
> That's one
> reason I love drip irrigation.
>
> But anyway, I'd be curious if others have different views on  
> biochar in the
> Midwest or temperate zones generally. We all farm in different  
> places and
> may need to do different things to be successful.
>
> Bill
> William H. Shoemaker
> Sr. Research Specialist, Food Crops
> University of Illinois - Crop Sciences
> St Charles Horticulture Research Center
> 535 Randall Road, St Charles, IL, 60174
> 630-584-7254, FAX-584-4610
> wshoemak at illinois.edu
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
> [mailto:market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of  
> Steve Diver
> Sent: Monday, March 21, 2011 10:31 AM
> To: Market Farming
> Subject: Re: [Market-farming] soil fertility continuing ed
>
> Lump charcoal (vs briquettes) is the kind to get started with, yes.
>
> E.g., Cowboy Charcoal
>
> Btw, "The Biochar Revolution" edited by Paul Taylor which just came
> out recently is the hands-on book for practical biochar.
>
> Steve Diver
>
>
>
> On 3/21/2011 10:04 AM, Ann Sherrington wrote:
>> At the risk of sounding simplistic, I have a question on  
>> biochar:   if
>> biochar is based on charcoal created in a smothered fire, does it
>> follow that you could take commercial charcoal (not the briquettes,
>> the "real" stuff), pulverize it, add it to your soil, and get a
>> similar effect?
>>
>> Ann Sherrington
>> Cape Breton
>>
>
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