[permaculture] Biochar

B Hardy rhubarbs at hotmail.com
Fri Nov 18 08:47:23 EST 2011

Thank you Dieter for expressing this perspective, I share your concerns.


On Thu, Nov 17, 2011 at 5:40 AM, Dieter Brand <diebrand at yahoo.com> wrote:

> 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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Barbara Hardy, Co-Director
Sustainable Keweenaw Resource Center (SKRC)
Jutila Center,  Suite 316
200 Michigan Street
Hancock, MI 49930

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