Climate change, geoengineering, biochar – the NZ link

Biochar is a veritable Swiss army knife for some of the planets problems. There are many tools being unfolded for agriculture enhancement and environmental repair. Energy tools abound, due to the diverse range of biochar production methods, and their residual and distributed nature. Continuing the analogy, one of the largest and most controversial knifes is still to be sharpened.

Some biochar proponents are pushing hard for biochar as a carbon sequestration tool. It is suggested to be a passive and safer approach to geoengineering the planet compared with other CDR (carbon dioxide reduction) or SRM (solar radiation management) methods that have emerged from the geoengineering community.

Kelpie Wilson has posted on a two year NZ and UK study looking at public attitudes to geoengineering. Her link leads back to the Manawatu Standard 13Jan news report but she says nice things about sensible kiwis so do check out her blog…

I’ve been engaged with this issue from another perspective – the NZ ETS… my comments are included in Euan Mason’s blog post below…

Biochar producers page

We have been getting inquiries for biochar – mainly from gardeners wanting to experiment. As interest grows, demand for larger quantities should follow for commercial application trials. If you are producing biochar in NZ and you are able to share some of your production with gardeners or researchers, then please get in touch.

As the market for biochar matures, we should develop some principles and guidelines for sustainable and safe biochar production, post-treatment and application. The easiest path for now may be to follow IBI, European or other international production / testing guidelines.

We are developing a list of NZ biochar producers who may be able to provide biochar or biochar based products from direct inquires. The producers page will provide contact details and product information.

Biochar Burn School

Kelpie Wilson from has led this initiative…

“A quick summary of results of experiments in open burn techniques to minimize smoke and maximize charcoal production. Experiments were conducted by volunteers over a 3 day period, November 15-17, 2013, outside of Grants Pass, Oregon.”

Biochar burn school 1Biochar burn school 2

WRC Technical Support Group RFP

An opportunity here for to get biochar understanding into an expert panel.  This Waikato river quality program should be well funded and should include support for biochar nutrient management research. My June posts are probably connected with this new initiative…

Do let me know if you want a copy of the documents.

GETS Reference: 41024
Title New Zealand based opportunityExpression of Interest for a Technical Support Group: Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai Project
Expression of Interest
Your Reference Number
General Information The Waikato Regional Council invites expressions of interest for membership of a Technical Support Group, for the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora project. The Technical Support Group will be part of a Technical Alliance which will provide expert advice and information to the Project. The Technical Support Group will be a panel of specialists available to the Project for the purposes of research, data collation, report writing and peer review, as guided by a technical leaders group.
Respond by Date
Address Enquiries to
All communications relating to this EOI must be directed to the Council Contact Person as follows:
Vicki Carruthers
Technical Workstream Leader and Senior Policy Advisor
Phone: 07 8590536
Or Jenni Sommerville, phone: 07 8590939, if Contact Person unavailable

Use of biochar for the sustainable remediation of sheep dip sites

The following presentation was given by Sam Gregory at the 2013 WasteMINZ conference on 23 October 2013:

“Application of biochar to a soil contaminated with organochlorines and arsenic (As) from a past agricultural practice known as sheep dipping was analysed to investigate its effects on contaminant mobility and plant growth characteristics during a 180d glasshouse and field trial study. Soil from a known dip site was removed and treated with biochar made from a willow (Salix sp.) feedstock (pyrolysed at 350°C and 550°C) added at 20 t ha-1 and 40 t ha-1 to gauge the appropriate treatments to be used in a later field trial. Soil microbial activity as analysed using the dehydrogenase activity assay (DHA) was significantly increased (P<0.01) under all biochar amendments. After 60 d of amendment, biochar containing soils underwent > 100% increase in DHA resulting in significant decreases in alpha-HCH (10-fold) and gamma-HCH (3-fold) concentrations in soil. Significant reductions in DDT with biochar amendment were also noticed after 180 d of treatment compared to unamended soils. Biochar did not increase water-extractable arsenic concentrations but significantly (P<0.05) increased phytoextraction into both a arsenic hyperaccumulator fern (Pteris cretica) and ryegrass (Lolium perenne). Ryegrass growth was signifcantly increased (P<0.01) under biochar amendment with 2-fold increase in shoot dry weight and 3-fold increase in root dry weight after 180 d. These results have the potential to reduce the remediation time of contaminated soil and decrease the environmental risk to nearby ecosystems.”

Author: Samuel Gregory, Dr Chris Anderson, Assoc. Prof. Marta Camps-Arbestain, Prof. Michael McManus, Massey University

Attachments: WasteMINZ 2013 Use of biochar for the sustainable remediation of sheep dip sites

Biochar Workshop

Biochar workshop part 1 imageThis biochar workshop delves deep into the many aspects of biochar production and application. Part 1 focuses on practical production techniques using ‘drum within drum’ retort. There may be some advantages for this over the TLUD system (ie, reduced supervision).

Part 2 and 3 are classroom based with Q&A. Bob Wells (New England Biochar) describes his 4-part philosophy for biochar production: 1 – make the best possible biochar; 2 – use the residual energy efficiently; 3 – eliminate emissions; 4 – make the project profitable. John Nilsson (soil scientist) talks about history of biochar and its applications.

Part 4 takes a look at the triple Adam Retort system, installed by New England Biochar, that is the center piece for the site where the workshop is conducted.

Biochar and compost – important information

This should prove to be a valuable contribution to the accumulated knowledge on the benefits of combining biochar and compost (and incorporating references to our very own Clough et al on biochar and soil N dynamics) …

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kelpie Wilson <>
Date: 13 November 2013 05:24
Subject: [biochar] New publication with sections on biochar and compost
To: “” <>

Hi Everyone,

A report that I worked on for the Washington Department of Ecology has now been published. Many thanks to Mark Fuchs at WDE for initiating this report on compost odor control, and for asking me to contribute a literature review of biochar use in compost and an appendix on the global history of biochar.

Here is a link to the study and the table of contents for the biochar sections. I hope this will be useful information for biochar producers and users.

-Kelpie Wilson

Ma, J., Wilson, K., Zhao, Q., Yorgey, G., & Frear, C. (November, 2013). Odor in Commercial Scale Compost: Literature Review and Critical Analysis. Washington State Department of Resources. Retrieved October 29, 2013, from

Use of Amendment Approaches to Pile Chemistry and Biology -26
Background -26
Volatile fatty acids -27
Ammonia and nitrogen-based odors -28
Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur-based odors -29
Aeration and moisture -30
Methane -31
Nitrous oxide -31
Carbon dioxide -31
Biochar and compost quality -32
Compost nitrogen content -33
Compost maturity and humic content-34
Biochar property alteration through composting -34
Plant growth response to biochar compost -34
Conclusion -35
Appendix A. Historical and Traditional Uses of Biochar Related to Odor Control -39
Ancient and traditional biochar -39
19th century agricultural charcoal -41
The sewer debates -43
Profiles of current initiatives for using biochar in compost -48
Japanese composting with biochar -48
Integrated solutions in Vietnam -49
Waste utilization in rural India -49
The Delinat Institute, Switzerland -49
Sonnenerde Company, Germany -50
Terra Preta Sanitation Initiative -50
European Biochar Research Network -50
International conference on biochars, composts, and digestates -51
Ms.Kelpie Wilson
Wilson Biochar Associates
Home Office: 541-592-3083
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