It is great to see regional reports on biochar activity around NZ.
Click on the image blow for the link to the story.
It is great to see regional reports on biochar activity around NZ.
Click on the image blow for the link to the story.
Dennis Enright produced a report on the May-June biochar workshops soon after the tour was completed. This report was circulated to all participants of the workshops. We are now sharing this post-workshop report as a series of ABE posts.
A 2 year study on the effects of biochar and compost on soil water and nutrient content was conducted in a Mt Difficulty vineyard at Cromwell, Central Otago. Treatments consisted of; pine branch biochar, compost, and mixes of the two, which were buried in a trench midway between grapevine rows. This approach was taken to cause least disruption to the roots of 5 year old vines, and would simulate placement of biochar prior to planting new vines on top of biochar. As there were no or few vine roots in the treatment zone, assessment of the treatment effects was restricted to measuring soil water and nutrient content.
That study showed that a woody biochar (with negligible nutrients) incorporated into gravelly free draining soil can retain moisture to the same degree as an equivalent amount of grape marc compost. Biochar also had a positive synergistic effect on nutrients supplied by the compost. That is, in the presence of biochar soil nutrient levels remained higher even though the amount of compost applied was reduced.
It is proposed that further simple on farm experiments could provide long term study sites.
So during a series of biochar workshops held at Cromwell, Brightwater, Waihi, Waiuku and Gisborne (May/June 2018) small experimental sites were established using biochar produced during the workshop. At each of these locations the fresh biochar was applied to soil and will be compared with no addition of biochar in a randomised block design replicated 3 times. Samples of the biochars were retained for analyses and in the future other measurements such as soil moisture and nutrient content will be undertaken to evaluate whether there are any benefits, particularly in moisture and nutrient retention.
Biochar was made from dried willow and eucalypt branches by flame cap pyrolysis in a bath, replicating a trough kiln. The biochar was then crushed manually and broadcast on to plots (1 by 2 metres) having a covering of short grass, midway between the rows of walnut trees, with treatments on each plot being: plot1-biochar, plot 2-nothing, plot 3-biochar, plot 4-nothing, plot 5-biochar, plot 6-nothing.
Application rate was 4.0 l/m2 which using an estimated bulk density of 0.25 equates to 10 t/ha.
I’ve been following the Waikato Regional Council process on improving water quality & nutrient management which will lead to changes in how farming is carried out in the region. You can find earlier posts on this under the “Waikato” tag. You can link to the new round for ‘submissions on submissions’ from the image above.
I did make a submission (Mar17) focused on how Overseer could potentially impact the uptake of innovative solutions such as biochar but I completely failed to make any impact. A search on the 4-volume summary of submissions pulls ‘biochar’ once! Well done John Allen who was the only success.
It seems that the nascent biochar industry will need to gather much more momentum before anyone will take any notice. Pastoral agriculture is probably the hardest nut to crack due to broad-acre supply and cost issues so maybe we should focus on some sweet spots: animal bedding; AD; feed supplements; nutrient carriers; seed coatings; CHAB, …
So where to from here? If we had a functioning organisation, we could put together stronger submissions to these opportunities for marketing biochar potential and educating RC’s and industry.
The email below has been shared with 13 folk who have expressed interest in participating in an interim committee, to help establish a NZ biochar organisation.
This process was previously notified on 22 July by email to all NZ members of ABE (160 No.) and some other folk with a potential interest in biochar in NZ. This document was attached to the email.
Thanks to you all for taking part in developing a national organisation and strategy to support and promote biochar production and use in NZ.
Dr Carolyn Hedley from Landcare Research has contributed to the above report, dated April 2017. We did not hear much from the past government on their (any) commitment to 4per1000. I’m keen to find out more on where NZ is going with this commitment. Which branch of govt is dealing with this?
When you search the full report, biochar is only mentioned by NZ, China and USA, but still not a major focus. I think new information now being reported can change this.
“The estimated mean SOC stocks in New Zealand are 98.7 t C ha−1 to a depth of 0.3 m (Fig. 3). To meet the 0.4% initiative, New Zealand will require a SOC sequestration rate of approximately 0.4 t C ha−1 year−1. The New Zealand Ministry for the Environment (MfE) established the Soil Carbon Monitoring System (Soil CMS) for annual reporting on the land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) sector in the national greenhouse gas inventory, submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This system provides evidence for larger SOC stocks in long-term pastoral soils compared with established forest land (New Zealand Ministry for the Environment, 2015). Therefore, land use change from forest to pasture sequesters soil carbon over a period of decades. However, there are limited opportunities to convert more forest land to pasture, and this conversion would need to account for the loss of biomass C, making this option less favorable.
Current challenges are to maintain or enhance already high levels of SOC stocks in New Zealand’s productive grazed pastoral soils, as well as find other practical ways to sequester C into soil. The peaty soils associated with our vegetated wetland areas have the largest SOC stock at an estimated 136.06 t C ha−1. However, when drained for productive use they rapidly lose SOC through oxidation of the organic matter, estimated at a rate of 2.94 t C ha−1 year−1 (Campbell et al., 2015). Thus establishing or restoring wetlands can contribute to SOC accumulation. These wetlands could be established in areas otherwise unsuitable for productive agriculture, e.g. high country and floodable areas.
Work undertaken to assess erosion impacts on SOC for LULUCF reporting found that landslides cause a significant net decline in soil C stocks, with eroded sites only recovering to 70–80% of original levels. However, rates of soil carbon accumulation in recent erosion scars have been measured at 1–3 t C ha−1 year−1 for the first 10 years, and 0.4–1.1 t C ha−1 year−1 over a 70-year period (Lambert et al., 1984; De Rose, 2013; Basher et al., 2011). These studies provide useful data on potential rates of SOC sequestration when degraded land rehabilitates to pastoral land use.
SOC stock-change trajectories in long-term managed grasslands have been investigated by resampling some flat pastoral sites previously sampled about 30 years earlier, and the study reported small SOC stock losses at these selected sites (n = 125; Table 1). However, a study by Parfitt et al. (2014), using a different subset of flat pastoral sites as part of a regional soil quality monitoring program, reported increasing SOC, with change rates between 0.32 ± 0.19 t C ha−1 year−1 and 0.57±0.31 t C ha−1 year−1, for dairy and dry stock flat land respectively (n=139). Both researchers observed increasing SOC stock at a small number of stable positions in the hill country (n=19–23); with possible reasons given being: reduced overgrazing, and/or a gradual longterm recovery of soil organic matter following erosion when forests were originally cleared.
Parfitt et al. (2014) linked changes in SOC to soil pH and P fertility, finding the sites they resampled that had decreased in pH had significant gains in C,whereas sites that had increased in pH had no significant gains in C,with possible reasons being that high pH (due to liming) and increased P fertility indicate more intensive management, thereby reducing SOC. Alternatively, there could be enhanced relocation of dissolved organic carbon to greater depths in soils of lower pH.
In conclusion, SOC in New Zealand soils is naturally high. Opportunities to sequester SOC include the creation or re-establishment of wetlands, and land use change (taking into account any impacts on biomass C). Current knowledge suggests that ways to sequester SOC will include targeting specific soil classes (e.g. allophanic soils), and/or specific landscape positions (e.g.wetlands) and using appropriate management strategies.
Efforts by landowners to sequester carbon into soil will need to be supported by improved ways of monitoring change, and New Zealand will need to develop a purpose-built sampling and monitoring protocol to address this challenge.”
For more on the 4per1000 initiative: https://www.4p1000.org/governance
It would be great to get access to this report and assess their conclusion that “Biochar addition could possibly increase soil carbon stocks but it is not yet an economical option for large-scale application in New Zealand.”
We met Ben Elms recently in Cromwell when he attended our first workshop on 24 May. He had already begun his journey into biochar production and applications. Here is his report from the front line in Otago…
“I got in touch directly with the Ithaka institute after doing some research and deciding I wanted something with a little scale for a kiln. They were kind enough to send me the plans. A Local engineer friend made the Kiln and is about to make a second for a friend. We designed it so it can be easily moved around the property or onto a trailer to take off site. May need to make some modifications for getting it off the trailer the other end.
I think the following should be of interest in NZ based on the levels of Cd contamination in some of our soils. There are other similar research finding coming from China. I posted a link to a NZ PhD thesis on the contamination issue in April at the ABE FB page that fails to mention biochar as a potential solution.
Chemical activation and microwave assisted activation were adopted to modify biochar. Activated biochars were characterized by SEM, BET, FTIR, XRD and XPS. Raw biochar, activated biochars and commercial activated carbon were compared as remediation strategies for sediment from the Xiangjiang River containing 14.70 mg/kg Cd. After the treatment by activated biochar, the overlying water and pore water concentration of Cd decreased by 71% and 49%, respectively. And the threat of heavy metal along with bioavailability of Cd was depressed. Moreover, the immobilsation of Cd in sediment was related to BET surface area and the content of oxygen containing functional groups of activated biochars. Furthermore, a PCR-DGGE-based experiment was performed for the detection of microbial community. The indigenous microbial community was affected and new microbial community appeared after treat by activated biochar. Activated biochar can be used as an inexpensive and efficient in situ remediation material of sediment containing metal.
The biochar workshop tour finished in Gisborne on Friday. The tour was an intense 3 weeks of travel and action leaving behind a long trail of followup actions and emails. And no time for the monthly newsletter. It will take some time to catch up… and now the Feildays starts Wednesday and we hope to be waving a black flag there as well…
This report has been forwarded by the biochar community group based on Motueka, Carbon Action Aotearoa… https://www.facebook.com/CarbonActionAotearoa/
Dennis and I are very grateful for their support during our stay for the Nelson workshop and the preceding public forum in Motueka that CAA organised.
More on this and the other workshops soon.
Click on image to link to the cutting or you can search for it here (page 20)
We’ve been getting great support from CAA in Motueka for the Nelson workshop on 29 May. Katerina and her team are organising a free public forum on the evening before the workshop.
Details: Free one-hour biochar introductory evening: Monday 28th May 7.30 pm at MOTEC, Parklands School, opposite the library in Pah St. Motueka. (Koha for refreshments and venue hire welcome).