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… https://soilcarbon.org.nz/?s=waikato+river&x=11&y=3

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
E-mail: healthyrivers@waikatoregion.govt.nz
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 <kelpiew@gmail.com>
Date: 13 November 2013 05:24
Subject: [biochar] New publication with sections on biochar and compost
To: “biochar@yahoogroups.com” <biochar@yahoogroups.com>

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 https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/publications/1307066.pdf

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
Email: kelpiew@gmail.com
Home Office: 541-592-3083
Mobile: 541-218-9890
Google Voice: 646-535-7439 (646-kelpiew)
Skype: kelpie.wilson

Biochar and soil carbon sinks encourage ‘soil-first’ farming

Don Graves’ second article on biochar has just been published in the Nelson Mail…


This report was pushed to me via the google search engine so I guess that’s good news for biochar profiling in NZ.

Here’s a link to the 1st article… https://soilcarbon.org.nz/coal-solution-a-burning-issue/

Don can be contacted via ABE.

Bioenergy issues overlap with biochar projects

My disagreement with Albert Bates at the Permaculture Convergence last year was his contention that biochar could be a solution to global warming if we just planted enough trees and cut them for biochar. That disagreement touched a range of issues:

  • Peak water – if we tried to grow trees in marginal or arid/semi arid lands as he suggested we would quickly run up against the problem of water. We are already on the limits of fresh water use, if we haven’t already overshot, where does the water come from and what are the opportunity costs?
  • Peak phosphorous (and in NZ trace elements such as boron, selenium etc) Again, we are reaching peak phosphorous without which growth will be much more limited than we would wish. Where do these critical minerals come from?
  • Peak Oil – given that we are demonstrably in a peak energy plateau with an unknowable time to fall-off, it is critical to ask what is the energy cost of converting all these marginal lands to biomass production? How much fuel will we have to burn to feed and water and house the workers who will do all the planting, the machines to transport the seedlings, the mulches to support the seedlings, the nurseries to produce them, the milling, chipping and transporting etc before the first gram of biochar hits the soil?

Because if we haven’t calculated ALL of that, and done so in a factual environment with good numbers for depletion rates and time scales, we could easily get part way through and find ourselves unable to complete the projects, effectively wasting all of the resources that go into them.

But now Rachel Smolker has added a piece that I did not think of at the time. Ecosystems and markets.

Those marginal lands are already filled with their own ecosystems; have we calculated the costs of converting thnem to biomass production and what sort of repalcements will we create? Will they be biodiverse enviromnents in a permaculture mould or will we be going flat out for carbon sequestration and create yet more monocultures designed to suck CO2?

But her main target is the problem of markets and their political power. IF biochar becomes either an enviromental necessity, or the big players can extract rents from their political cronies, we will see something similar to what is happening as described in Smolker’s document,

Bioenergy, a disaster for biodiversity,health and human rights.

Since humans first learned to manipulate fire, people have used local biomass—including wood, other plant matter, and dried animal dung—for heat and for cooking. Billions of people continue to do so. But now, in addition to these traditional uses there is an unprecedented push for large-scale industrial/commercial bioenergy.

This new trend includes refining plant materials (corn, wheat and other grains, sugarcane, soy and palm oil) to make liquid biofuels for transportation and burning plant materials (wood, agricultural residues, municipal waste, etc.) for heat and electricity. Less widely known is the development of plant-based petroleum substitutes for use in bioplastics, biochemicals, inks, fabrics, pharmaceuticals, and other products.

Proponents refer to a new “bioeconomy” featuring massive biorefineries that take in millions of tons of plant biomass and convert them into all manner of energy and materials.

But two important questions are often overlooked in the rush toward bioenergy: Where will all that plant biomass come from, and what will the consequences be on ecosystems, wildlife, agriculture, human rights, climate, water, and soil?

At the moment I am making char out of trees that have to come down both to protect my neighbour’s house and to open up the amount of light that falls across the middle of the block. The longer term aim to to significantly increase the total amount of biomass being generated by the property in the form of an edible forest and to use the prunings as the source of biochar, compost and firewood – including a woodlot.

I’m prepared to make a case that replacing old, slower growing trees with many more younger, faster-growing ones is possibly net carbon negative if the old trees are properly handled but we also acknowledge that the energy cost of managing the place chainsaws, mulchers, the tractor, WWOOFERS will leave us carbon positive for most of the rest of our lives.

We are doing this because, on balance, we believe that working towards a more sustainable future is better than doing nothing and that some kind of permaculture model is better than anything else we have seen and biochar is a part of that thinking..

I would be saddened to see the biochar revolution being co-opted into the mania for fuel production and contributing to raising the price of biomass and hence the temptation to continue eating the good stuff to make a financial profit.

Coal solution a burning issue

I’m not too sure about the title that the Nelson Mail came up with, but its great to see this article in the media. Lets hope its the start of many more. Thanks Don.

“In the first of a two-part series, Dr Don Graves profiles Biochar, a time-honoured method for improving soil fertility and mitigating climate change”