Using Biochar in your Soil.

Biochar as a soil amendment works best when it is blended with compost (a source of nutrients) and allowed to rest a bit before being worked into the soil. That allows the biochar to absorb nutrients from the compost, and in the aging both the compost and the biochar improve and it's the combination that provides maximum benefit to the soil.

Introduction to Biochar and Bio-Remediation from CharBiological

Specific soil recipes will vary a bit, a lot depends on your initial conditions. But plot tests and trials indicate that it's a good idea to start with a mix of 5% - 10% biochar to compost, and then apply the compost as you normally would to soils. You can find out more on our Compost Toolbox page.

If you are adding biochar for carbon sequestration, make sure that the darker biochar enhanced earths are covered by at least one inch of top soil.

This is a good reference for those of us that don't know our Soil Types (with photos).

Biochar in the Soil

Black Carbon from Rice Residues as Soil Amendment and for Carbon Sequestration
Haefele, SM, Konboon, Y, Knoblauch, C, Koyama, S, Gummert, M, Ladha, JK
Cornell University Poster Presented to International Rice Research Institute, September 14 2006

On highly weathered soils in tropical and subtropical climates, maintenance of soil organic matter is essential to sustain system productivity and avoid rapid soil degradation. But climatic conditions as well as soil characteristics favor the rapid decomposition of organic matter. However, several recent studies indicated that black carbon, the product of incomplete combustion of organic material, could combine characteristics highly beneficial for soil nutrient dynamics with high stability against chemical and microbial breakdown.

Tracing black carbon in soil using SEM/EDX, biomarker analyses, and compound-specific radiocarbon analyses
S. Brodowski (1), P. M. Grootes (2), W. Zech (3), W. Amelung (1)

Mollisols are known to contain stable, black humus components which originate from
charred or coal-derived particles. As such black carbon (BC) significantly affects soil
fertility and interferes with models on soil organic matter dynamics, an accurate prediction of BC input into soils and an elucidation of the mechanisms of BC turnover
is essential. The main aims of this study were (i) to identify the sources of BC in the

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Black in the New Green
Emma Marris, NATURE, Vol 442, 10 August 2006

"In 1879, the explorer Herbert Smith regaled the readers of Scribner

Carbon Cycling: A sustainable path to food and energy (6.6 MB pdf)
Danny Day, Eprida, Alternative Energy Technology Innovations, May 12, 2005

EPRIDA PyrolysisEPRIDA Pyrolysis

Terra Preta de Indio
Johannes Lehmann. Soil Biogeochemistry, Cornell University January 2007

"Terra Preta de Indio" (Amazonian Dark Earths; earlier also called "Terra Preta do Indio" or Indian Black Earth) is the local name for certain dark earths in the Brazilian Amazon region. These dark earths occur, however, in several countries in South America and probably beyond. They were most likely created by pre-Columbian Indians from 500 to 2500 years B.P. and abandoned after the invasion of Europeans (Smith, 1980; Woods et al., 2000). However, many questions are still unanswered with respect to their origin, distribution, and properties.

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Terra Preta de Indio
Johannes Lehmann. Soil Biogeochemistry, Cornell University January 2007

"Terra Preta de Indio" (Amazonian Dark Earths; earlier also called "Terra Preta do Indio" or Indian Black Earth) is the local name for certain dark earths in the Brazilian Amazon region. These dark earths occur, however, in several countries in South America and probably beyond. They were most likely created by pre-Columbian Indians from 500 to 2500 years B.P. and abandoned after the invasion of Europeans (Smith, 1980; Woods et al., 2000). However, many questions are still unanswered with respect to their origin, distribution, and properties.

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Terra Preta de Indio
Johannes Lehmann. Soil Biogeochemistry, Cornell University January 2007

"Terra Preta de Indio" (Amazonian Dark Earths; earlier also called "Terra Preta do Indio" or Indian Black Earth) is the local name for certain dark earths in the Brazilian Amazon region. These dark earths occur, however, in several countries in South America and probably beyond. They were most likely created by pre-Columbian Indians from 500 to 2500 years B.P. and abandoned after the invasion of Europeans (Smith, 1980; Woods et al., 2000). However, many questions are still unanswered with respect to their origin, distribution, and properties.

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Introduction: Bio-char: the new frontier
Johannes Lehmann, Soil Biogeochemistry, Cornell University

Inspired by the fascinating properties of Terra Preta de Indio, bio-char is a soil amendment that has the potential to revolutionize concepts of soil management. While "discovered" may not be the right word, as bio-char (also called charcoal or biomass-derived black carbon) has been used in traditional agricultural practices as well as in modern horticulture, never before has evidence been accumulating that demonstrates so convincingly that bio-char has very specific and unique properties that make it stand out among the opportunities for sustainable soil management.

Terra preta: how biofuels can become carbon-negative and save the planet
Biopact, Friday, August 18, 2006

Most often, biofuels are seen as being 'carbon- neutral' in that they do not add CO2 to the atmosphere. When they are burned for energy, CO2 is emitted, but it gets taken up again as the new biomass grows, thus closing the carbon cycle and resulting in a neutral balance. This is the commonly held view of how biofuels are 'green'. In an early text, however, we hinted at the possibility of bioenergy doi

Black Carbon Increases Cation Exchange Capacity in Soils
Liang et al. Soil Sci Soc Am J.2006; 70: 1719-1730

Authors:
B. Liang, J. Lehmann, D. Solomon, J. Kinyangi, J. Grossman, B. O'Neill, J. O. Skjemstad, J. Thies, F. J. Luiz

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Mineral Soils conditioned by Man Anthrosols (AT)
FAO LECTURE NOTES ON THE MAJOR SOILS OF THE WORLDISBN 925-104637-9 FAO 2001

Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction

The World Reference Base for Soil Resources

Reference Soil Groups

Set #1. Organic Soils Histosols

Set #2. Mineral Soils conditioned by Man Anthrosols (AT)

Set #3. Mineral Soils conditioned by Parent Material

Major landforms in volcanic landscapes Andosols (AN)

Major landforms in landscapes with sands Arenosols(AR)

Building a black soil
C.I. Czimczik (1) and C.A. Masiello (2)

ABSTRACT
Black carbon (BC) is a major fraction (up to 35%, depending on methods used) of
soil organic carbon (SOC) in some of the most fertile and extensively cropped soils
of the world (Mollisols, Andisols, Terra Preta de Indio). Although BC is produced via
biomass burning in many ecosystems, it accumulates as a component of SOC in only
a few. Soils enriched in BC are not necessarily found in areas with the highest fire frequencies (savannah) or with the largest black carbon production (woody vegetation).

Building a black soil
C.I. Czimczik (1) and C.A. Masiello (2)

ABSTRACT
Black carbon (BC) is a major fraction (up to 35%, depending on methods used) of
soil organic carbon (SOC) in some of the most fertile and extensively cropped soils
of the world (Mollisols, Andisols, Terra Preta de Indio). Although BC is produced via
biomass burning in many ecosystems, it accumulates as a component of SOC in only
a few. Soils enriched in BC are not necessarily found in areas with the highest fire frequencies (savannah) or with the largest black carbon production (woody vegetation).

Building a black soil
C.I. Czimczik (1) and C.A. Masiello (2)

ABSTRACT
Black carbon (BC) is a major fraction (up to 35%, depending on methods used) of
soil organic carbon (SOC) in some of the most fertile and extensively cropped soils
of the world (Mollisols, Andisols, Terra Preta de Indio). Although BC is produced via
biomass burning in many ecosystems, it accumulates as a component of SOC in only
a few. Soils enriched in BC are not necessarily found in areas with the highest fire frequencies (savannah) or with the largest black carbon production (woody vegetation).

Building a black soil
C.I. Czimczik (1) and C.A. Masiello (2)

ABSTRACT
Black carbon (BC) is a major fraction (up to 35%, depending on methods used) of
soil organic carbon (SOC) in some of the most fertile and extensively cropped soils
of the world (Mollisols, Andisols, Terra Preta de Indio). Although BC is produced via
biomass burning in many ecosystems, it accumulates as a component of SOC in only
a few. Soils enriched in BC are not necessarily found in areas with the highest fire frequencies (savannah) or with the largest black carbon production (woody vegetation).

Building a black soil
C.I. Czimczik (1) and C.A. Masiello (2)

ABSTRACT
Black carbon (BC) is a major fraction (up to 35%, depending on methods used) of
soil organic carbon (SOC) in some of the most fertile and extensively cropped soils
of the world (Mollisols, Andisols, Terra Preta de Indio). Although BC is produced via
biomass burning in many ecosystems, it accumulates as a component of SOC in only
a few. Soils enriched in BC are not necessarily found in areas with the highest fire frequencies (savannah) or with the largest black carbon production (woody vegetation).

I INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON ANTHROPOGENIC TERRA PRETA SOILS [NOVOTEL], MANAUS, BRAZIL, 13-19 JULY 2002.
Organized by INPA, EMBRAPA, UA, MPEG, USP

Program

Publications

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Terra Preta Forum
Village Gardenweb: The Internet's Garden and Home Community.

Amazon's mysterious black earth: Soil found along region riverbanks; Rich in nutrients, stores more carbon
Forests.org, February 25, 2006
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Above ground, rainforests like the Amazon basin flourish as biological hot spots with exuberant growth and a riot of plant and animal species.

But the red and yellow soils below are notoriously poor in nutrients and organic matter. Once the lush vegetation is cleared, the heavy rains and tropical sun quickly decompose even that small reservoir.

Except not in thousands of patches dotted along the Amazon River and its tributaries, where dark, friable soil extends metres deep, fertile in nutrients and organic material. In total, an area the size of France may be covered by this Indian black earth, called terra preta do Indio in Portuguese.

"The textbooks say it shouldn't be there. That's justification enough for me to explore why it is there," says Johannes Lehmann, a Cornell University professor specializing in the chemistry and geology of soils.

The 'Terra Preta' phenomenon: a model for sustainable agriculture in the humid tropics
Bruno Glaser, Ludwig Haumaier, Georg Guggenberger, Wolfgang Zech
Journal Naturwissenschaften,Springer Berlin/Heidelberg
Issue Volume 88, Number 1 / February, 2001

Abstract

Many soils of the lowland humid tropics are thought to be too infertile to support sustainable agriculture. However, there is strong evidence that permanent or semi-permanent agriculture can itself create sustainably fertile soils known as 'Terra Preta' soils. These soils not only contain higher concentrations of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium, but also greater amounts of stable soil organic matter. Frequent findings of charcoal and highly aromatic humic substances suggest that residues of incomplete combustion of organic material (black carbon) are a key factor in the persistence of soil organic matter in these soils. Our investigations showed that 'Terra Preta' soils contained up to 70 times more black carbon than the surrounding soils. Due to its polycyclic aromatic structure, black carbon is chemically and microbially stable and persists in the environment over centuries. Oxidation during this time produces carboxylic groups on the edges of the aromatic backbone, which increases its nutrient-holding capacity. We conclude that black carbon can act as a significant carbon sink and is a key factor for sustainable and fertile soils, especially in the humid tropics.

DISCOVERY AND AWARENESS OF ANTHROPOGENIC AMAZONIAN DARK EARTHS (TERRA PRETA)
William M. Denevan, University of Wisconsin-Madison
William I. Woods, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Amazonian Dark Earths: Origin, Properties, Management
Johannes Lehmann, Dirse C. Kern, Bruno Glaser, William I. Woods

This book publication emerged from a meeting in Benicassim, Spain, in 2001. A group of enthusiastic scientists from diverse backgrounds decided that it is time to present a comprehensive overview over research on the so-called "Terra Preta de Indio", or Amazonian Dark Earths. Authors were invited to cover a wide variety of aspects around these fascinating soils, and met what became the first International Workshop on Terra Preta de Indio, in Manaus in July 2002. The frequent interactions and the workshop meeting ensured that this publication became a major text book on Amazonian Dark Earths. It is published by Kluwer Academic Publishers in The Netherlands

Table of Contents

Preface

Foreword, by W. Sombroek

Chapter 1: Development of Anthrosol Research, by W.I. Woods

Chapter 2: Historical Perspectives on Amazonian Dark Earths, by T.P. Myers, W.M. Denevan, A. Winklerprins, A. Porro

Terra Preta Homepage, Dark earths, Red Indian black earth
University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany 2002

Terra Preta (do indio) is a black earth-like anthropogenic soil with enhanced fertility due to high levels of soil organic matter (SOM) and nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium embedded in a landscape of infertile soils (see soil profiles below). Terra Preta soils occur in small patches averaging 20 ha, but 350 ha sites have also been reported. These partly over 2000 years old man made soils occur in the Brazilian Amazon basin and other regions of South America such as Ecuador and Peru but also in Western Africa (Benin, Liberia) and in the savannas of South Africa. Terra Preta soils are very popularby the local farmers and are used especially to produce cash crops such as papaya and mango, which grow about three times as rapid as on surrounding infertile soils.

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