Laboratory test

December, 2011

The Austrialian Department of Agriculture of Fisheries and Forestry has issued a thoughtful summary paper that surveys the existing research on with biochar, and its implications for agriculture and suggests further areas of research.

Download the paper here:
Biochar: implications for agricultural productivity

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Biochar generated as a by-product of combined heat and power gasification is classified as waste, for which the UK does not currently have a safety protocol for use in the open environment. The UEA is working with the Environment Agency to determine environmental tolerance limits, in order to assess potential environmental risks (ex: PAH contamination). My preliminary study aimed to measure any negative plant growth effects by amended soil with high concentrations of biochar under controlled laboratory conditions.

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Arborists in Chicago are studying the results of biochar on trees growing in urban soils that are typically hostile to trees. This research is part of a larger urban-soils study that includes applications of biochar in greenhouse and field plot settings at The Morton Arboretum. The Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories have also been testing adding biochar to the soil mix when planting trees. More information and media coverage of this study about biochar and urban tree care can be found on the Bartlett Tree Experts web site.

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Hugh McLaughlin, PhD, PE, Alterna Biocarbon Inc.

As the world of biochar expands, the need for definitive research to answer core questions grows. One such question is “What is the role of adsorption and when does it make a pivotal difference in growing situations?” Answering those questions has been hampered by the historical absence of adsorption as a monitored property in soils and soil components (as compared to CEC) and the lack of a reliable method to create low and high adsorption biochars. While there is little that can be done about the former situation, the later may have a fairly facile solution, which will be presented here.

Article originally written by Micheal Rost for the Soil Food Web Insights Newsletter

See the attached Soil Food Web Insights Newsletter for the full report, and check out their web site, http://soilfoodweb.com/ for more information.

excerpt:

The biochar concept has challenged scientists to figure out the best approach to turning waste organic material into stable carbon. This exciting new development has attracted the attention of researchers like John Miedema.

Miedema is collaborating on biochar research with Oregon State University and USDA-ARS
and is funded by a Western Oregon timber company. He was an early adopter of the global warming
concept, and is concerned with mitigating the amount of excess CO2 being deposited in the Earth’s
atmosphere. He’s also concerned about devising new methods to feed the population of the world.

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Mélanie Élouise Bennet PhD Student University of East Anglia, School of Biological Sciences John Innes Centre, Dept. Molecular Mircobiology Chairman, UEA Gardening Group m.bennet@uea.ac.uk

The current challenge

The world faces a “perfect storm” of food, water and energy shortages. Food stocks are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years. John Beddington, chief scientific advisor to the UK Government, has stated that 50% more food, 50% more energy and 30% more water will be needed by 2030 to supply a growing population. Even in developed nations like Britain and Australia, rising environmental pressure on crops would drive up import prices. Higher temperatures and less water brought about by climate change is expected to make some crop growing area difficult to manage, particularly in areas which are already experiencing drier than normal conditions. However, the precise impacts of climate change are difficult to predict accurately.

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