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View Diary: The Establishment of Soil Carbon as the Universal Measure of Sustainability (22 comments)

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  •  bio char (0+ / 0-)

    needs to be researched with much more vigor.  We need to have a much more complete understanding of what happens when biochar is used as a soil supplement.  Sometimes adding biochar increases soils respiration (CO2 release), sometimes it reduces soil respiration, sometimes no change.  Sometimes it enhances CEC and nutrient retention other times it sucks up all the N.  The problem is that there is no "uniformity" in the applications, and certainly very few researchers are applying bio-char withe full suite of components that the Amazonians did.

    •  Could you provide (0+ / 0-)

      some backlinks to this, since everything I've read so far is overwhelmingly positive (not surprising since the boosters of an idea aren't going to go into the drawbacks).  Some of the variability may be linked to its effects on soil fungi, which appear to be the really important players in the game.  So more precise information on what makes the fungi happy could be the key.

      •  mostly (0+ / 0-)

        the variability is attributed to how the bio-char is made.  Some use more O2, some less.  Some cook it hot, some cook it cool.  All these differences in preparation make a difference in how the C pyrolizes, and what type of aromatic ring it makes, which is what determines whether it is bio-available or not.  Essentially, if you don't truly pyrolize the C, you've just added toasted carbon, which microbes can readily use in metabolism and therefore soil respiration will increase.  If it is pyrolized completely, then the C will be locked away in a non-bio-available form which microbes can't eat and no increase in soil respiration.
        Johannes Lehmann is one of the leading researchers on bio-char and Terra Preta.  Most scientific articles are locked away behind pay walls, but public universities or libraries often have access to them.

      •  Happy fungi Make Lots of Glomalin (0+ / 0-)

        Gary Jones at "Muck & Mystery" talks about Glomalins in 2006. When I first read his brilliant blog I started briefing him on biochars, he has been very encouraging.

        See in my links above;
        Biochar effects on soil biota – A review

        Mycorrhizal responses to biochar in soil – concepts
        and mechanisms
        Daniel D. Warnock & Johannes Lehmann &
        Thomas W. Kuyper & Matthias C. Rillig

         Proliferation of Microorganisms in Compost by Addition of Bamboo Charcoals (Shuji Yoshizawa, Michio Ohata, Satoko Tanaka)

        SEM photograph of microorganism in bamboo charcoal.
        In Japan, charcoal and compost of biomass waste have been used for a long time as soil improvers in farms. Wood and bamboo charcoals have pores of several microns or several ten microns which are suitable for microorganisms grown for composting the biomass waste.
          It was observed as shown in the photograph (left) taken by scanning electron micrograph (SEM) technique that the microorganisms proliferated on the charcoal powder and in the pores of the charcoal.

        The 1996 Japanese paper that I don't think has been cited on the Biochar list: Microbial Fertilizers in Japan. It contained quite a bit on charcoal (no use of the term "biochar" - so this wouldn't likely show up in most google searches), and some interesting synergistic results from pot trials. It proved again to me that we need to be in better communication about biochar with the Japanese for Much of the paper is on AMF -arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.


        On its own P does not bind very well to char surfaces, if at all. These are extremely important questions that I do not have the answer to, and this is exactly why we need to start soon to start this type of research. This could potentially fall under the umbrella of the type of research that could be done by a Biochar Research Centre, but more likely it would simply fall under normal "soil science" research departments... (possibly with Biochar thrown in as part of the mix of technologies that might help with finding ways to enhance biological processes that convert surface adsorbed p and complex organic p to soluble forms in a timely way when the plants need it

        "P is only weakly bound (or not at all) to char. But when there is a developed (arbuscular mycorrhyzal) fungal growth in and around the char surfaces, the P will stitch to the char-fungal complex, and will thus stay in the soil complex for longer periods of time, and can then be delivered to plants as they 'buy' it with sugar." "Probably most of the action of making P available to the plants is done by the mycorrhiza fungi."
          - Folke G.

        This is the pictorial part of the description of an easy charring method.

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