Soil Carbon Sequestration Email Print

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth, TP), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages... SIMULTANEOUSLY!

All political persuasions agree, building soil carbon is GOOD.
To Hard bitten Farmers, wary of carbon regulations that only increase their costs, Building soil carbon is a savory bone, to do well while doing good.

Biochar provides the tool powerful enough to cover Farming's carbon foot print while lowering cost simultaneously.

Biochar Soils.....Husbandry of whole new orders & Kingdoms of life

Biotic Carbon, the carbon transformed by life, should never be combusted, oxidized and destroyed. It deserves more respect, reverence even, and understanding to use it back to the soil where 2/3 of excess atmospheric carbon originally came from.

We all know we are carbon-centered life, we seldom think about the complex web of recycled bio-carbon which is the true center of life. A cradle to cradle, mutually co-evolved biosphere reaching into every crack and crevice on Earth.

It's hard for most to revere microbes and fungus, but from our toes to our gum's (onward), their balanced ecology is our health. The greater earth and soils are just as dependent, at much longer time scales. Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, Methane & Nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel. Agriculture allowed our cultural accent and Agriculture will now prevent our descent.

Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,

Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.

Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration, 80%-90% Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 2X Fertility Too.
Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration (= to 1 Ton CO2e) + Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels = to 1MWh exported electricity, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw;
"Feed the Soil Not the Plants" becomes;
"Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !".
Free Carbon Condominiums with carboxyl group fats in the pantry and hydroxyl alcohol in the mini bar.
Build it and the Wee-Beasties will come.
Microbes like to sit down when they eat.
By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders & Kingdoms of life.

This is what I try to get across to Farmers, as to how I feel about the act of returning carbon to the soil. An act of penitence and thankfulness for the civilization we have created. Farmers are the Soil Sink Bankers, once carbon has a price, they will be laughing all the way to it.

Unlike CCS which only reduces emissions, biochar systems draw down CO2 every energy cycle, closing a circle back to support the soil food web.  The photosynthetic  "capture" collectors are up and running, the "storage" sink is in operation just under our feet.  Pyrolysis conversion plants are the only infrastructure  we need to build out.

Another significant aspect of bichar is removal of BC aerosols by low cost ($3) Biomass cook stoves that produce char but no respiratory disease emissions. At Scale, replacing "Three Stone" stoves the health benefits would equal eradication of Malaria.
  http://terrapretapot.org/  and village level systems   http://biocharfund.org/
 The Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF).recently funded  The Biochar Fund $300K for these systems citing these priorities;
(1) Hunger amongst the world's poorest people, the subsistence farmers of Sub-Saharan Africa,
(2) Deforestation resulting from a reliance on slash-and-burn farming,
(3) Energy poverty and a lack of access to clean, renewable energy, and
(4) Climate change.

The Biochar Fund :
Exceptional results from biochar experiment in Cameroon
http://scitizen.com/screens blogPage/viewBlog/sw_viewB log.php?idTheme=14&idCo ntribution=3011
The broad smiles of 1500 subsistence farmers say it all ( that , and the size of the Biochar corn root balls )
http://biocharfund.org/inde x.php?option=com_content&am p;task=view&id=55&I temid=75

Mark my words; Given the potential for Laurens Rademaker's programs to grow exponentially, only a short time lies between This man's  nomination for a Noble Prize.

This authoritative PNAS article should cause the recent Royal Society Report to rethink their criticism of Biochar systems of Soil carbon sequestration;

Reducing abrupt climate change risk using
the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory
actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions
http://www.pnas.org/content /early/2009/10/09/090256810 6.full.pdf+html

There are dozens soil researchers on the subject now at USDA-ARS.
and many studies at The up coming  ASA-CSSA-SSSA joint meeting;
 http://a-c-s.confex.com/cro ps/2009am/webprogram/Sessio n5675.html

The Clean Energy Partnerships Act of 2009
 The bill is designed to ensure that any US domestic cap-and-trade bill provides maximum incentives and opportunities for the US agricultural and forestry sectors to provide high-quality offsets and GHG emissions reductions for credit or financial incentives. Carbon offsets play a critical role in keeping the costs of a cap-and-trade program low for society as well as for capped sectors and entities, while providing valuable emissions reductions and income generation opportunities for the agricultural sector. The bill specifically identifies biochar production and use as eligible for offset credits, and identifies biochar as a high priority for USDA R&D, with funding authorized by the bill.
To read the full text of the bill, go to: http://www.biochar-internat ional.org/sites/default/fil es/END09F94.pdf.

Senator Baucus is co-sponsoring  a bill along with Senator Tester (D-MT) called WE CHAR.  Water Efficiency via Carbon Harvesting and Restoration Act!  It focuses on promoting biochar technology to address invasive species and forest biomass.  It includes grants and loans for biochar market research and development, biochar characterization and environmental analyses.  It directs USDI and USDA to provide loan guarantees for biochar technologies and on-the-ground production with an emphasis on biomass from public lands.   And the USGS is to do biomas availability assessments.
WashingtonWatch.com - S. 1713, The Water Efficiency via Carbon Harvesting and Restoration (WECHAR) Act of 2009

Individual and groups can show support for WECHAR by signing online at:
http://www.biocharmatters.o rg

Congressional Research Service report (by analyst Kelsi Bracmort) is the best short summary I have seen so far - both technical and policy oriented.
http://assets.opencrs.com/r pts/R40186_20090203.pdf .

United Nations Environment Programme, Climate Change Science Compendium 2009
http://www.unep.org/compend ium2009/

Al Gore got the CO2 absorption thing wrong, ( at NABC Vilsack did same), but his focus on Soil Carbon is right on;
http://www.newsweek.com/id/ 220552/page/3

Research:
The future of biochar - Project Rainbow Bee Eater
http://www.sciencealert.com .au/features/20090211-20142 .html

Japan Biochar Association ;
http://www.geocities.jp/yas izato/pioneer.htm

UK Biochar Research Centre
http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/sc cs/biochar/

Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.
Cheers,
Erich


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