Thursday, 28 August 2014

BiocharCulture - a new book

Dr Reddy has just released a new book on biochar which is freely available via as a PDF file from a web download. The author...
"My latest Book title "Biocharculture - Biochar for Environment and Development" Published by MetaMeta, Netherlands. It took two years to write covering a decade of my endeavour with biochar. I am thankful to all the members in the e-groups for the valuable insights, thanks also to the communities / farmers. This book is declared as open Knowledge.. Available online the links are or or Thanks to MetaMeta for publishing and all the support."

Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy

Click here to download book
"Here is a question often asked with great concern: can agriculture meet the challenges of an expanding world and a global economy that is moving more to ‘middle income’? The projections by the Food and Agricultural Organization for instance are that by 2050 the demand for food and fibres - compared with 2005 - will have expanded by 60% respectively 81%. Is this a challenge that is too hard to meet?

A recent comprehensive review of co-optimizing solution for food, water and energy by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development1 found that we still have many cooptimizing options in hand, but it also means that we need to rejuvenate the way farming is done. Agriculture needs to be more precise. It needs to be better integrated in the landscapes that it is part of and it should be supporting rather than substituting natural processes.

It is in this regard that I am very happy to introduce this book on Biocharculture and also to acknowledge its unfailing energetic author, Sai Bhaskar Reddy. We are happy that much of his overall insights and first hand experiences have become available through this book.

Biocharculture falls very much in a vision of an agriculture that supports and makes use of natural growing mechanism. Biochar is charcoal that is used for other purposes than heating. It can be a byproduct or part of an entire production system. 

Biochar scores on many fronts: it improves the capacity of the soil to retain moisture but also nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. It helps regulate soil temperature and contribute to climate change mitigation. It improves soil life. I still remember that Sai Bhaskar explained a tiny piece of charcoal to me as being a ‘skyscraper for millions of soil biota’. There is still a world to gain – by better understanding this miraculous microbial world and the way our soils and landscapes work and this book hopes to contribute and give practical suggestions and directions. Interesting in some parts of the world biochar is part of the production process where in other it is not. In other words we need to create new traditions and farming cultures, as this book very much argues."
Frank van Steenbergen
Director, MetaMeta

Dr Reddy also published a book on cooking stoves which is also available for download from:
Understanding Stoves (pdf)  and flash book
S. B. Nakka Reddy, 2012

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

New biochar research from Malaysia related to soil remediation


"Biochar as a new soil amendment has a potential in controlling the fate of trace elements in the soil system. However, the production of biochar from different feedstocks and pyrolysis conditions resulted in variable biochar properties which have an influence on trace elements availability. The experimental works are focused on physical and chemical properties of biochars produced from Empty Fruit Bunch (EFB) and Rice Husk (RH) as heavy metals adsorbents. The morphology of EFB biochar comprise rigid structure with uniform pores size. The surface area of biochars ranged between 23.22-46.32 m2 /g, dominated with mesopores. The chemical characterization of biochars revealed high carbon content in EFB biochar compared to RH biochar (54.08 and 7.78%). Both biochars are alkaline in nature (>pH 9) and contain substantial amounts of N, P, K, Ca and Mg. Fourier transform infra-red spectra showed the heterogenic functional groups on EFB biochar surface and domination of silica content in RH biochar. The batch experiment was employed to determine the adsorption capacity of these biochars for As and Cd. The adsorption data were fitted well in Langmuir isotherm with high correlation coefficient (R>0.9) for As and Cd. The qmax of EFB biochar for As and Cd was higher than RH biochar. The q of EFB biochar was 0.4240 and 15.1515 mg g-1 for As and Cd, respectively. In contrast, the qmax of RH biochar for As and Cd was only 0.3522 and 3.1908 mg g-1. The results show that EFB biochar and RH biochar have potentials as good sorbent for As and Cd. Therefore, it can be suggested that the application of these biochars may possibly reduce the trace elements availability in the contaminated soil." 

Norazlina Abu Sari, Department of Soil Science, Faculty of Plantation and Agrotechnology, Universiti Teknologi MARA, 77300 Merlimau, Melaka, Malaysia
Che Fauziah Ishak and Rosenani Abu Bakar, Department of Land Management, Faculty of Agriculture, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Malaysia

Link to the publication

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

World Bank on Biochar Systems for Smallholders in Developing Countries

Courtesy of International Biochar Initiative: (includes Vietnam case study on rice husk)

The World Bank has recently published the report entitled,

Biochar Systems for Smallholders in Developing Countries : Leveraging Current Knowledge and Exploring Future Potential for Climate-Smart Agriculture

Biochar is the carbon-rich organic matter that remains after heating biomass under the minimization of oxygen during a process called pyrolysis. There are a number of reasons why biochar systems may be particularly relevant in developing-country contexts. This report offers a review of what is known about opportunities and risks of biochar systems. Its aim is to provide a state-of-the-art overview of current knowledge regarding biochar science. In that sense the report also offers a reconciling view on different scientific opinions about biochar providing an overall account that shows the various perspectives of its science and application. This includes soil and agricultural impacts of biochar, climate change impacts, social impacts, and competing uses of biomass. The report aims to contextualize the current scientific knowledge in order to put it at use to address the development climate change nexus, including social and environmental sustainability. The report is organized as follows: chapter one offers some introductory comments and notes the increasing interest in biochar both from a scientific and practitioner's point of view; chapter two gives further background on biochar, describing its characteristics and outlining the way in which biochar systems function. Chapter three considers the opportunities and risks of biochar systems. Based on the results of the surveys undertaken, chapter four presents a typology of biochar systems emerging in practice, particularly in the developing world. Life-cycle assessments of the net climate change impact and the net economic profitability of three biochar systems with data collected from relatively advanced biochar projects were conducted and are presented in chapter five. Chapter six investigates various aspects of technology adoption, including barriers to implementing promising systems, focusing on economics, carbon market access, and sociocultural barriers. Finally, the status of knowledge regarding biochar systems is interpreted in chapter seven to determine potential implications for future involvement in biochar research, policy, and project formulation.
“Scholz, Sebastian M.; Sembres, Thomas; Roberts, Kelli; Whitman, Thea; Wilson, Kelpie; Lehmann, Johannes. 2014. Biochar Systems for Smallholders in Developing Countries : Leveraging Current Knowledge and Exploring Future Potential for Climate-Smart Agriculture. Washington, DC: World Bank. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Not-to-be-missed new video on simple biochar production

Kon-Tiki - open burn deep cone kiln for biochar

There's a bit of a buzz in the biochar community over these type of cone kilns (TFOD) and 'Moxham' kilns. Backyard biochar has led the way on this...

Although not stated, I think this video has been put together by Hans-Peter Schmidt at the Ithaka Institute in Switzerland during a recent visit by Paul Taylor.

This type of simple, low cost, versatile and relatively clean biochar production may be the way forward for many home biochar production scenarios. It looks particularly suitable for unprocessed woody biomass. It may even offer a better solution than 200L TLUD's for my suggested haze reduction project.

I will be visiting the Ithaka Institute later this month and hope to progress biochar plantation trials later in the year. The plantation companies will want to see some economic validation for biochar before there is any investment in biochar production or large scale support for developing plantation biomass to biochar projects.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Secret Garden revisted

I've been collaborating with Dr Francis Ng and Alfred Cheong on an article describing the historical and ongoing use of biochar in Bandar Utama, a township within Kuala Lumpur. Biochar related activities began in Bandar Utama in 2002 culminating in the Secret Garden opening in 2009 and ongoing commercial applications in urban landscaping. Hopefully the article will be completed in August.

During my visit yesterday, I was introduced to some of Dr Ng's extensive plantings that I had missed on previous visits. The photo below finds Dr Ng next to a very healthy looking camellia sinensis or tea bushes. Also nearby were arabica, robusta and liberica coffee plants... all happily living with their feet in 50% carbon.
Dr Francis Ng beside his roof-top tea plantation

A new brochure has been printed for the Secret Garden and this now provides back-ground details on the biochar soils that have been used in the garden. You can access a scan copy of the brochure / guide from here.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Can biomass char remove toxic synthetic chemicals from drinking water?

Here's a campaign worthy of support. Josh Kearns has a long history of good work in Thailand. This is a very well presented pitch...

"Toxic synthetic chemicals such as pesticides and pharmaceutical residues are a major threat to drinking water safety worldwide. Low-cost, environmentally sustainable and locally managed treatment technologies are needed to protect human health in impoverished, rural and remote communities. This research project demonstrates the potential of char made from surplus biomass (biochar) as an effective sorbent for chemical toxins."

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

What Is the Connection between Rice Straw, Charcoal and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

..."Another option is to turn the rice straw into charcoal by burning it while restricting the amount of oxygen so the carbon in the straw does not turn into CO2. The charcoal is then returned to the rice field. Therefore, instead of rice farming being a source of carbon emissions, it could actually store carbon, what is better known as carbon sequestration.   It is still early days and researchers are busy understanding the wonders of turning straw into charcoal which they call biochar. However, an organization called the Philippine Biochar Association is already promoting biochar use with Philippine rice farmers. What they are doing is paying the farmers to turn their rice straw into biochar instead of burning it in the field. This is funded by local companies who want to offset their carbon footprint. If you are interested to learn more about the Philippine Biochar Association, click on the following link ."

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Biomass Asia Conference 2014

From this link: there was some intent to have a biochar component to this conference...

THEME 5: Biomass for Agriculture

  • Conversion of biomass into compost
  • Value-adding strategies for biofertiliser
  • Biochar development & market updates
But based on the available program, it seems that there may not now be any specific papers.

2nd Biochar Workshop - Pakistan

2nd International Workshop on Biochar for Climate Friendly Agriculture. "Agronomic, socio-economic and policy perspectives on biochar and C-Market" to be held on 12th May, 2014 at University of Agriculture Faisalabad-Pakistan. You are welcome to join in...

Registration open online on the following weblink:
Dr. Fahd Rasul
0092 322 7881778  (Cell no)
Assistant professor, 

Pakistan Biochar Initiative
Climate Change Mitigation Lab,
Department of Agronomy,
University of Agriculture Faisalabad 38040 Pakistan.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Biochar in Agriculture - Perspectives for Germany and Malaysia

The above image links to a website dedicated to a research project that includes participation of University Putra Malaysia (UPM) who have been quietly undertaking biochar research for a number of years.

"Aims of this project are research activities on the use of charred biomass material (biochar) in agriculture to provide a better understanding of economic and environmental potentials of biochar. A special focus is set on the GHG mitigation potential of biochar use and its economic costs. The holistic challenge will be analyzed in a consortium led by the Leibniz-Institute for Agricultural Engineering Potsdam-Bornim e.V. (ATB) in cooperation with the Leibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape (Zalf), the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Technical University of Berlin (TU), Humboldt-University Berlin (HU) and the University of Putra Malaysia (UPM)."

Note the two newsletters that are available from the website. These provide project status information for July 2013 and March 2014. The latest newsletter reports the following...

"Pot Experiment on N-Fertilizer Leaching and Crop Uptake 
Azni Idris, Rosenani Abu Bakar, Tinia Idaty Mohd. Ghazi, Mohd Amran Mohd Salleh, Sherwin Lee Chan Kit (University Putra Malaysia)  
The aim of our study is to determine the effects of oil palm  empty  fruit  bunch  (EFB)  biochar  on nitrogen (N)  fertilizer recovery,  crop uptake,  and N  leaching using 15 N  labelled  fertilizer. A pot experiment was conducted  under  a  rain  shelter using maize as the test crop and soil type used for planting was clayey sandy soil. The experimental design was random complete block (RCBD) with 6 blocks and treated with four rates of EFB biochar; 0 (control), 5, 10, and 20t/ha. After incubating the soils in the pots for 2 weeks, EFB biochar was  applied at the top 20 cm of the soil and only one maize  was planted per pot. The maize plants were fertilized at 10 days old with ammonium sulphate [(15NH4)2SO4]  labelled  with 15N, triple superphosphate (TSP), and  muriate of potash (MOP) at the rate of 30:30:30. The  same fertilizer rate was applied again when the maize reached 20 days old and final fertilization at the rate of 20:20:20 was applied at the age of 35 days old. Induced leaching was started 2 days after the first fertilization and continuously done once after every 4 days until silking stage of the maize. The total leachate was measured while ammonium (NH4+) and nitrate (NO3-) concentration in leachate was analyzed using steam distillation method with MgO and Devarda’s alloy, respectively (Bremner, 1965). At silking stage (56 days  old),  tissue  sample was harvested  to  be analyzed for dry matter weight, N content, total N, P, K, Ca, and Mg, while pot soil will be analyzed for 15N content, total N, C, P, pH, electrical conductivity (EC), cation exchange capacity (CEC), and exchangeable cations (K, Ca, and Mg). From the results obtained so far, EFB biochar has the ability to increase water holding capacity (Laird et  al., 2010) and reduces leaching. Hence, the volume and frequency of watering can be reduced and lesser nitrogen (N) fertilizer will be lost due to leaching. The biochar acts like a cache for water and indirectly holds more soluble plant nutrients, especially N. This could be the reason why maize that were treated with EFB biochar have greater biomass than the control (Figure 3). Future work of analyzing 15N in the maize tissue and pot soil using isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS) will support this theory. "