Sunday, 26 October 2014

Biochar training course & conference, Nanjing

“Following the success of the first and the second Biochar Training Course, The Biochar and Green Agriculture Center of Nanjing Agriculture University in collaboration with the University of Newcastle and University of NSW of Australia is announcing a third course to be held starting 16th April 2015. China now leads the world in the commercial production of both biochar and biochar technology. It has pioneered the development of combine NPK biochar granulated fertilizers.”
You can find details from this link to the course announcement and conference program.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sydney biochar workshop - 10 December

International Perspectives on Biochar Research and Application
"Leading experts from Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Thailand, UK and USA will discuss biochar applications in different systems. It is a great opportunity to learn about the current biochar research and applications. ..."

This 1-day workshop has some tropical soils and SEA content Co/ ...

  • Gerard Cornelissen, Norway. Environmental and socio-economic impacts of the adoption of biochar technology in developing countries
  • Nattaporn Prakongkep , Thai Department of Agriculture, and Bob Gilkes, The University of Western Australia Opportunities for fruit waste biochars in organic agriculture in the tropics
Check out the details here.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Urban biochar project model

Coming to a city near you in SEA soon (hopefully)...

Stockholm, Sweden: Biochar – for a Better City Ecosystem
"Stockholm, like many global cities, is confronting the effects of climate change. Stockholm will create a citywide program that activates citizens as front-line change agents to curb this escalating problem. Together, the city and its residents will produce biochar, an organic substance that increases tree growth, sequesters carbon, and purifies storm water runoff. Citizens will bring their green waste to locations across the city for conversion to biochar and, ultimately, redistribution."

Sunday, 7 September 2014

the Biochar Journal

Ithaka Institute have been busy. Here is a link to a new biochar journal that is in beta test mode this month. Hans-Peter has pulled together a great team of experts from around the world. Check out the list of existing and planned articles. It launches with an article by Kathleen Draper on biochar paper… exciting stuff.

My previous report on some of their work can be seen here...

I have not reported here on my recent visit to the Ithaka Institute and a commercial operation in Switzerland as these focused mainly on temperate climate agriculture. But do get in touch if you are interested. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

New biochar related article from Paul Olivier in Vietnam

Biochar is frequently discussed in this broad ranging, entertaining and enlightening article.

An Unconventional Way Of Raising Pigs, Chickens and Cows

Four levels of waste transformation are adapted and applied to the raising of pigs, chickens and cows. Farmers ferment waste into feed (Level 1). They feed fecal matter to the larvae of the black soldier fly, they feed larval residue to red worms, and they fertilize their crops primarily with vermicompost (Level 2). They house pigs, chickens and cows on a soft mesophilic bedding (Level 3) sprayed each day with probiotic liquids. They add biochar from top-lit, updraft gasifiers to the fermented feed and to the bedding, and they use syngas for household cooking (Level 4). The bedding has no odor. There are no flies. At no point in their lives are antibiotics or any other pharmaceuticals administered to pigs, chickens and cows raised in this unconventional way. Just about all of the behavioral and physiological needs of animals and poultry are met. Instead of inhumane confinement or free-range, we propose a third way: confinement in a clean, spacious and odorless setting that accords comfort and dignity to animals. High levels of productivity are achieved, not by means by over-crowding, antibiotics, growth hormones or chemical fertilizers - but by lining up multiple, interdependent waste transformation cycles that all reduce cost and generate income. These waste transformation technologies can even be extended to include the recycling of bone, human waste and biodegradable household waste. Through the wise and efficient transformation of waste, farmers buy nothing from feed, fertilizer, pharmaceutical, and fuel companies. Strong and self-reliant, farmers no longer depend on the fragile infrastructure of global trade. Large international corporations that enslave small farmers through the sale of unsustainable inputs are shut out, along with traders peddling cheap subsidized products that devastate local economies. In this way a lot more jobs are created and a lot more money is made at the local level. The social upheaval caused by the migration of young people to large cities is eliminated. Poor people, especially poor women, are empowered as never before. Food production increases. Food security, along with national security, is enhanced. Trade figures improve. Human health is not endangered. The environment does not suffer. And neither do pigs, chickens and cows.

Dr. Paul A. Olivier and Dr. Nguyen Van Ket and Todd Hyman
Empowering the Poor Through Waste Transformation

Paul Olivier's work in Vietnam with TLUD stoves has been covered previously in this website...
10 Aug 2013
Dr Paul Olivier visits Malaysia - regional TLUD development. The following comments are Co/ Dr Paul Olivier, cut from a recent post to the "Improved Biomass Cooking Stoves" discussion list (you may need to sign up to ...

04 Mar 2012
If you are interested in biomass stoves (TLUD) or the multiple applications for small scale biomass gasification then I highly recommend a review of Dr Paul Olivier's work in Vietnam with rice husk biomass. His 10 page report ...

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.