Friday, 19 August 2011

IBI August Newletter - draft BIG-SEA contribution

SEA August Report

Biochar Activities in Singapore

Research interest from a number of groups in Singapore and Malaysia has led to an order being placed with BlackEarth in Australia for a 20ft container of biochar. The importation work is being led by Uniseal in Singapore, who are planning to undertake green-roof and other trials on biochar. BSL undertook the initial coordination for this initiative which also includes the research arm of the Singapore Parks Department (CUGE) and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).
Report from CUGE
The Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE) Division of Singapore National Parks Board has initiated research using biochar for urban soil improvement. Dr. Subhadip Ghosh, a researcher from CUGE has undertaken some initial trials using commercial charcoal on different types of soil-based root zone mixes typically used for turf grass and rooftop application and the results indicated that application of charcoal significantly increased the organic matter content and nutrient status of the soils. CUGE will conduct further research on efficacy of biochar for restoring soil quality for the growth of trees and grasses. These studies will determine whether biochar can replace sand in the growing media such as ASM (Approved Soil Mix). These studies will help to identify appropriate application rates and economic feasibility of applying biochar as an urban soil amendment compared to other materials currently being used.
Uniseal Singapore Pte Ltd
Uniseal will undertake a number of research activities based around the importation of biochar from Australia, focusing on the following initial work:
  1)  To research on the performance of Biochar application on green roofs to determine the effects of plant growth, carbon sequestration and stormwater water quality after infiltrating through the green roofs. 
  2)  To research on the performance of Biochar application on Bio-swales and Bio-retention basins (rain gardens) to determine the effectiveness of removing pollutants (eg. hydrocarbons) from the stormwater.

Biochar Activities in Malaysia
Two Cambodian students, Bona Moung and Piseth Yu, have completed their 5 months placement with UniKL MICET, and are set to return home to Phom Phen to continue their studies with the Royal University of Agriculture. The students had a very productive time investigating the heat transfer efficiency, specific PM10 emission and biochar yield from EFB pellets and coconut shells using Paul Anderson's TLUD, Crisipin Pendecott's VESTO, a traditional Malaysian clay stove and the three stone fire. In addition the biochar produced was characterised physico-chemically. Bona and Piseth will take back the biochar for pot assay testing early next year. A farewell BBQ was organised using the cooking stoves to prepare the food. That was fun!
While we were sad to see Bona and Moung go we are cheered by the arrival of our first international PhD student from Uganda, Nsamba Hussein Kisiki. He'll be working with Dr Robert Bachmann from UniKL MICET, Prof. Gerard Cornelissen and Dr Sarah Hale from NGI (Norway) on biochar.
Universiti Putra Malysia 
Universiti Putra Malysia, Serdang, are actively conducting research on biochar. The Faculty of Engineering is working on pyrolysis methods for different feedstock and we at the Faculty of Agriculture are carrying out  experiments in the glasshouse and field on the application of the biochars (oil palm empty fruit bunch biochar and rice husk biochar) for cultivation of vegetable and field crop (maize and rice), as M.Sc. and Ph.D. projects. We are excited by the results that we are getting seems promising. We have participated in a few exhibitions to create awareness about biochar and its role for crop production and mitigation of climate change.
Work continues on the BEK research program at MPOB, first reported in the May11 newsletter.  The construction of a new house for the BEK was completed, which is spacious enough to accommodate the BEK this time around. A few batches of the feedstock have been run through since then, and some minor modification on the BEK are needed to optimize the performance of the unit (Suggestions and advices from other BEK’s user will be very helpful). Some properties of the biochar produced have been analyzed, and the results are reported in the extended abstract submitted to APBC 2011. Kong (the student/author) is going to present the poster on his work on this, and he is currently looking for sponsorship or travelling grant offered to students/young scientists to fund his trip to Kyoto this September. Any suggestions or advice in this regard would be most appreciated.

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