Friday, 28 December 2018

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Important biochar thesis from Nepal, Co/ Norway

I highly recommend reading at least the 4-page Summary to Naba's thesis. Its well written and findings look very important for Nepal and tropical agriculture in general.
You can link to the full document with a click on the cover page image below...

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Carbo-Fertil project and IBI biochar study tour to Austria June 2018

Biochar from food waste

I have a few Qs here...
  • where does food waste best fit in a waste hierarchy? does it have better utility as animal feed or in a localised BSF industry
  • what sort of H&MB numbers are going to work at scale, with all that water to remove? is hydrothermal carbonisation a better path for this type of waste stream
  • recovering P from our industrial food and sewage systems is important... is biochar production going to become a key player?

Properties of Biochar from Anaerobically Digested Food Waste and Its Potential Use in Phosphorus Recovery and Soil Amendment

1School of Agriculture and Biology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 800 Dongchuan Road, Shanghai 200240, China
2Shanghai Liming Resources Reuse Co. Ltd., Shanghai 201209, China
*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 November 2018 / Accepted: 5 December 2018 / Published: 10 December 2018


The disposal of a large amount of biogas residue from anaerobically digested food waste is a burden for biogas production. The aim of this work was to investigate biogas residue as a potential feedstock, by preparing biochar at a broad pyrolysis temperature range of 400–900 °C. The properties required for phosphorus recovery and soil amendment application were evaluated. Biogas residue collected from an urban food waste treatment plant was pyrolyzed in a laboratory scale reactor. It was found that by increasing the pyrolysis temperature, the yield of biochar decreased and the pH, electrical conductivity and Brunauer–Emmett–Teller surface area increased. The amount of phosphorus adsorbed onto the biogas residue-derived biochar (BRB) at 900 °C was larger than that of other kinds of biochar. The kinetics of phosphorus (P) adsorption on BRB could be described by the pseudo-second-order equation. The pot experiments showed that the resulting biochar is beneficial for the growth of cabbage. Overall, turning solid residue from the anaerobic digestion of food waste for biogas production into biochar shows good prospects as a means of solving the disposal problem, while creating new markets for food waste biogas residue.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Friday, 30 November 2018

Beyond the Trough - Thailand

"Lots of people expressed interest in the post-trough, post-Kontiki, tench solution to making char in the field without water. Here's a really simple, two minute video shot using our original test trench. In a few months when the corn harvest is in, I'll shoot a more real one up in the mountains. For now, this will have to serve. It is not, as you will see, rocket science, and as long as you dig the trench during the rainy season, there's not much work involved."
Dr Micheal Shafer

Check out the "flame cap' tag for other contributions...

RHC-composting study from Malaysia

Monday, 12 November 2018

TLUD street kitchen - Vietnam

From: Paul Olivier
Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2018 at 17:26
Subject: street kitchens in Vietnam

A street kitchen in Vietnam is generally a grave threat to human health and the environment. A street kitchen typically burns coal, charcoal or firewood. The lighting of these solid fuels usually emits a cloud of black smoke. When these solids fuels are combusted, high levels of benzene, particulate matter and CO stream forth in all directions. But perhaps, still worse, are the highly carcinogenic cooking oil fuels.

Near the University of Dalat, there are several street kitchens close to one another. They emit large quantities of cooking oil fumes. These cooking oil fumes combine with particulate matter and nitrogen compounds (emitted by sewage lines), and when these pollutants enter the human lung, they stick there and do not come out. People get sick, and people die.

Here you see jpegs of a 150 gasifier equipped with a 3-sided wind shield, a 40-liter biochar filter, a hood and a fan.
The 150 gasifier emits levels of benzene, particulate matter and CO well within the norms specified by the World Health Organization. When cooking oil fumes are pulled through the biochar filter by means of a small fan above the round hood, they stick to the biochar and not to the human lung.

The solid fuels typically used by street kitchens are costly. But with a gasifier, one has high-grade heat at a profit, since the biochar pellets produced in the gasifier have a greater value than the raw pellets from which they are derived. In other words, one has high-grade heat at a profit.

When biochar is produced in a gasifier, dirty and highly-polluting biochar kilns are not needed. In Dalat I have seen biochar kilns that emit, day after day, huge clouds of smoke.

Gasifiers can be powered almost entirely by agricultural waste biomass, such as rice hulls and rice straw. To the extent that such waste biomass would be pelleted and used as gasifier fuel, the useless burning of this waste would not take place.
Paul A. Olivier PhD
27/2bis Phu Dong Thien Vuong
Dalat, Vietnam

Louisiana telephone: 1-337-447-4124 (rings Vietnam)
Mobile: 090-694-1573 (in Vietnam)
Skype address: Xpolivier

Friday, 9 November 2018

IBI Webinar on B4SS (Indonesia, Vietnam)

Upcoming Webinars

IBI Educational Webinar Series: Biochar for Sustainable Soils (B4SS)

11/29/2018Presented by Ruy Anaya de la Rosa
Biochar projects spanning multiple countries are still relatively few and far between. There is much to learn from these types of multinational projects. IBI has invited Ruy Anaya de la Rosa, the Project Director from the recently concluded Biochar for Sustainable Soils (B4SS) to discuss lessons learned, challenges and best practices from his experiences collaborating biochar projects teams in China, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru and Vietnam.
B4SS was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) under the Land Degradation Focal Area in the GEF-5 Strategies.  The objective of the B4SS was to demonstrate and promote the adoption of sustainable land management practices involving the use of innovative organic amendments, based on biochar, that improve the capture and efficient use of nutrients, and enhance productivity, improve climate resilience, support rural livelihoods, and contribute to watershed management. A key goal was to promote the diffusion and successful adoption of biochar techniques among B4SS partner countries and beyond.
The project was focused on collating knowledge generated through the implementation of the targeted biochar demonstration projects. Awareness and improved understanding amongst smallholders, including women’s groups, and resource managers about the most effective biochar formulations and application rates to improve soil functions and reduce land degradation, will be created and shared among stakeholders. This integrated global approach to advance the knowledge on the use of biochar for SLM also conveyed other messages to farming communities mainly interested in soil improvement.

Free to IBI Members or $40 for non-members. (Not a member yet? Click here to join and get webinars free for a year, and lots of other benefits!)  Registration includes access to the slides and a recording of the webinar.

To Register:
Non-members may register here for a $40 fee.  If you are a member and are expecting to access the webinar for free, please log in first and return to this page for the members registration link and code to appear. 

For more information:
For more information or if you have any questions about registration please email Caroline Peat at  Want to become an IBI member and have access to all recorded webinars?  Visit our membership page to help support IBI.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

EFB biochar, composting in Indonesia

The efficiency of phosphorus uptake by plants in an Ultisol soil is very low because most of soil phosphorus is precipitated by Al and Fe. Oil palm empty fruit bunches can be used as basic materials of biochar and compost, and as sources of isolates of phosphate solubilizing fungi. This study was aimed to elucidate the effect of application of phosphate solubilizing fungi with biochar and compost generated from oil palm empty fruit bunches on growth and yield of maize an Ultisol of Central Kalimantan. This study consisted of two experiments. The first experiment was inoculation of four isolates of phosphate solubilizing fungi isolated from of oil palm empty fruit bunches, i.e. Acremonium (TB1), Aspergillus (TM7), Hymenella (TM1) and Neosartorya (TM8) to 'biocom' media (mixture of biochar and compost generated from oil palm empty fruit bunches) to obtain phosphate solubilizing fungi that can adapt to the media. In the second experiment, the best results in the first experiment were applied to an Ultisol soil planted with maize. The results showed that isolates that were best adapted to biocom media were Aspergillus-TB7 with 60:40 proportion (60% biochar + 40% compost) and Neosartorya-TM8 with 70:30 proportions (60% biochar + 40% compost). The application of the first experiment results to the second experiment showed that the application of biocom plus Neosartorya-TM8 (BTM) on an Ultisol soil significantly improved growth and yield of maize, as well as phosphorus uptake and efficiency of phosphorus uptake by maize.
Eko Handayanto   
Research Centre for Management of Degraded and Mining Lands, Brawijaya University, Jl. Veteran, Malang 65145, Indonesia

Sunday, 28 October 2018

TLUD stoves in Bangladesh

The video below subtitles but I include it now because of the comments provided by Julian:

Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2018 20:30:58 -0400
From: Julien Winter
To: Discussion of biomass cooking stoves (
Cc: Mahbubul Islam, Dean Still, vhrapp
Subject: [Stoves] Short Documentary on TLUD and Biochar in Bangladesh (in Bangla)

Hi folks;
Here is a short doc on TLUDs and biochar in Bangladesh.  It is in Bangla,
but I am sure we can all understand the body language for 'migrating
pyrolytic front', 'cation exchange capacity', and 'sodium chloride'.

The significance of this video is that Bangladesh is a nascent hot-spot of
TLUD and biochar research, because it is probably the most ideal country in
the World for these technologies: 3 crops per year, low organic matter
soils, 80% of population cooking with biomass,  >1000 people / km?,
impending loss of land to sea level rise, and plenty of scientists.

It is great the way this video includes both the university professors,
farmers and lots of women.  The CCDB project has collected data showing
that university professors increase the self-esteem of women TLUD users, so
it is recommended that professors should be applied liberally in the
countryside to increase cookstove acceptance.

I hope subtitles in English are forthcoming.

Julien Winter, Cobourg, ON, CANADA

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Successful pot trials - rice, acid soils and biochar


Effect of Rice-straw Biochar Application on Rice (Oryza sativa L.) Root Growth and Nitrogen Utilization in Acidified Paddy Soil

State Key Laboratory of Rice Biology, China National Rice Research Institute, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, 310006, P.R. China 
Rice Research Institute of Guizhou Province, Guiyang, Guizhou, 550006, P.R. China


"Soil acidification and low nitrogen (N) utilization efficiency are serious problems in rice production. Biochar has the potential to provide a liming effect and strong nutrient adsorption, leading to soil improvement. This study was conducted to investigate specific root traits in rice and to assess the effect of rice-straw biochar amendment on nitrogen efficient utilization in acidified soil. Addition of 20 g kg-1biochar and washed biochar significantly promoted rice growth and the yield increased by over 35% and 24%, respectively, when compared with the control. Application of equivalent lime did not increase the rice yield in either low or high N treatments. Biochar application alleviated soil acidity and improved the available nutrient content. Biochar maintained a high available N during the N depletion period by regulating N adsorption and release in the acidified paddy soil. Biochar or washed biochar amendment was found to significantly improve root growth when compared with the control, particularly root mass and adventitious root length. However, application of equivalent lime only significantly promoted the growth of root system before panicle initiation stage. When compared with the liming effect, the adsorption properties of biochar provided a persistent effect in improving acidified soil. Further studies on long-term effects of biochar addition on crop growth as well as its behavior in soil are required in future."
© 2018 Friends Science Publishers

Monday, 22 October 2018

Ithaka newsletter: Biochar Journal articles

©Ithaka Institut
Dear Friends of Ithaka,
The prospects of climate change are so increasingly dire that there are times when it may seem inappropriate to celebrate a promising scientific advance or any other good news. Good news, however, is exactly what humanity needs at moments like this. And to produce good news, it helps to share them and to create examples that others might replicate.
One such bright spot in the dark is the inclusion of biochar and pyrogenic carbon capture & storage (PyCCS) into the recent IPCC special report. It took more than ten years of global biochar science, technology development and practice before it finally appeared serious and convincing enough to the world’s leading climate scientists to mention biochar-based carbon sequestration as a technology to consider. It may take another five years until policy makers discover and discuss this most promising solution to keep global warming in a range that may still sustain civilization in all regions where human culture prospered during the last millennia. Five more years for us to prepare the groundwork with sophisticated technology, understanding of mechanisms, sustainable certification, and valuable biochar based products. See linked below our extended comments and the decisive, biochar related passages from the new IPCC special report.
At Ithaka we have been hard at work on various other positive developments which we hope will provide inspiring examples such as the forest gardens with organic biochar-based fertilization that we set-up in Nepal. A local journalist, Abhaya Raj Joshi, recently visited one of the villages where more than 50,000 trees were planted and have been linked to a global carbon subscription model since 2015. He interviewed villagers on how the new climate farming methods have changed their lives and the village.
And last but not least, Kathleen’s new, updated white paper on using biochar in coffee production with lots of new success stories about using biochar in coffee production and processing from three different continents. Thanks to funding received by the Biochar for Sustainable Soils project, you can enjoy the complete white paper with open access.
The Ithaka team will be traveling to Cuba, India, China and the UN climate conference in Poland over the next months to continue with education, research, collaboration and in-field biochar initiatives. As always, we will share with you what we learn and what we believe may be of service to others. We always appreciate hearing about successes and lessons learned by others working collaboratively on biochar projects around the globe, please feel invited to share these with us.
Yours Hans-Peter and Kathleen

Biochar and PyCCS included as negative emission technology by the IPCC

by Hans-Peter Schmidt
Biochar was included for the first time as a promising negative emission technology (NET) in the new IPCC special report. While the special report’s overall message was alarming, the inclusion of biochar is an important milestone for mitigating climate change and fostering research on pyrogenic carbon. We provide here a short summary on pyrogenic carbon capture and storage (PyCCS) and relevant excerpts from the new IPCC special report with regards to PyCCS and biochar.
... mehr

Carbon sequestration to rejuvenate land, water and economy in Nepal

by Abhaya Raj Joshi
Three years after the first 10,000 forest garden trees were planted in a Nepali mountain village and were linked to a new type of private carbon trading scheme, the village received the visit of a young journalist from a national newspaper. His particular insights into the Nepali way of life and policy, make his report about this acclaimed pilot project combining organic biochar based fertilization, mixed tree garden plantation, water retenition, soil conservation, and crop value chain creation a passionate critic.
... mehr

Pyrogenic carbon capture and storage

In this review, we show that pyrolytic carbon capture and storage (PyCCS) can aspire for carbon sequestration efficiencies of >70%, which is shown to be an important threshold to allow PyCCS to become a relevant negative emission technology. Prolonged residence times of pyrogenic carbon can be generated (a) within the terrestrial biosphere including the agricultural use of biochar; (b) within advanced bio‐based materials as long as they are not oxidized (biochar, bio‐oil); and (c) within suitable geological deposits (bio‐oil and CO2 from permanent pyrogas oxidation).
... mehr

Biochar & Coffee White Paper

by Kathleen Draper
An increasing number of coffee growers use biochar to improve soil fertility and resiliency, reduce dependence on fertilizers, achieve better survival rates for young plants, increase disease resistance and optimize residue management. New peer reviewed information on how biochar can help mitigate coffee rust (roya) and other diseases is presented in addition to benefits related to soil fertility, composting, effluent filtration, renewable energy production, residue management and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across the entire coffee supply chain. ... mehr (<

Biochar & low fertility soils - meta-analysis

Biochar application to low fertility soils: A review of current status, and future prospects


• Biochar has potential to be the best management practice for low fertility soils.
• Biochar coating with organic materials can result in enhanced crop nutrient supply.
• Biochar may accelerate the composting process and improve the end-product quality.
• The influence of biochar varies strongly according to the types of feedstock/soil.


Rapid industrial development and human activities have caused a degradation of soil quality and fertility. There is increasing interest in rehabilitating low fertility soils to improve crop yield and sustainability. Biochar, a carbonaceous material intentionally produced from biomass, is widely used as an amendment to improve soil fertility by retaining nutrients and, potentially, enhancing nutrient bioavailability. But, biochar is not a simple carbon material with uniform properties, so appropriate biochar selection must consider soil type and target crop. In this respect, many recent studies have evaluated several modification methods to maximize the effectiveness of biochar such as optimizing the pyrolysis process, mixing with other soil amendments, composting with other additives, activating by physicochemical processes, and coating with other organic materials. However, the economic feasibility of biochar application cannot be neglected. Strategies for reducing biochar losses and its application costs, and increasing its use efficiency need to be developed. This review synthesized current understanding and introduces holistic and practical approaches for biochar application to low fertility soils, with consideration of economic aspects.

Nice article on biochar 'state of play'

 Well written summary on biochar IMO. We need to see more these sort of articles in local and regional flavor

NCAT Specialist Pens Biochar Article

NCAT Specialist Pens Biochar Article NCAT’s own Jeff Schahczenski, agriculture and economics specialist, published an article about biochar and organic agriculture that was featured in the Organic Farmer magazine. Jeff writes that biochar in agriculture has become a “movement” but points out the difficulties in even establishing a definition for it.
“The range of topics and issues surrounding biochar are immense and unwieldy,” Jeff says. “If you don’t believe me, just check out the 2015 second edition of the book, Biochar for Environmental Management: Science, Technology and Implementation, edited by biochar leaders Johannes Lehmann and Stephen Joseph. This 928-page tome is only the tip of the iceberg on the many, many topics related to biochar. “
You can read the full article at
You can also read NCAT’s publication on biochar here:
Jeff has expertise in organic and sustainable agriculture public policy, marketing and economics, genetically modified crops in agriculture, organic horticulture, renewable agriculture energy, sustainable building construction, and intercultural communications. He served as executive director of the Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (WSAWG), and has been an adjunct instructor for the University of Montana, Western Montana College, and Montana Tech. Jeff received graduate degrees in agricultural economics and political science and served in the Peace Corps in Belize, Central America. He can be reached at or 406-494-4572.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Biochar benefits turfgrass management

This looks like an important read for all managers and green-keepers of sports grounds, golf courses urban green space. I'm not sure what grasses are used in tropical soils. It would be great see some experimentation happening in this region.

Effects of rice-husk biochar on sand-based rootzone amendment and creeping bentgrass growth

XiaoXiao Lia, XuBing Chena, Marta Weber-Siwirskab, JunJun Caoa, ZhaoLong Wanga,⁎
a School of Agriculture and Biology, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai 200240, PR China
b Institute of Landscape Architecture, Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Wroclaw 50-375, Poland

"Turf provides an irreplaceable surface for recreational and sport activities in urban landscape. Sand-based rootzone is recommended for turf establishment because of its excellent compaction resistance. It is necessary to improve the water and nutrient retention of sand-based rootzone by soil amendments in maintaining healthy turf. The objective of this research was to evaluate the effects of rice-husk biochar on sand-based rootzone amendment and creeping bentgrass (Agrostsis stolonifera) establishment. The results showed that bulk density was linearly decreased in proportion to rice-husk biochar. Total porosity and capillary porosity, water retention, and saturated hydraulic conductivity were significantly increased in proportion to rice-husk biochar. Sand-based rootzone amended with 10% of rice-husk biochar promoted the seed germination and young seedling growth with the significantly higher growth rate, leaf emergence rate, shoot and root biomass, and turf coverage than the control. These results indicate that rice-husk biochar had superior characteristics to previous reported biochars in the sand-based rootzone amendment and could be used to improve soil physical properties and turf healthy in sports and recreation playgrounds."

Sunday, 14 October 2018


Dr Ruy Anaya de la Rosa was at the recent ANZBC18 (previous post) and presented on Biochar 4 Sustainable Soils (B4SS) project. See tag below for previous posts.

Ruy's presentation starts at page 47.

ANZBC18 conference proceedings

The ANZBC18 conference proceedings have now been published and made available by AgriFutures Australia...

Richard Upperton from PFS Energy Malaysia describes some of there work related to biochar in 6 slides from page 59.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Dirt Rich - the movie

I posted on the trailer back in March but now it is on temporary general public release (until 12Oct).

You can view the film from this link:

Their FB page:

EFB biochar for improved maize production - Indonesia

The efficiency of phosphorus uptake by plants in an Ultisol soil is very low because most of soil phosphorus is precipitated by Al and Fe. Oil palm empty fruit bunches can be used as basic materials of biochar and compost, and as sources of isolates of phosphate solubilizing fungi. This study was aimed to elucidate the effect of application of phosphate solubilizing fungi with biochar and compost generated from oil palm empty fruit bunches on growth and yield of maize an Ultisol of Central Kalimantan. This study consisted of two experiments. The first experiment was inoculation of four isolates of phosphate solubilizing fungi isolated from of oil palm empty fruit bunches, i.e. Acremonium (TB1), Aspergillus (TM7), Hymenella (TM1) and Neosartorya (TM8) to 'biocom' media (mixture of biochar and compost generated from oil palm empty fruit bunches) to obtain phosphate solubilizing fungi that can adapt to the media. In the second experiment, the best results in the first experiment were applied to an Ultisol soil planted with maize. The results showed that isolates that were best adapted to biocom media were Aspergillus-TB7 with 60:40 proportion (60% biochar + 40% compost) and Neosartorya-TM8 with 70:30 proportions (60% biochar + 40% compost). The application of the first experiment results to the second experiment showed that the application of biocom plus Neosartorya-TM8 (BTM) on an Ultisol soil significantly improved growth and yield of maize, as well as phosphorus uptake and efficiency of phosphorus uptake by maize.

Research from Timor on biochar

Improving mungbean growth in a semiarid dryland system with agricultural waste biochars and cattle manure

Center for Dryland Studies, Universitas Timor, Indonesia 


Mungbean (Vigna radiata L.) productivity in dryland decreased recently due to the soil fertility degradation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of biochar types and cattle manure rates on the growth of mungbean in semi-arid dark soil. The factorial completely randomized block design 3 x 5 with four replicates was set to arrange treatments for the field trial. Two biochars (rice husk and sawdust) at 10 t/ha in combination with four rates of cattle manure (1, 3, 5 and 10 t/ha) and control (without biochar and cattle manure) were applied to the soil, incubated for three weeks and then planted with mungbean cv. Fore Belu. The results revealed that additions of biochar and cattle manure increased soil moisture and soil electrical conductivity by 2-4% and 0.15-0.20, respectively; decreased soil temperature and bulk density by 1-2oC and 0.2 g/cm3, respectively; increased plant height, stem diameter, root length, total, shoot and root dry weights by 4 cm, 0.1 cm, 5 cm, 7 g, 0.9 g and 6 g, respectively, compared to the control. The best growth of mungbean was obtained from the additions of sawdust biochar at 10 t/ha and cattle manure at 3 t/ha.


Biochar as a animal feed supplement - Cambodia

 The work of Preston and Leng continues in Cambodia. I first reported their work back in 2012 from a publication from Lao (shortcut here). There are plenty of other related reports on feed trials which can be found via the 'feed supplement' label.

Rice distillers’ byproduct and molasses-urea blocks containing biochar improved the growth performance of local Yellow cattle fed ensiled cassava roots, cassava foliage and rice straw

Kong Saroeun, T R Preston1 and R A Leng2

Faculty of Agriculture, Svay Rieng University, Cambodia
1 Centro para la Investigación en Sistemas Sostenibles de Producción Agropecuaria (CIPAV), Carrera 25 No 6-62 Cali, Colombia
2 University of New England, Armidale NSW, Australia


Twenty male cattle of local Yellow breed with an average body weight of 92.6 kg were allocated in individual stalls to a 2*5 factorial arrangement of treatments with two replicates. The two factors were: biochar inclusion in urea-molasses blocks at levels of: 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8%; and rice distillers’ byproduct (RDB) at zero or 4% in diet DM. The basal diet was ensiled cassava root, dried cassava foliage, rice straw and molasses-urea blocks.
Growth rates of local Yellow cattle were increased when the molasses-urea blocks contained from 2 to 8% biochar (intakes of biochar ranged from 0.05 to 0.33% of diet DM); and when rice distillers’ byproduct was fed at 4% of diet DM. There were related improvements in feed conversion with both additives. There were no additional benefits from combining the two additives.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Rice growing, biochar trial in Thailand

Gordon Hirst has sent me a link to a Facebook page that is recording a 5-year rice growing field trial in Thailand which includes biochar.

The page needs an introduction to set the scene but if you scroll to the start (3 July 2017), you can review progress via video posts and trial records...

"A field experiment using both a biochar fertilizer/ soil enhancement and SRI (system of rice intensification) to attempt to double the yield of a working farm, from 500 Kg/Rai to 1000 Kg/Rai. The farm is paddy rice farm located in Nakhon Ratchasima province ten Rai (1.6 Ha). The experiment will last for five years"

Friday, 7 September 2018

Biochar social enterprise in Thailand (part 3 of 5)

Cool the Climate, Clean the Environment, Improve Public Health, Reduce Rural Poverty with Small-Scale Biochar - Part 3

President, Board of Directors at Warm Heart Worldwide, Inc. 14 articles

Sows’ Ears into Silk Purses

On Sun, Sep 2, 2018 at 8:42 PM '' [biochar] <> wrote:
  Here is the 3rd article in the 5 part series, this one focused on how a small-scale biochar social enterprise business model can (and does) work.

For those of you who are frustrated with the drip feeding of articles, this link will take you to a downloadable PDF of all five: 

SOC decline in tropical plantation soil - new evidence

This new report should be of interest to all plantation industries and forest managers... and should support more interest in biochar production and application opportunities...

Changes in soil organic carbon stocks after conversion from forest to oil palm plantations in Malaysian Borneo


"The continuous rise in the global demand for palm oil has resulted in large-scale expansion of industrial oil palm plantations - largely at the expense of primary and secondary forests. The potentially negative environmental impacts of these conversions have given rise to closer scrutiny. However, empirical data on the effects of conversion of forests to industrial oil palm plantations on soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks is scarce and patchy. We evaluated the changes in SOC stocks after conversion of tropical forest into oil palm plantations over the first and second rotation period in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Soil samples were collected from three age classes of oil palm plantations converted from forest (49, 39 and 29 years ago respectively) with three replicate sites and four adjacent primary forest as reference. In each site under oil palm, the three management zones namely; weeded circle (WC), frond stacks (FS), and between palm (BP) were sampled separately. All soil samples were collected from five soil layers (0–5, 5–15, 15–30, 30-50 and 50-70 cm). Samples were analysed for SOC concentration, soil bulk density, pH and soil texture. Results showed SOC stocks declined by 42 %, 24 % and 18 % after 29, 39 and 49 years of conversion respectively. Significant differences in SOC stocks were found among different management zones in the oil palm plantations, and the trend was similar for all age classes: FS>WC>BP, demonstrating the necessity of considering within-plantation variability when assessing soil C stocks. The largest differences between SOC stocks of the reference forest and converted plantations were found in the topsoil (0-15 cm depth) but differences were also found in the subsoil (> 30 cm). Our results will contribute towards future modelling and life cycle accounting to calculate the carbon debt from the conversion of forest to oil palm plantations."

Biochar project report from Malaysia

Prof. Rob Bachmann from UniKL has kindly shared the following report on some of the biochar work he is currently connected with in Malaysia.

1. Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) under project leader Dr Nadia Razali has teamed up with MPHTJ, a Melakan municipality, to develop a carbon negative solution for their yard as well as wet market waste. A news video of the signing ceremony is available here:

In our project we aim to convert the brown waste (wood) to biochar testing the flame curtain and retort technology.

The biochar will subsequently be added to the green compost as bulking agent, to immobilise leachate and speed up the composting process. The final mature compost can be used as substitute for inorganic fertilizer in MPHTJ nurseries or sold to third parties such as organic farmers.

2. Another project involved a collaboration between UniKL and Top Fruits Sdn Bhd ( with the aim to convert their orchard waste into a valueable product. Our project concluded that Durian wood biochar produced with the Kon-Tiki earth kiln technology can partially substitute peatmoss in fruit tree nurseries without negatively affecting plant growth and health. Organic fertilizer was not required during the first 3 months. Plant height was found to be the most accurate and yet easy and affordable growth monitoring parameter. For more information please read our paper here:

3. Research collaboration between UniKL and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) focusses on 3 aspects: i) converting oil palm biomass residues to biochar, ii) characterisation and identification as well as iii) application. Our latest publications report on the effect of humic acid coated PKS biochar on NPK adsorption ( as well as effect of pyrolysis temperature and holding time on biochar yield and carbon stability using All Powers Lab Biochar Experiment Kit (BEK) (

4. Collaboration between a local chicken farm and UniKL aims to develop a scale-able solution for their chicken litter (CL) waste that can reduce the smell and fly problem, destroy pathogens and preserve as many nutrients as possible at an affordable price. At present, lab-scale pyrolysis of CL was successfully deployed to stabilise the biomass in the form of biochar. Poultry litter biochar produced at 400°C for 60 min retains all major plant nutrients (P, K, Ca, Mg, S) except for nitrogen (58 ± 15 % retention).

5. Another UniKL project led by Dr Amelia Md Som seeks to develop a solution to ameliorate acid sulfate soils using bio-physico-chemical approach. Biochar is being produced from oil palm fronts with an earth as well as metal Kon-Tiki kiln. Preliminary findings have been presented at and are available in the Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Plant-Soil Interactions at Low pH, June 25-28, 2018, Palm Garden Hotel IOI Resort Putrajaya, Malaysia.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Social enterprise in Bali includes biochar

"Believe it or not, cashew shells are an important part of our business. The circular journey of the cashew shells starts at our factory. To power the steaming and drying process of our cashews, we use an innovative gasifier furnace that runs on leftover cashew shells. We then use the resulting biochar as a super carbon-rich fertilizer for our cashew trees and rosella plantations.

Our excess cashew shells we pass on to other small businesses, such as commercial laundries, which use the shells to heat their boilers. While the shells may seem like a simple byproduct with little value compared to the cashews themselves, they’re actually integral to our operations and need to be managed with care.

In 2016, we started to take the “use the whole cashew” idea to the next level. We have ambitious plans to replant Bali’s – and eventually Indonesia’s – cashew trees within the next decade. Part of this plan involves buying old cashew trees from farmers to make space for the new seedlings. We are using the wood chips from these trees to fire our furnaces as well, leaving no part of the cashew – or its tree – unused."

Crop residue burning in Thailand - WarmHeart (part 1of 5)

Dr Michael Shafer's work with biochar from his 'WarmHeart' base in northern Thailand is well reported here (see WarmHeart tag). Michael is kicking off a 5-part report focused on crop residue burning. Below is his announcement on this to the yahoo international biochar discussion group. It is a highly relevant read for those of us interested in solving regional haze issues.
Aug 21 3:04 AM
"I live in North Thailand where smoke from burning  corn and rice fields blocks the sun a couple of months a year. Burning wheat straw smoke closes Delhi every year, too.

Because most of the farmers who burn are poor and small, collecting their crop waste for central processing is uneconomical and their fields are too small, too steep, too rocky to plow, even if they could afford a tractor.

They are so poor, however, that converting their crop waste to biochar makes lots of sense. Establishing village-scale social enterprises to process local biochar into value added products is also not only appealing to farmers but a replicable way to solve the crop waste burning problem where it starts - in small farmers' fields.

This is the first of a five part series in which I make the case for a small-scale biochar social enterprise business model for addressing the problem. The remaining four will appear over the next few weeks.

I would welcome any comments, suggestions, corrections or criticisms."

Dr. D. Michael Shafer
Founder and Director, Warm Heart
61 M.8 T.Maepang A.Phrao 50190 Chiang Mai Thailand

Friday, 13 July 2018

Biochar activities in Thailand

Dennis Enright is a kiwi who travels to Thailand regularly to work with NGO's on biochar and sustainable farming practices. We have collaborated on biochar development in NZ which has included running biochar training workshops in May/June. We also hope to soon collaborate on biochar projects in SEA with other regional NGO's and consultants.

The following report from Dennis is just one of a number of projects he is working on in Thailand. Others include coffee growers and coconut farmers... reports on these projects in the pipeline.

You can Contact Dennis from his NZ website:

Making Biochar from Mulberry Prunings at Khon Kaen, Thailand – June 29th 2018

Dennis Enright (NZ Biochar Ltd)

Mulberry bushes are grown to produce mulberry leaf tea (and for silk worms). During the growing period leaves are regularly picked from the stems and by the end of the growing season most stems are bare of leaves and are about 2-3 metres high. At this time the stems are cut off at about 10 cm from the base, removed, and stacked in piles around the edges of the field until they are dry and can be burnt. The mulberry plant then produces new shoots and the annual cycle continues.

In June of this year GreenNet Cooperative staff and I visited Ban Hin Herb village (Tambon Prayuen, Prayuen District, Khon Kaen) where we used a metal lined Kon-tiki pit kiln to make biochar from Mulberry bush prunings, and then applied some of this biochar to mulberry plants in a simple experiment to evaluate the effects.

I chose a lined Kon-tiki method because on a previous occasion where biochar was made using damp coconut material in a flat bottomed concrete tub, not all the material charred well. This probably happened because in a container with a large flat bottom it is difficult to get a good base of hot char below the newly applied material to help dry it before more charring occurs.

The Kon-tiki pit liner was made at the village using light gauge sheet metal held into shape with wire, both bought locally and costing less than 500 bt in total.

Making biochar with the lined Kon-tiki worked well, even though the prunings were still partially green (about one month old), and the weather was very humid and for a short time near the start of making biochar it rained quite heavily (see photo).

So while there may be other containers that can work, this is the most effective way to make biochar (refer to research work of Schmidt H P and Taylor P)

Also mulberry prunings were easily turned into biochar that was quite soft and had a very noticeable soapy feel to it.

Some of this biochar was then primed with a slurry of chicken manure/rice husks and used in an experiment. The treatments were; 5 litres of primed biochar per plant (place in a circle - diameter of 30 cm), and 5 litres of chicken slurry only.

These treatments were applied to plants in a single row in the following order starting at plant 7 from the road side:

Plant 7 primed biochar, plant 8 no treatment, plant 9 chicken slurry, plant 10 no treatment, Plant 11 primed biochar, plant 12 no treatment, plant 13 chicken slurry, plant 14 no treatment, Plant 15 primed biochar, plant 16 no treatment, plant 17 chicken slurry, plant 18 no treatment (see photos)

The soil here is sand with very low amounts of organic matter. This experiment is situated on an organic farm and we are interested in determining if biochar can increase the effectiveness of nutrients applied in the usual organic fertilisers such as compost that the farmers apply. If treatment effects become apparent, then assessments can be done using a scientifically acceptable visual scoring procedure and the results statistically analysed.

RFP for biochar consultants in Vietnam

"Rikolto in Vietnam (previously VECO Vietnam) is a member of Rikolto, an international NGO with its International Office in Leuven, Belgium. Rikolto’s mission is to enable and support smallholder farmers to take up their role in rural poverty alleviation and to contribute to feeding a growing world population in a sustainable way. Rikolto is currently implementing the 2017-2021 programme “Supporting Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural Value Chain Development Benefiting Smallholder Farmers in Vietnam” with a focus on vegetable and rice value chains.

In April 2018, Rikolto started implementing the project “Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Rice Production in An Giang Province, Vietnam, through Alternate Wetting and Drying and Biochar Production”. This project is a first step to making our target rice value chains more environmentally-friendly and climate-smart. As part of this project, we are looking for a (team of) consultant(s) to assess the feasibility of transforming rice waste into biochar and market it."

Thursday, 12 July 2018

International Biochar Seminar, Indonesia

I received a late invite to "Biochar for Sustainable Soils", hosted by Bogor Agricultural University, about 60km south of Jakarta. The line up included quite a few international stars of the biochar world that I've met before at various conferences and workshops: Johannes Lehmann; Stephen Joseph; Annette Cowie; Lukas Van Zwieten; Gerard Cornelissen; Ruy Korscha.

You can click on the image adjacent for a better view of the program.

The event was based around the completion of Biochar for Sustainable Soils (B4SS), 4-year, a multi-million dollar international program (see B4SS label for other posts). It was attended by ~140, mainly from Indonesian agriculture and research community but included representatives from other participating B4SS countries and Malaysia.

The presentations should be available for download in the future... I'll post on this when they come available.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Biochar Malaysia Ass. AGM

My thanks to Dr Sieng-Huat Kong from University College of Technology Sarawak for the following report...

4th BMA Annual General Meeting and Biochar Technology Workshop 2018

The AGM was held on 14th May 2018 at Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). Prior to the commencing of AGM, all the 60 participants were brought to visit the biomass microwave carbonizer pilot plant located inside UPM, which is the collaborative work between UPM and Pakar Go Green Sdn Bhd. The plant can process 250 kg/hour of feedstock (oil palm biomass, coconut shell, bamboo, etc) in batch process and returns up to 50% yield on biochar. Besides, bio-oil is also collected for further research as value-added products compared to biochar as the main product solely.

After the visit and on-site discussion with Pakar Go Green personnel, participants were invited back to the workshop in the faculty with two speakers sharing on their experiences in the industry and academic research in terms of the technology and application of biochar. The 4th AGM commenced right after the workshop, started with the report from previous AGM by the committee members. New management committee for session 2018/2019 was formed with Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohamad Amran bin Mohd Salleh and Prof. Datin Dr. Rosenani binti Abu Bakar as President and Vice President respectively. More discussions and works proposal were carried out throughout the one hour plus meeting with the aim to contribute positively towards the community, especially the agriculture sector.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Recently Published Biochar-related Resources (May 2018)

Recently Published Biochar-related Resources (May 2018)
May 2018
Robert Gillett , Editor
Papers in this list are from last month’s new ‘biochar’ entries in Google Scholar. Quotes are from the papers, which are accessible through the links provided. These have been extracted by IBI Newsletter Editor Robert W. Gillett to keep the length of this addendum manageable, yet informative enough to prompt further investigation by readers. Emphasis was placed on highlighting new findings leading to practical application, but with the expectation that decisions will be informed by accessing the full publication.

URLs followed by the padlock symbol link to open access articles.

Monday, 14 May 2018

IBI Biochar Study Tour - Austria | 18-21 June 2018

IBI Biochar Study Tour - Austria | International Biochar Initiative

"IBI is excited to announce our second Biochar Study Tour to be held in Austria from June 18-21, 2018.  We are collaborating with Gerald Dunst, CEO of Sonnenerde and Gerhard Soja from the Austrian Institute of Technology; we have been working towards creating an educational and inspiring event.  We are hard at work on the agenda at this stage but wanted to share the overall themes and tours that will be included so that those interested could make their travel reservations early.  Space is limited, so reserve your spot now!" ...