Sunday, 19 December 2010

Rejuvenation of tea plantations - Dilmah biochar trials in Sri Lanka

Dilmah Conservation has biochar related research activity under way in existing plantations and nurseries in two agro climatic zones in Sri Lanka. Dr. Krishnaratne, a consultant for Dilmah Conservation, is managing the Bio-Remediation Programme. Photos have been provided by Asanka Abayakoon, Manager, Dilmah Conservation. Hopefully, more details on their current work can be provided for the January IBI newsletter.

"After centuries of monoculture Sri Lanka’s famous tea country lost its top soil due to unsustainable agricultural practices which has lead to high production costs. Dilmah Conservation will facilitate trials and eventually introduce bio remediation technology to sustain the tea plantations. Bio- char, Aerated Compost tea, will be some of the methods that will be tested. Bio-remediation will improve the soil condition in a natural manner without the use of chemicals. Bio- Char is one of the products that will be used in this process. The first pilot test is being conducted at Houpe estate. The project will mainly focus on developing sustainable agriculture practices island- wide. Also Dilmah Conservation will encourage University students and other researchers to conduct their studies related to the environment in this area."

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Biochar research collaborations in Indonesia

Prof. Agus Prasetya and Prof. Moh. Fahrurrozi from the chemical engineering department at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Java are seeking collaboration partners for biochar research projects in Indonesia. Their research interests are broad, including all aspects of biochar production, renewable energy, stove project implementation, carbon sequestration, agriculture utilization and rural development. They will be working with Eko Sb Setyawa from Chemmeco Inc. who would welcome your further inquiry (

Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) is the oldest and the largest state university in Indonesia. It was founded on December 19, 1949 and currently has 18 faculties, 69 undergraduate programs, 24 diploma programs and a Graduate School. Since December 2000, the university has taken a new status as a state-owned legal entity. The University is located in The Special Region of Yogyakarta, one of the smallest provinces in the country, which has been widely known as the center of Javanese culture as well as the center of learning. It has 3,200,000 inhabitants, 511,000 of whom reside in the city of Yogyakarta.

UBI projects in SEA

I will be including the following report prepared by Dr Karl Frogner for the December IBI newsletter...

UBI is currently involved in developing an experimental/extension farm and a pilot project in Thailand. They have funding proposals submitted for 5 additional pilot projects for other distinct culture/ecotypes in Thailand and additional pilot projects in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. UBI are interested in making contact with those interested in working with the UBI concept in other culture/ecotype situations, particularly Malaysia (the shifting cut and burn agriculturists of Sarawak, and others) and the various culture/ecotypes of Indonesia. They are especially interested in working with planned or ongoing rural development projects that wish to include biochar in their projects, but are also willing to work with individuals interested in developing projects focusing biochar within the broader UBI concept.

Karl J. Frogner, PhD, OZP
President & Project Development Head; UB International (UBI)
Project Development Head; Mongolian Biochar Initiative (MoBI)
Project Development Consultant; Thai Biochar Initiative (ThBI) 
Member, Advisory Committee, International Biochar Initiative (IBI)
President, Mu I
47-481 Ho'opala St.,
Kane'ohe HI 96744 USA
Hawaii: 1-808 234-3486
Ulaanbaatar: 976 9600-3688
Bangkok: 085 328-3731

Biochar project proposals

One of the original requirements of the Yunnan Biochar study for FAO was the preparation of at least two biochar project proposals. As the study progressed, it became apparent that a broader approach was needed to represent the many, varied project opportunities that were ready for funding or under development. A total of nine project proposals have been submitted to FAO as part of the study...
  1. Biochar Soil Trials in Cambodia - Testing an Optimization Tool for the Integration of Biochar into the Farming Energy System (UKBRC) 
  2. Field Demonstration of Fast Pyrolysis Biochars (Black is Green Pty Ltd)
  3. Solid biofuel for cooking purposes and biochar production in low-income households (UniKL MICET)
  4. Cookstove Implementation in China and Cambodia - Who would Use Gasification Cook Stoves?: A Trial Deployment in China and Cambodia
  5. Biochar and Rural Development in Thailand - Biochar as a Soil Amendment in Sustainable Rural Development in Thai Environments and Sub-cultures: Increased Crop Production for Smallholders through the Low Tech Production and Use of Biochar from Thinly Distributed Feedstock (Thai Biochar Initiative & UBI)
  6. Producing Biochar to Reduce GHG Emissions from Hydropower Projects and Improve Village Livelihood: Lao PDR Case Study (Mae Fah Luang University, Chiang Rai, Thailand)
  7. Phosphorus and Biochar Research in Malaysia - Biochar in Tropical Soils: Elucidating the Effects of Amendment Types on Fertilizer Phosphorus Dynamics, Soil Carbon Emission and Sequestration around the Kinabantangan River Area of Sabah, Malaysia (School of Sustainable Agriculture, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Malaysia)
  8. Industrial Demonstration of Biochar in Yunnan: Industrialization and Agricultural Application of Biochar from Crop Residues and Animal Manures in Yunnan Province
  9. Biochar from Natural and Planted Forest Residues in Yunnan: Proposal for Demonstration Project to Make Biochar from the Residues of Forest Products Processing.

It may take some time for FAO to digest all of these proposals and it may not be realistic to expect immediate funding. The project proposals are open to collaboration and support from other parties. To this end, please contact me if you are interested in receiving more information on any of the above project proposals. I will liaise with FAO regarding any participation on their part.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Another new biochar book - The Biochar Revolution

Kelpie Wilson, author, journalist and IBI Communications Editor has this to say about The Biochar Revolution

Review: The Biochar Revolution: Transforming Agriculture and Environment, ed. Paul Taylor

I want to call this book: "Biochar, the Missing Manual." This compendium of practical how-to articles on the art and science of biochar bridges the current gap between research and implementation of biochar systems. While basic research on the mechanisms of biochar-soil interactions proceeds at research institutions around the globe, farmers, blacksmiths, colliers and crafty inventors of all sorts have jumped into the business of biochar production and utilization. The Biochar Revolution collects the results and best practical advice that these entrepreneurs have to offer to the biochar community.

In the book you will read about the challenges of designing low-emissions biochar production systems from small-scale stoves to farm-scale pyrolyzers. Another section of the book is devoted to explaining simple tests to characterize biochar and methods for conducting valid field trials. Biochar producers show how they add minerals and nutrients to maximize the effectiveness of biochar, and seasoned biochar business operators share the rudiments of their business plans including information on feedstocks, flow rates and financing.

Because biochar is rooted in an ancient, proven practice, farmers feel empowered to experiment and are beginning to accumulate and document their results. But because biochar is new to science, it is not always possible to account for these results in a predictable fashion.  We are fortunate to have a vibrant, grassroots movement of biochar practitioners who are so generous in sharing their results with us. When practice and theory advance to the point where they meet in the middle, then we will truly see a biochar revolution.

-Kelpie Wilson, author, journalist and IBI Communications Editor  

Saturday, 11 December 2010

WorldStove 5-step program

Check out this WorldStove project model, developed around their activities in Africa. It would be nice to see this transposed into SEA setting.  Particularly where a local charcoal for fuel industry is having negative affects on the natural forest...
Summary of the Five Step Plan:
Step 1. Local group wanting this Stove Hub provides building, and personnel, WorldStove provides 3 Biucci and 30 Beaner stoves plus a small briquette press.
Step 2. Once the Stove Hub has demonstrated availability of all materials necessary to complete construction of 500 stoves, WorldStove will arrange for the first 500 critical components, necessary tools and a small pellet press to kick start the program.
Step 3. Before a large press (600kg per hour) is provided, the Stove Hub must demonstrate orders for stoves or fuel or having established a reliable demand for stoves.
Step 4. If they demonstrate that they are measuring, evaluating, and storing char, then Stove Hub can enter the carbon credit program.
Step 5: Once Stove Hub has collected 5 tons of char, WorldStove will help the Stove Hub develop aforestation and soil restoration programs.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Road to sustainable palm oil fraught with challenges

Jakarta, December 5 – Many of Asia’s major palm oil players have reaffirmed their commitment to improve sustainability standards in the palm oil industry. But key players also say there are many obstacles ahead – and some are expanding into Africa to take advantage of what could prove a much more lucrative market.

New article at

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Workshop Cambodia: Report from Sarah Carter

Workshop on Biochar Production & Uses
Monday 22nd – Tuesday 23rd November 2010
The workshop was a huge success, with 29 delegates attending the meeting, and 19 staying for the field trip the second day.

Biochar: Production & Use, Cambodia 22.11.2010. Picture by Vichida Tan
The workshop report is now available, and presentations can be downloaded below.
This meeting discussed the current state of biochar production and use in Cambodia, and explored the potential for development of new technologies – both large and small scale, with a particular focus on gasification cook stoves. Issues for consideration to policy makers, and prototype guidelines for sustainable biochar deployment as an agricultural soil amendment were also discussed.
Biochar is the result of thermally treating biomass (including wood, agricultural residues, paper sludge) in a zero to low oxygen environment to produce a charcoal type material.
This meeting is part of the ‘Enabling Bio-innovations for Poverty Alleviation in Asia Project’, funded through IDRC-CRDI (

Monday, 29 November 2010

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Ecodana biochar project in West Kalimantan, Indonesia

"In Indonesia, more than half of all women in the workforce are farmers, often because their household incomes are inadequate to meet their families’ food needs. Most farmers use high-priced chemical fertilizers. Unfortunately, these high priced fertilizers not only reduce household income but deplete the soil and cause health problems. Our partner Yayasan Dian Tama (YDT), a local Indonesian non-profit, is empowering women by training them in sustainable agricultural techniques, including how to create Biochar, a natural charcoal fertilizer which increases the fertility of the soil and reduces their dependence on costly chemical fertilizer. They will also train women in marketing so they can sell their products and make a profit. With your support, we can help these women feed their families and grow organic produce for sale while enriching the soil so they can continue to thrive and sustain the earth."

Ecodana is a San Francsico based social enterprise whose mission is to improve the lives of people in rural areas around the world by facilitating funding for sustainable projects in their communities.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

International Symposium on “Environmental Behavior and Effects of Biomass-derived Charcoal” held in Hangzhou, China

An international symposium focusing on the environmental behavior and effects of biochar was held in Hangzhou, China, from October 9–11, 2010. Approximately 80 people attended this conference, coming from China, Japan, North America, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. IBI Board Vice Chairman Stephen Joseph and IBI Executive Director Debbie Reed both attended, and made presentations at the symposium.

Presentations from the conference have been posted to the IBI website here.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

IBI October Newsletter - SEA contributions

The following two items have been sent to IBI for the October newsletter...

Workshop on Biochar - Production and Uses
Monday 22nd - Tuesday 23rd November 2010
Location: Angkor Village Resort, Siem Reap, Cambodia (
Phone contact: Ms. Sarah Carter 011427383
This meeting will discuss the current state of biochar production and use in Cambodia, and will explore the potential for development of new technologies – both large and small scale, with a particular focus on gasification cook stoves. Issues for consideration to policy makers, and prototype guidelines for sustainable biochar deployment as an agricultural soil amendment will be discussed.
Day 1 will be discussions and presentations, and day 2 will be optional field trips to biochar agricultural field trials, a commercial gasification unit, and a visit to biochar stove production including demonstrations. 
Biochar is the result of thermally treating biomass (including wood, agricultural residues, paper sludge) in a zero to low oxygen environment to produce a charcoal type material. 
Presentations based on your own work/experience on any of the above areas are welcome, please submit an abstract for consideration. Delegates are encouraged to bring display/demonstration materials and video films based on their work.
Travel and accommodation assistance can be offered to a limited number of participants from within Cambodia. Please note that delegates must attend the entire workshop in order to qualify for accommodation and/or travel assistance. As the desired number of participants is limited, not more than two delegates from a single organisation can register. 
This meeting is part of the ‘Enabling Bio-innovations for Poverty Alleviation in Asia Project’, funded through IDRC-CRDI (

The School of Sustainable Agriculture, Universiti Malaysia Sabah has begun a research project titled "Maize Response to Soil Amended with Biochar and Inorganic Phosphorus Fertilizer".The primary objectives of this study are (i) to examine the effect of rice husk biochar on the growth and yield of maize grown on a Malaysian mineral soil fertilized with triple superphospahte fertilizer and (ii) to determine maize phosphorus uptake. This is a final year research project by Thien Nyuk Yen under the supervision of Dr Mohamadu Boyie Jalloh. <>

There are some rather stunning photos after 6 weeks of this pot trial. PDF available on request.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

New book on biochar - The Biochar Solution

"Conventional agriculture destroys our soils, pollutes our water and is a major contributor to climate change. What if our agricultural practices could stabilize, or even reverse these trends?
The Biochar Solution explores the dual function of biochar as a carbon-negative energy source and a potent soil-builder. Created by burning biomass in the absence of oxygen, this material has the unique ability to hold carbon back from the atmosphere while simultaneously enhancing soil fertility. Author Albert Bates traces the evolution of this extraordinary substance from the ancient black soils of the Amazon to its reappearance as a modern carbon sequestration strategy.
Combining practical techniques for the production and use of biochar with an overview of the development and future of carbon farming, The Biochar Solution describes how a new agricultural revolution can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to below zero while increasing world food reserves and creating energy from biomass wastes.
Biochar and carbon farming can:
• Reduce fossil fuels inputs into our food system
• Bring new life to desert landscapes
• Save cooking and heating fuel with super-efficient stoves
• Help build carbon-negative homes, communities and nations.
Biochar is not without dangers if unregulated, and it is not a panacea, but if it fulfills its promise of taking us back from the brink of irreversible climate change, it may well be the most important discovery in human history.
A Message from Author Albert Bates:
Our choice as a global civilization is to stay with the path we are on — one that turns forest and farm to salty deserts — or to try a different path — one that was widely practiced in nearly half the world, and then tragically lost. If our fates can realign, we might get back to where we once belonged.
From excavations on the banks of the Amazon river, clearings of the savanna/gallery forests in the Upper Xingu, and ethnographic studies of Mesoamerican milpas, science has now re-traced the path of the second great agriculture, and, to its astonishment, found it more sustainable and productive that what we are currently pursuing.
While conventional agriculture leads to deserts, blowing parched dirt across the globe and melting ice caps, this other, older style, brings fertile soils, plant and animal diversity, and birdsong. While the agriculture we use has been shifting Earth’s carbon balance from soil and living vegetation to atmosphere and ocean, the agriculture that was nearly lost moves carbon from sky to soil and crops.
The needed shift, once embarked upon, can be profound and immediate. We could once more become a garden planet, with deep black earths and forests of fruit and nuts where deserts now stand. We can heal our atmosphere and oceans."

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Spend a minute in a test tube with David Suzuki

Photo: Spend a minute in a test tube with David Suzuki

When David Suzuki first showed up on Canadian television in 1971 there were 4 billion of us on the planet. 40 years later our population is closing in on 7 billion.
And, like Twitter, more people keep signing-up every single second.
But it's not just our population that's growing. It's our insatiable appetites. We're consuming more than ever before. And you have to wonder if we can carry on like this forever?
Suzuki doesn't think so. To make his point he likes to share a common scientific observation.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Farm biochar flowchart

Farm biochar flowchart
I am hopeful that small affordable energy recovery pyrolysis systems are on the way so that this farm scenario can have an 'off-grid' energy loop as well. There are a number of interesting alternative energy systems (other than internal combustion) at various stages of development. Some could use the waste heat from pyrolysis and others, the syngas or bio-oil...

Monday, 23 August 2010

Biochar project funding

A new biochar related group has been initiated...

"Biochar Funding": This is the home for discussion devoted to funding opportunities for biochar-related work, at all scales, and anywhere on the planet.

It also intends to serve as a place where you can advertise your current, past and future biochar projects where (a) other biochar practitioners can learn more about your work and/or contact you for collaboration, and (b) donors can learn about what work really is being done in the biochar world, together with success stories and lessons learned.

The idea is to have a place on the internet where practitioners and donors can openly discuss each others' requirements and limitations... hopefully leading towards successful funding opportunities :)

Friday, 13 August 2010

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Some easily digested biochar results from tropical Hawaii

Josiah Hunt - Biochar in Hawaii Description and Photos
and I would guess that Hawaii's young volcanic soils are much more naturally fertile than than our ancient local soils in SEA.

The only results coming out in this part of the world are based on rice husk char, with its low fixed carbon and high ash content. So much work still to be done...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Lucia Stove demonstration

Nathaniel Mulcahy gives a great demonstration of the LuciaStove.
In six parts - make sure you see them all...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Yunnan biochar study

Back from a week in Kunming, where we finalised an agreement with the Yunnan Green Environment Development Foundation (YGF) to provide local support for the study. They are a small NGO associated with the Yunnan forestry department. Kunming seems like a nice place to live. Wide, clean streets with lots of planting. Parks, lakes & rivers. The climate is moderate all year and air seems clean. The streets are very quiet... lots of motorbikes but almost all are electric... way ahead of the pack on this front.

All the hotels seem to offer good quality, free internet connections but one problem we have found is the indiscriminate blocking of websites. As an example this blogger site is not accessible. Nor is google sites, where we have located our project collaboration wiki. This problem should be considered before you set up sites, if you plan to collaborate in China. I was unable to access a number of other sites, including worldstove! I wonder how you get off the black-list or through the not-so-great firewall of China. Some trip photos...

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Johannes Lehmann video presentation

Here is your chance to sit in on a recent 1 hour presentation on biochar by Dr Lehmann...
"Johannes Lehmann, Associate Professor of soil biogeochemistry at Cornell University, discusses the characteristics of naturally occurring terra preta including its agricultural and carbon sequestering benefits and then turns to considering the factors involved with implementation industrial biochar systems for large-scale carbon sequestration and energy provision."

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Assessing Opportunities for Biochar in Yunnan, China and the Greater Mekong Sub-region

I have submitted the following announcement to IBI for their June newsletter:

Biochar Systems Ltd (BSL) and SaafConsult have commenced a biochar related study for FAO-RAP in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) under the GMS Economic Cooperation Program. The objective of this study is to examine opportunities to use biochar for the benefit of rural communities with a focus on Yunnan Province, China. Yunnan is one of two southern China provinces in the GSM. A Yunnan based study participant organisation is still to be finalised.

Planned outputs from the study include a report, project proposals and a GSM workshop. The study group will be seeking biochar community support related to the preparation of proposals for follow-up projects that will be presented as part of the study. A further announcement will be made on this very soon.
Trevor Richards, BSL (
Bryan Hugill, SaafConsult BV (

Friday, 4 June 2010

IBI report from Sarah Carter (UKBRC)

The biocharm project funded through the Asia Pacific Network for Global Change is focused on multi-locational biochar field trials in India, Philippines and Cambodia. Partners include ARTI India, IRRI, SME Cambodia and the University of Edinburgh's UK Biochar Research Centre. A mid-term project meeting was recently held in India, which included a trip to the maize trials which are being managed ARTI at their field station in Phaltan.

Back in Cambodia, since the rainy season is approaching, trials for rain fed paddy field rice are being prepared. Control plots, and plots amended with 40t/ha biochar will be set up (a similar design to the trials in the Philippines). Dry season rice has already been tested with biochar application, and showed a good response, the biochar which was applied in December 2009 is still visible in the soil and these plots will be monitored again this season. Yields are being measured and soil and biochar has been analysed to assess benefits to the soil.

As well as field trials, pot trials with lettuce and cabbage have already yielded results at the research farm of the APSARA Authority in Cambodia. Amendments of between 20 and 120t/ha were used in combination with additions of compost and lake sediment.

Different methods of biochar production are being used for the trials, using feedstocks of rice husks, sugar cane leaves and maize trash. In Cambodia biochar for the trials is produced from rice husk in a 150KW continuous feed gasification unit.

For more information please see the project blog:

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Video from Rob Flanagan presentation - CBRC May 2010

Rob Flanagan has sent me these video links. 
In two parts to accommodate YouTube 10min limit...

Sad to say that that no one in China can access YouTube...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Biochar Bazaar

"Biochar Bazaar is a public online database registering biochar trials conducted all over the world. These trials are stored in a uniform format that simplifies the comparison between the protocols and the results, and facilitates the objective interpretation of the true influence of biochar on these results.

Anyone can query the database and find the biochar trials which correspond to a set of precise search criteria. Moreover, a map of the registered users as well as a map of the existing biochar trials can be consulted on the website"

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Biochar Malaysia Workshop 2010 - Summary Report & presentations

The following workshop report has been prepared by Dr Robert Bachmann for the April IBI newsletter (The above title now links to a MICET download site for the presentations described below)...

"The Biochar Malaysia Workshop 2010 was held from the 25-26 March 2010 at Universiti Kuala Lumpur MICET ( and co-sponsored by IBI and Kusocom Concept Farms Sdn Bhd. Participants from as far as UK (Sarah Carter from the UK Biochar Research Centre, Edinburgh; joined in to listen and discuss topics on soil and harbor sediment remediation with activated char (Dr Gerard Cornelissen and Dr Sarah Hale, NGI, Norway;, biochar funding opportunities and activities in the SE Asia region (Trevor Richards, consultant) as well as theory and practice of physico-chemical biochar characterization methods (Dr Robert Bachmann). Another highlight included first hand witnessing of biochar production using Paul Anderson's TLUD ( NASMECHs ( carbonator.
Dr Cornelissen and Dr Hale introduced a very sensitive and yet low-tech passive sampling method coupled to GC-MS for the detection of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in pore water of biochar amended soil. This method is expected to significantly enhance our quantitative understanding of the fate of this group of organic pollutants but also its release from certain low-carbonization grade biochars. Work is also underway at NGI to artificially age different types of biochar and quantify carbon loss. This parameter is of special interest for the advocacy of biochar as carbon sink, carbon credit trading etc. Trevor provided an insight into biochar activities in the SE Asia region including Dr Francis Ng’s "secret garden" on the roof top of 1Utama shopping center in Kuala Lumpur (, Dr Christian Knoblauch's (( and Jochen Binikowski's ( work with biochar in the Philippines as well as Dr Karl Frogner low-tech biochar in Thailand ( to name but a few.

From Dr Francis' secret garden experience we learnt that in Malaysia, the most favoured soil for horticulture is garden black soil, which goes by the Malay name of tanah hitam (black soil). Black soil originated in household backyards where domestic waste was dumped and periodically burnt. The black colour was due to the accumulation of charcoal and soot in the soil over time. Tanah hitam in Malaysia seems to be very similar the terra preta in the Amazon. What was also interesting from a civil engineer's perspective is that the biochar soil mixture used on the roof of the shopping complex at 1Utama is lighter than pure conventional soil thus lessening the weight load on the building's infrastructure. Dr Francis' idea should be of interest to the green building sector.

Dr Bachmann provided a brief overview of various biochar production methods (e.g. torrefaction, slow/flash pyrolysis), systems and economics. Small-scale systems such as Lucia's Stove (, Paul Anderson's TLUD, Belonio's rice husk stove ( and Anila's stove ( are suitable for hobby-gardeners and subsistence farmers with estimated biochar production costs of  <20 USD / Mt, while pilot-scale systems such as Adam's Improved Charcoal Production System (ICPS) are appropriate for small-scale farmers with estimated production costs of < 40 USD / Mt. At industrial scale (e.g. NASMECHs carbonator, Pacific Pyrolysis’ Slow Pyrolysis plant or Dynamotive's CQuest) biochar production costs between 200-1000 USD / Mt.
Last but not least physico-chemical methods covered include pH of point of zero charge (pHpzc), CHNS, FTIR, BET. For more information please visit"

Friday, 9 April 2010

The story of Cap & Trade

Recommended viewing and easy consumption...

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Effect of biochar and biodigester effluent on growth of maize in acid soils

The paper linked above shows some amazing results for the application of biochar on tropical soils in Columbia. Lets hope these sort of results can be replicated in SEA soil trials...


  • Biochar produced as a byproduct of the gasification of sun-dried, sugar cane bagasse (the cane stalks were passed two times through a 3-roll mill traditionally employed for making “panela”), contained 35% ash.
  • Application of the biochar (50 g/kg of soil) to a fertile soil (from a shaded coffee plantation) increased above ground biomass growth five-fold with no additional benefit from simultaneous application of biodigester effluent. When applied to a sub-soil, there was a synergistic effect of the biochar and the biodigester effluent; the biochar alone increased yield eight-fold but combined with biodigester effluent the increase was twenty-fold. Effects on the root biomass were similar.
  • The initial pH of both soils was in the range of 4.0-4.5 and was increased to 6.0-6.5 by addition of the biochar. Effluent application did not affect soil pH.
  • Application of ash from a wood-burning stove at 50g/kg soil also increased maize yield but to a level of only one third of that achieved with biochar. The increase in soil pH was double that observed with biochar reaching levels of between 9 and 10"

Monday, 8 March 2010

Recommended biochar website

This website review was posted  by Ron Larson...
Lists (adding Biochar-policy as there is some climate material here)

*Ryan D. Hottle*: is a PhD student at The Ohio State University studying biochar at the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center. He is also the founder of, a website with information on the sustainable use of biochar.   <>

1. This is mainly to urge everyone on these lists to read Ryan's material at the above "biocharfarms" site. This is on a par with the IBI site - just outstanding.

2. Be sure to start with Ryan's Home page - lots of original thinking displayed there. I particularly like his list of 19 concisely-stated benefits. He has obviously given this a lot of thought (as doctoral students must), so (remembering a bit of my past as a thesis adviser) I have come up with these on a quick read (but done several times)

20. Jobs (notice this is at the top of the list for many politicians - I looked hard, but wouldn't be surprised that Ryan has this (and the others?) somewhere. His #8 is close.
21. Improved development/health/income status for Biochar producers in developing countries (somewhat related to charcoal-making stoves, which I could urge a bit more on). Related to global National Security for every country. Somewhat like his #9
22. The ability of biomass (future Biochar) to serve as a low-cost energy storage medium - thereby allowing total avoidance of all fossil fuels through larger permissible use of renewables. Biochar production can be scheduled as a dispatchable "peaker" for electric systems virtually anywhere in the world.
23. The reverse of the (legitimate, but improperly analyzed) BFW list on biodiversity, indigenous populations, etc . - Ryan might have these somewhere, but didn't find and 24 (Coming ?)
(Or perhaps we need to see a way (by future combination) to limit the total number of Biochar benefits to the number of our fingers and toes. )

He has a new (to me) model of biochar (as a gear) driving three other outer gears (with arrows). Very nice analog.

3. The section entitled "research" has a wonderful long alphabetic list of references - 95% (?) with complete urls.

4. There is a remarkably short list of references in the category " CRITICISM OF BIOCHAR". I don't think that Dr. Wardle's muted concerns are going to stand up (see the IBI site; Dr. Wardle started his ten year experiment with no thought of Biochar ), essentially only leaving BFW in this questionable, wonderfully short, list (Monbiot having no other source beside BFW). I think/hope Ryan's thesis will be the final nail for that coffin. In my mind the several dozen positives are accompanied by ZERO proven negatives - and hope Ryan and these lists can talk more on this remarkable ratio of pluses and minuses. Anyone care to give us ANY documented valid negative criticism by BFW (or anyone)?

5. As a Doctoral student, Ryan necessarily has to be careful how much he tells us about his thesis topic - but I hope that can be soon. Wish I could be in Cleveland to hear his talk.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Biochar Workshop announcement - Malaysia

I am circulating this email from Dr Rob Bachmann. You can download the flyer from the MICET website link below or from the Biochar Malaysia google group. This workshop will have a soil remediation focus.

From: Robert Thomas Bachmann <>
Date: 18 February 2010 11:03
Subject: Biochar workshop 2010

Dear biochar enthusiasts and colleagues,
following the success of "Biochar Malaysia Workshop 2009" organised by UPM and MOSTI coupled with the steadily growing interest in this emerging field we are glad to announce that another opportunity to share knowledge and network is at hand. UniKL MICET is organising a 1-day workshop on the 25th of March and cordially invites you to join in. For more details refer to our flyer attached.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Best wishes, Rob.
(Dipl-Ing, MSc, PhD) 
Senior Lecturer 
Section of Environmental Engineering Technology
Lot 1988 Taboh Naning
78000 Alor Gajah
Tel: + 6 (06) 551 2086
Fax: + 6 (06) 551 2001

Thursday, 11 February 2010

New Zealand Biochar Research Centre - workshop program

Some interesting new papers being presented here.

I look forward to the day when you can sign up for a workshop or conference and participate through internet technology. I would happily pay the conference fees for this service (less a discount for my reduced carbon footprint!!).

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

SEA regional report to IBI for January

Academics from Universiti Kuala Lumpur; Universiti Putra Malaysia; Santo Tomas University, Philippines; Eritrea Institute of Technology, Eritrea; St. Peter's Engineering College, India; Sheffield University, UK; and Cornell University, USA have been working together in different constellations on various biochar-related projects since 2006. The group participated in the Mondialogo Engineering Award competition with projects titled "Biochar to enhance sustainability of crop production, reduce fertilizer usage and greenhouse effect" and "Application of Biotechnology for the Treatment of Dyehouse Effluents in India and Philippines". Recent research activities (2009) include the production of biochar from rubberwood sawdust and data modelling for optimum biochar production using DesignExpert software. For specific researchers and more information on these topics, please see:

The FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (FAORAP) is planning to support a biochar related study in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) under the GMS Economic Cooperation Program. The study methodology is based on conducting investigations into the potential for adapting biochar to existing agricultural and bioenergy systems. Further information will be available once the terms of reference have been finalized and project participants have been identified.

In conjunction with the University of Edinburgh's UK Biochar Research Centre (, there are two projects underway in India and Cambodia. The first, Biochar for Carbon Management, Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Management (BIOCHARM) involves field trials in India and Cambodia, as well as some analysis in the Philippines. This 12 month project funded through the Asia Pacific Network on Global Change (APN) includes partners from four countries, and it is led by the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI) in India. The other partners are the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), SME Cambodia and the University of Edinburgh. The second, Participative Distributed Innovation Processes and Biochar: Smoke Reduction, Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Management received funding through the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). This project is led by the University of Edinburgh, working closely with ARTI to investigate the potential of gasification cook stoves which produce biochar.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Holy smoke (but within faithful emission limits)

The Terra Preta Prayer

Our Carbon who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name
By kingdom come, thy will be done, IN the Earth to make it Heaven.
It will give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our atmospheric trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against the Kyoto protocols
And lead us not into fossil fuel temptation, but deliver us from it's evil
low as we walk through the valley of the shadow of Global Warming,
I will feel no evil, your Bio-fuels and fertile microbes will comfort me,
For thine is the fungal kingdom,
and the microbe power,
and the Sequestration Glory,
For ever and ever (well at least 2000 years)

Your Chartarian,
Erich J. Knight