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.