Wednesday 15 May 2013

New rice-husk char research results from Sarah Carter in Cambodia

The Impact of Biochar Application on Soil Properties and Plant Growth of Pot Grown Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and Cabbage (Brassica chinensis)
Abstract: The effect of rice-husk char (potentially biochar) application on the growth of transplanted lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and Chinese cabbage (Brassica chinensis) was assessed in a pot experiment over a three crop (lettuce-cabbage-lettuce) cycle in Cambodia. The biochar was the by-product of a rice-husk gasification unit and consisted of 28.7% carbon (C) by mass. Biochar application rates to potting medium of 25, 50 and 150 g kg−1 were used with and without locally available fertilizers (a mixture of compost, liquid compost and lake sediment). The rice-husk biochar used was slightly alkaline (pH 7.79), increased the pH of the soil, and contained elevated levels of some trace metals and exchangeable cations (K, Ca and Mg) in comparison to the soil. The biochar treatments were found to increase the final biomass, root biomass, plant height and number of leaves in all the cropping cycles in comparison to no biochar treatments. The greatest biomass increase due to biochar additions (903%) was found in the soils without fertilization, rather than fertilized soils (483% with the same biochar application as in the “without fertilization” case). Over the cropping cycles the impact was reduced; a 363% increase in biomass was observed in the third lettuce cycle.

Sunday 5 May 2013

Is Biochar Really Sustainable? A critique of the UNDP Biochar project (Indonesia)

This critique on biochar gets its own torrefied response...
My take on this... distributed rural biochar production and application should be limited by two factors - the need for distributed energy and soil improvement. We are a long way from fulfilling either of these and they should be balanced (not waste the energy).  We still don't have the simple low cost equipment at a community scale... but we do have TLUD's at a family scale.