bio char anyone used it

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by dreuky, Feb 14, 2015.

  1. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Earth worms would go very very far in this situation as well as per the Global Gardener movie with Bill M. (movie can usually be found on YouTube)
     
  2. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    for sandy soils add some clay along with that organic matter. it doesn't take much to make a difference. if you are feeding animals you can even put a small amount in their feed and they will pass it through and distribute it for you. worms will like the clay addition too.

    otherwise agree with folks who say that growing your OM is the cheapest way to improve soil OM and carbon levels.
     
  3. dreuky

    dreuky Junior Member

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    What is EM? Other than that green manure sounds like a goer
     
  4. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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  5. Metakom

    Metakom New Member

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    Hello. We are Russian company of production Biochar and delivering biochar from charcoal of high quality.
    We have experience in delivering biochar to different countries, including the Usa and some european countries
    FOB Price is 355 euro/tonne
    CPT ASPW 459 euro/tonne

    ill be glad if someone would be interested in. mail: [email protected]

    Best regards,
    Deputy sales director "Metakom", LLC,
    Mary Putilova.
    [email protected]
    614000, Russia, Perm, str. Ekaterininskaya, 31
    tel: +7(342) 299-43-56
     
  6. Tejas

    Tejas Junior Member

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    A question for the biochar gurus. For broad acre biochar scenarios, has anyone experience with cardboard or waste paper as the woody material for char? The little I can glean from the internet indicates good results. I will refrain from posting a link until I am 'off probation' as a newbie; but I believe New England Biochar did an analysis that was promising. I am not worried about glues or toxic ink. Heavy metals in ink are mostly a thing of the past from what I can see. I have done business with corrugate manufactures and know that other than wood pulp and starch, there is nothing to fear in bulk cardboard. One can get readily available cardboard for, depending on market, $60/ton.

    I would imagine one would have to burn it in a very low oxygen environment, since there are few volatile gases compared to other organic matter. One might also need to burn a fuel to keep temperature up. My research shows that there are 3 different reactions but the main reaction occurs between 600 and 650 degrees F/315 and 345 C (we Yanks may yet get on the correct system.) I like the idea of a cone kiln, but don't know if I could control the burn enough not to turn it to ash. I would imagine that could get away from a person quickly. Welding up a large enough TLUD is not out of the question.

    Anyone care to share experience or thoughts on cardboard as a feed stock?
     
  7. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Cardboard can indeed be turned into biochar, even if it has a plastic layer or two. The heat produced in a TLUD is normally sufficiently high enough to gas off all the plastic but if you were to do a combination of dry wood and cardboard in a burn, you would get rid of just about any noxious component. I have done a few burns of all cardboard the one burn I did that was plastic layer containing tested clear of any plastic components, this burn was 90% cardboard and 10% dry hardwood, temps internally registered near 700 f for more than an hour. The TLUD put off noxious fumes for the first 30 minutes then those cleared up. I lay down a layer of mycorrhizal fungi treated char that is 2" thick then turn that into the area. The area is then seeded and trees planted.
     
  8. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    my intuition is that there is more oxygen in there than might be good, so you may lose a larger proportion of material to complete combustion than you would from a more solid feed stock. however, i know that some folks use straw or other hollow stem materials, but i've never studied conversion rates.
     
  9. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    I would think that the design of the TLUD has a lot to do with O2 levels during a burn. The one I built is rather small sized (55 gal drum), there are only 10 - 3/16" holes in the bottom and it sits on bricks for a burn, The hat has the 3 secondary air holes which are fairly large (1"), when I start it up it takes about 3 minutes before the stack "rockets" flames out the stack. It reminds me of a jet engine with the afterburner on.
     
  10. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    I wouldn't bother, low carbon content with a high ash yield compared to woody biomass, you also won't get the porous structure that you get from charring woody biomass.

    I think you would have updraft air flow issues with a TLUD. Packed cardboard has lots of layers which means poor air/gas flows.

    $60 a ton sounds expensive. You can get clean wood chip cheaper than that direct from mills.

    If the cardboard has any moisture in it, it will not burn/char cleanly. Would need a moisture content below 15%

    White office paper is worthless as it contains a high clay content. Grey news paper is good for lighting fires, that's about it.

    My advice for small scale biochar production, use one of the two most common feed stocks available, dry woody chip/mulch or dry logs/branches/bamboo. I build and sell both the below types of systems and in general they produce no visible smoke 60 seconds after light up until I quench the biochar. (quenching produces some carbon monoxide in the white steam vapor.) If you care about your environment do not make biochar from anything that produces visible smoke during production. It does not take that much effort to make a low emission system. - Don't bother with retorts.

    Dry wood chip/mulch. Use a TLUD (Top Lit Updraft Gasifier) Remember if your using a 44 gallon drum your flue should be 300mm in diameter and 2500-3000mm long to deal with it's emissions. Best to start small and scale up once you get it right, a 44 gallon drum TLUD is to big for a first unit in my opinion.

    Dry Logs/branches/bamboo. Use a cone or bin burner, but try to add a hood/cover and a long flue so you get a better thermal oxidation of emissions as open burners are not as clean burning as many people make them out to be.

    The carbonisation process normally starts to occur around 450 degree Celsius. 550-600dc is the range I like to use as this is enough to drive most of the volatiles out of the carbon structures and better deal with the produced emissions.

    The only answer for board acre is to use crop residue processed close to site, I know of a few sites battling to do this and make money. At $60 a ton for the suggested cardboard feedstock you would get 1/4 return in char making the produced biochar $240 a ton without figuring in the production, transport, labor and maybe some profit...... Somewhere between a negative cost to $5 a dry ton is what you would need for your feed stocks. These guys have the backing ($100m+) to make a cost effective (maybe) board-acre biochar (+fuels) from crop residue. https://www.coolplanet.com/
     
  11. Tejas

    Tejas Junior Member

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    The issue with the porous structure was a concern of mine. Thank you for that input and the informative post.

    Feedstock cost is an issue I am researching. A lot of cheap free wood, but not on the side of the mountain range that I need it. If I go over to the 'wet' side, I can have all the organic matter I can haul for free from the logging companies. However, the distance and the elevation gain, makes transport cost unattractive. Bamboo will grow well, but I am a few years from having a grove large enough to harvest for char.

    Any experience with rice hulls in your system?
     
  12. dreuky

    dreuky Junior Member

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    I have given up on the idea of bio char in my situation. I have bought some worm eggs and seeded them under horse poo piles and they have hatched and are doing well. My plan is to seed them out into the paddocks a bit at a time. Also the winter dung beetles are just amazing. Within an hour of the horse pooing the dung beetles are already in the pile and working away. Within a couple of days the poo is all in the ground which has got to be good for the sandy soil. It is interesting that the summer dung beetles are lazy little things who hang around the poo but don't bury it at all and leave the piles pretty much the same as they found it and the winter beetles are workaholics
     
  13. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    Ricehulls are often used to make biochar in Asia , but make sure you keep them damp once charred and/or adding/layering into Compost at no more than 20%.

    The issue with fine feedstocks like ricehull or sawdust is air flow in a tlud, as biomass chars it shrinks by half or more, this reduces air flow meaning you will have issues combusting the volatile gases, loose your secondary combustion in the tlud and it will smoke unlike anything you have ever seen. The other big issue is all that smoke is highly volatile (think petrol volatile) get an wind gust, spark and boom.

    What I have played with in the past is to put a 50mm dia holed pipe or a roll of fine mesh wire in the middle of the gasifier, from the bottom to 2/3 of the way up, this will allow the volatiles a pathway with air so you get a clean/safe burn.

    Start small no bigger than a 20 litre can so you can test it out. Nice long flue will help force/draw air and gases.

    Have a look at my website which has a pic of my gasifiers, note the length and diameter of the flue compared to the primary stainless steel chamber. https://www.biochar.net/bazman-rumbler/

    Good luck. =)
     
  14. Faeriegal

    Faeriegal New Member

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    Aloha, I' am a new member and just skimmed this post.

    My father has build a biochar machine from a 55 gal drum and using palm fronds for biochar. From what I've learned from him and our experiments, biochar is naturally alkaline. When adding 10% biochar to his mulch and worm casting soil the pH was very high around 8. So he adjusted it to only adding 2% biochar. We planted some seeds that were noted to sprout in 7 days and put them in the aquaponics facility. Within two days they sprouted! We also measured the pH to be 6.3 at a 2% biochar. So I don't think you need much. From what I remember in my course, 1 Tbs of biochar gives 10,000 square feet of surface area for those bacteria to live. So just watch your percentage you add to your mix.
     
  15. pwillis

    pwillis New Member

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    biocharring is more of a long term thing. If you grow crop rotations you could use a heavy cover crop like flax or alfalfa. Then plough fire breaks in a grid and burn sections before harrowing. Then plant a winter crop like rye or maybe rye and peas for green manure. Long term charring of trash (ie: decades) after harvest builds potassium and promotes biotic development by adding available carbon that is unbound from cellulose. You get a better variety of bacteria.

    On a smaller scale you could just get some bales of hay or keep a pile of offcuts from trees and brush in a burn pile and put carbon and ash from that on your plot. it needs to burn without oxygen if you want maximum carbon. You can make batches of carbon in a big clean oil drum by putting material inside the drum, placing a lid loosely on the drum so gasses can escape, and then burn a fire underneath the drum. The easiest way to do that is to split the drum in half the long way and weld hinges on one side, then you can open and close the barrel like a clam shell.

    It's a lot of work. You could just burn the garden rubbish on your plot and accomplish it over the longer term.
     
  16. Brian D Smith

    Brian D Smith New Member

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    Bazman, Your first instinct about adding biochar to sandy soil was right on. Biochar adds the carbon that all productive soil needs. It is an "add once and forget" solution. However, the expense makes it prohibitive for large areas unless you have access to industrial quantities. I add it to my garden bit by bit every year by putting around my starts and moving the planting sites each year.
    You mentioned that you want to put it on a pasture. In NSW, Doug Pow has done some amazing experimentation with cattle, dung beetles and biochar. He laces crushed charcoal with molasses to change its flavor and feeds it to the cattle. Once they get used to the taste of it, they continue eating it. It passes through their digestive system, becoming inoculated with microbes and saturated with organic chemicals. Once it is on the ground in cow patties, the dung beetles bury it down a few feet. After a year or two, the entire pasture has been "treated" with biochar.

    Two interesting video's:
    https://www.weebly.com/uploads/2/9/1/9/29197227/dung_beetle_and_biochar_trials_in_western_australia_small_867.mp4
    https://www.weebly.com/uploads/2/9/...tralia-_past_present_and_future_small_918.mp4

    You can also find more videos on this topic on YouTube.

    The most difficult part about making biochar is the charcoal. The easy part is inoculating it - I use compost tea with added mycorrhizea.
    There are other good ways to make charcoal besides retorts and TLUDs. One way, especially on a farm with access to brush and trees, is to dig a 3 foot by 3 foot trench about 8 to 10 feet long. Build 2 or three small fires in the bottom and as they get going, add a layer of fuel on top. As the layer burns, keep adding layers. The top layer will rob the bottom layer of oxygen causing pyrolysis. When the trench is full, smother with dirt and let cool. The long trench makes it easy to add long branches without needing for cutting and chopping. This video () has a demo. You can also search for "top lit open burn".
     
  17. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    Biochar is not a fertilizer so you have to add fertilizer in the same, or even greater quantities than you would need without biochar. Biochar alone will absorb water and insoluble materials from your soil, thus depleting it in the short term but allowing a longer term release of these same materials over time.
    I'm currently doing some small-scale experiments with biochar mixes for germinating seeds. Best results in general come from mixes that contain compost, regardless of biochar content. The conclusion I draw is that a better short-term solution for soil improvement is to compost all the material you can rather than use it to make biochar. I'm lucky enough to have a chipper (a gift from a retiring gardener involving a 3000 mile round trip to collect, located by asking friends if they knew of anyone with a chipper for sale - the benefits of networking) so I can add wood chips to my compost too. In the subtropical heat they seem to compost down within a few months if maintained wet and mixed with other materials such as leaves and manure. I'm sure the wood chips also add water retaining capacity to my compost. At least in the short term, turning organic waste into biochar is reducing the value of that organic waste as a soil amendment. Can you get chipped tree trimmings or grass cuttings in your area? They can be used directly as mulch with long-term breakdown into compost or composted (especially with manures) for a quicker breakdown into fertilizer.
    One circumstances that favors biochar is if you have branches that are too large to be chipped or no chipper is available and another is when you are destroying diseased vegetation that you wouldn't want to add to your compost.
    One benefit of biochar is carbon sequestration that is probably more effective long-term than composting since the charcoal doesn't break down. The benefit to plants is that biochar can capture and retain water and soluble fertilizer and minerals in much larger quantities than soil particles. The charcoal structure also provides more space for air. However, the fertilizer and minerals must be added to your soil along with the biochar.
    Biochar itself isn't a fertilizer. It is a special form of inorganic carbon with an extraordinary surface area to volume ratio. A small chunk of charcoal is said to have a surface area greater than a football field. It accomplishes this by retaining the original cellular structure of the plant material, boiling out all the vaporizable materials until a carbon replica of the cell walls and some other structures is all that remains. This creates a fractal-like material with millions of tiny spaces surrounded by a carbon skeleton. The huge surface created in the grains of charcoal encourage water to enter by surface tension, bringing in dissolved materials such as fertilizer which can then be adsorbed onto the carbon surface instead of being washed deeper into the soil where they are lost to plant roots. Adsorption means that the chemicals such as fertilizers are strongly bound to the charcoal. It won't be washed away and will remain available to your plants for much longer.
    As for the germination, a 50/50 mix of biochar and compost or just compost and garden soil resulted in healthy germination of several varieties of seed. The best results with the fastest growth were with the 50/50 mix of compost and biochar mixed with an equal quantity of garden soil or sand. The biochar was soaked in a tea made either from garden compost or well composted goat manure.
     
  18. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    if i could tolerate smoke i would be making some amount each year
    as i think it is a good amendment for building a good topsoil over
    the long term.

    a fair conversion amount for each season of say 10% of harvested
    biomass would probably be ok. i'm not sure i'd want to go much
    above that because the soil fertility produced by the soil community
    when it breaks down the organic matter is how i keep going. with a
    good crop rotation i've been improving my garden soils since i've
    started here without having to resort to doing compost piles or having
    to use animals other than worms.

    what we do bring in from time to time are wood chips often available
    for low cost, over the years they break down and become humus
    which gets added to the veggie gardens (as we replace the old wood
    chips with new ones). and of course, we compost all the food and
    paper scraps we can.
     
  19. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    I agree that biochar may be a useful soil amendment under some circumstances, but I don't think it is a 'wonder-cure' for poor soil quality.

    These days everyone seems to be looking for a silver bullet to solve everyone's problems. In too many cases, biochar is being treated like the gardener's version of the latest "superfood" which is a marketing term and not a designation of food quality. That doesn't make biochar bad, it just suggests that we should be wary of the opinions of those who vigorously persuade us that biochar is a significant step forward in gardening. The recognition of the fertility of Amazonian Terra Prieta may even be an accidental consequence of 'slash and burn' agriculture. I'd love to think those ancient farmers figured out this long-lost secret to soil fertility but no-one really knows if the carbon was produced intentionally as a soil amendment or just a happy accident of the methods used to burn waste. Its water and solute retaining properties are recognized but did they really do anything to help those ancient Amazonian farmers? Recent tests on biochar suggest that composting/mulching may have been a better choice. The current fertility of Terra Prieta, long abandoned for agriculture, may be due to the adsorptive properties of charcoal soaking up and retaining goodies from the natural decay product of an environment long ago returned to nature. Long-term it improved the soil, but did it do any better than modern permaculture techniques would do in currently cultivated fields?

    Modern tests of biochar confirm it helps water retention and some solutes but with mixed results on crop yields in the short term (c.f. this article). The first link even reports that nitrogen availability was LOWER in biochar soils. This of course depends on how the biochar was loaded prior to tests. The large-scale interest in biochar, incorportating carbon sequestration has also declined in the past decade.

    My own evolving position on biochar is to retain all of the unchippable tree trimmings I used to give away to my neighbor for his cooking and water heating and use it to produce biochar. I will certainly not sacrifice other biomass that I can compost. Apart from possibly increasing water retention (which my compost addition seems to do well) biochar will also add the potash normally left in wood ash. Research is very unclear whether biochar improves nutrient availability in soils that are regularly supplemented with compost/mulch.

    One thing I would certainly avoid is adding biochar to poor soil without further soil treatment. It is very well recognized that biochar depletes soil of solutes (including fertilizer) as it absorbs water and solutes after application, leaving less available for plant growth in the short term (the first year of application). That would be a disaster in poor soil unless the biochar is loaded with fertilizer before application, or at least co-applied with fertilizer. An ideal way to do this is to add biochar to your compost pile. There is a lot of interest in loading biochar with potential fertilizers and a significant body of opinion that the ability of biochar to retain fertilizers reduces losses of highly soluble fertilizers and that biochar loading may be an alternative to slow release fertilizers.
     
  20. chamni

    chamni Member

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    I read your post and this may benefit some,
    https://www.greenmanure.co.uk/pages/choosing-the-right-green-manure
     

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