Biochar

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by j_cornelissen, Jan 15, 2010.

  1. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Well, I'm just pulling some local SE QLD ID, your valley may be different. Maybe you have exotic Acacia?
     
  2. Stubby

    Stubby Junior Member

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    After having seen how many different ones there are... oh wow. I know the saplings have round leaves not lanceolate. I was told they are an introduced wattle and that if you have them you should get rid of them. I think they said it's from South Africa.
     
  3. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Don't forget that permaculture embraces 'hard-working immigrants'. If that Acacia grows well, fixes nitrogen, use it for biomass.
     
  4. Stubby

    Stubby Junior Member

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  5. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Yep, A . disparrima and A.leiocalyx are very similar, besides different colouring on the branches. From memory...
     
  6. Stubby

    Stubby Junior Member

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    Thanks S.O.P. Our native fauna certainly is interesting. I knew Acacia was a huge genus, but never realised just how huge. There must be a bunch of dedicated botanists out there to identify the various species of Acacia-dom. Mind boggling.

    Okay and now I am removing myself from this thread for a little while... I was dreaming about TLUD thingies last night... got very excited when I spotted blue flames and horrified when I noticed that the fluff inside my vacuum cleaner was catching fire... no idea where that connection came from... may be those 'stoves' with forced air intake. Besides I am looking very differently at the half empty Milo can, thinking about buying at least one juice in the tall narrow can, and wish we could still by the 4L juice cans. I wonder how much Milo and juice I can drink before I get myself seriously sick... LOL.

    I need to get my garden sorted before I start on creating biochar.

    Which actually brings me to a different question... we have a slow combustion heater... it has charcoal and ash in there which I dump on the garden beds... good? bad? is there a componenet of biochar in there? We burn it on minimal air and depending on the wood in there, it burns very very hot with a blue/pink hue flame. Burns like that for a couple of hours then dies down and there is a lot of coal left but relatively little ash. The wood we burn is mainly the red euca wood (redbox? ironbark?). I thought it was the oils burning off, but doh... they are in the leaves.
     
  7. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    Mobile pyrolisis being used in the Central West NSW...

    [video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StvVJBOMjuY&feature=player_embedded[/video]
     
  8. void_genesis

    void_genesis Junior Member

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    I have tried biochar by the traditional method of digging out a bed, filling it with lots of old dry sticks, setting fire to one end and then smothering it with arrowroot leaves and soil as it burns down the row. It was a huge amount of work but it did smoulder for about 12 hours afterwards. The bed grew plants well afterwards, but only slightly better than a normally dug and composted bed. The char is very persistent in the soil compared to compost in our subtropical climate, so the long term benefits are worthwhile.

    Now days I do something a bit lazier- organic waste is piled in a large open top drum (the bottom of an old metal water tank) and burnt as a bonfire. If I leave it burn itself out I might get a single wheelbarrow of mostly ash with a little charcoal. Instead now I pour on a few large watering cans of water to douse the flames once it is well alight (just past the peak in flame intensity). From this I can get 4-5 wheel barrows of mostly charcoal, mixed with small fragments of partially burnt wood. This makes an equally good soil amendment without any high tech burners or endless digging. I work the half burnt material into the surface layers and the worms seem to move it deeper over time. Bamboo seems to give the best quality and consistency of charcoal since it is more uniform in size (plus I have plenty of it as trimmings from the poles).

    Beds with extensive semi-char have displayed an enduring improvement in crop growth. After a good composting the soil is worse than it started after a year, while after a good semi-charring a bed is still growing well after three years (with just liquid manure feeding along the way).
     
  9. Matis

    Matis Junior Member

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    What I see in my bio char beds is much more fungus.
    They hold the soil together.
    I made it from the wood shavings after cleaning my gerbil cage.
     
  10. gardenlen

    gardenlen Group for banned users

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    VG,

    you say after composting your garden beds are worse than ever?

    wow all i might ask is what am i doing wrong then our beds get nothing but composting in the bed where the benefits are needed, and encouraging lots of worms.

    so successful i guess we'll just have to keep getting it wrong.

    len
     
  11. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    Like Len I use lots of compost, the big difference would be my composts are full of biochar. I now have 8+ years of biochar going into my soils and my food gardens are now incredibly productive. I am pretty open with sharing my ideas including my Fatboy gasifier plans, which by the way is looking like going into production for roll out into third world. (made locally in the third world of course.)

    The reason I have developed what I see as a simple(ish) way of making biochar is because using open burns, or smouldering techniques in general are bad for the environment, they belch out emissions that completely go against the whole idea of what we do is benefiting the planet.

    VG. sounds like all you created was a high ash potentially toxic soil which could potentially take years to balance. I always suggest home made chars, be it open fires, wood stoves or even my own unit to compost them in a bin, pile or liquid brew.

    The most basic way to make char is to use a large ring or drum, start a fire in the bottom and slowly keep adding to it until the whole drum is full of char, then add heaps of water and tip it out adding more water. What happens in the drum is all the air is used at the fire front leaving the char below in an oxygen-less environment. Don't add any holes in the bottom of the drum. Emissions are better than some retorts and much better than an open fire. It does take a bit of time to do as you need to be around it to keep feeding the unit. It does create a much higher ash content compared to my fatbot unit.

    You can see Charmaster Dolph and his large version here (https://biocharproject.org/portfolio-items/biochar-industries-project-moxham/)

    Here is a youtube video of my latest Fatboy Gasifier unit for those who are interested. www.biochar.net
     
  12. void_genesis

    void_genesis Junior Member

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    I find composted plant material does add soil carbon in the short term, but in my hot and wet climate (similar to yours no doubt) the benefits are mostly gone after growing a couple of crops over the course of a year. If I added compost to the bed every six months I have no doubt I would be adding carbon faster than it decomposes, but I simply don't have that much time to make my own, or own organic matter to compost, or money to pay to have compost carted in.

    The lazy biochar approach seems to add much the same benefits in terms of soil structure and nutrient holding capacity as compost, but it doesn't decompose anywhere near as rapidly. So for a smaller amount of effort in lazy biochar (gather material, burn it, douse it, dig it in) I get a much longer term pay off in terms of soil structure improvement/soil carbon level than from composting (gather material, shred/moisten/layer, turn, then dig it in). Of course I do both- composting the nicer/naturally shredded/higher nutrient material and lazy charring the woody material.

    By contrast I did some vegetable gardening in a cold/dry climate in Canberra and a single addition of 4 inches of compost improved the soil structure for at least 2 years. A similar application in subtropical queensland and I will notice the bed getting tired after 6 months.
     

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