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Biochar?

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Biochar?

Post  sfg4uKim on 10/13/2013, 8:57 am

Has anyone done any research on biochar?  I was trying to get opinions about this.

Thanks

BIOCHAR

Here's a summary:

What Is Biochar?
Producing biochar involves slowly heating biomass (wood and other plant materials) in a low-oxygen environment, such as a kiln. This type of charcoal can do a number of things:

  1. Help return much of the depleted carbon to the soil
  2. Improve overall soil quality
  3. Raise soil’s water retention ability
  4. It may also help “filter” toxic chemicals in the soil, much like carbon-based water filtration systems can filter toxins out of your water
When put back into the soil, biochar can stabilize the carbon in the soil, in the form of charcoal, for hundreds or even thousands of years.  It serves as a type of 'coral reef' of the land, where it's porous and massive surface area provides a great benefit to soil microorganisms
The introduction of biochar into soil is not like applying fertilizer; it is the beginning of a process. Most of the benefit is achieved through microbes and fungi. They colonize its massive surface area and integrate into the char and the surrounding soil, dramatically increasing the soil’s ability to nurture plant growth.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  landarch on 10/13/2013, 9:08 am

interesting

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Re: Biochar?

Post  camprn on 10/13/2013, 10:09 am

I think there are a few back threads about this in the non square foot gardening forum.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  jimmy cee on 10/13/2013, 6:13 pm

I used Biochar last spring along with a few more componnents.
It was to add to the compost I picked up from our local recycle center.
Since this compost was supposedly only leaves and brush I thought it would need more vittles.
I only added about a quart to my mix, it appears very much like peat moss.
I wont be using it any more since my compost is up and running.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  floyd1440 on 10/13/2013, 7:15 pm

a
I read up and this stuff and the first post is a good summary about biochar and bottom line it is carbon heavy.  So why not just use high ratio of material to compost.  Pine needles have a 500/1 ratio but take years to break down but can be spread up by shreading them to get a higher surface ratio.

Think I will keep composting but always open to new ideas however need to perfect composting.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/13/2013, 8:01 pm

Seems like something that would be especially useful in pots, as the extra watering pots tend to demand flushes away so many nutrients so quickly.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  floyd1440 on 10/13/2013, 8:17 pm

@Marc Iverson wrote:Seems like something that would be especially useful in pots, as the extra watering pots tend to demand flushes away so many nutrients so quickly.  
But in the SFG would not those nutrients be absorbed by the peat moss to some extent?

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Re: Biochar?

Post  floyd1440 on 10/13/2013, 8:18 pm

@Marc Iverson wrote:Seems like something that would be especially useful in pots, as the extra watering pots tend to demand flushes away so many nutrients so quickly.  
But in the SFG would not those nutrients be absorbed by the peat moss to some extent?

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Re: Biochar?

Post  sfg4uKim on 10/13/2013, 9:28 pm

@camprn wrote:I think there are a few back threads about this in the non square foot gardening forum.
I searched biochar and it didn't come up.  There were a few threads about using charcoal.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  Turan on 10/13/2013, 10:27 pm


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Re: Biochar?

Post  Pollinator on 10/13/2013, 11:16 pm

The problem with compost in hot climates is that it (literally) burns up quickly. Furthermore, in wet climates, soil nutrients (fertilizer) leach out of the soil with every heavy rain, wasting the resource, and polluting ground and surface waters.

Biochar is a way to slow the the oxidation and leaching of compost and soil nutrients. This is why it is so significant in the area where ancient humans first discovered it - the Amazon rain forest. If you clearcut forest land there, in two years the land will be just about worthless.

But some areas exist, that still have useful, fertile, deep black soils that were created by pre-Columbian civilizations. This is called "terra preta," or more recently biochar.

We think of the native societies of the rain forest as being "slash and burn" farmers, but that was in post-Columbian society. An earlier, extinct society used the method of "slash and char." Fires were started and burned until the hydrogen was mostly burned off, then the fires were quenched with water, leaving the carbon residue.

I make charcoal myself in a homemade retort, and now have several drums of it ready for our new homestead, which has acid, sandy soil that is not very fertile. I'm hoping that the crushed charcoal will aid in making this nearly sterile soil bloom again, as it has in the garden beds in our current home.

Biochar should not be used alone. It's best if it is "charged" before adding to the soil. One good way to do this is to soak it in urine. It will absorb the nutrients and slow-release them to the plants. If it doesn't already have any nutrients stored, it could rob nutrients from the plants for a time.

Charcoal was not used alone in ancient times either. It was mixed with compostable residues and lots of bones. Also a lot of finely broken pottery shards were incorporated.

Clemson university did some testing at the Florence (SC) Experiment Station and found that the addition of biochar improved soybean yields by around 20%.

On top of all its other benefits, it also sequesters carbon in the soil - and it's practically permanent. So this can be useful in removing some of the excess carbon that's in our atmosphere. It's commonly thought that this is a result of burning fossil fuels, but a lot of it is from the destruction of organic material in our soils.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/14/2013, 1:07 am

@floyd1440 wrote:
@Marc Iverson wrote:Seems like something that would be especially useful in pots, as the extra watering pots tend to demand flushes away so many nutrients so quickly.  
But in the SFG would not those nutrients be absorbed by the peat moss to some extent?
Yes, and the vermiculite too. A raised SFG bed has a lot more durability in its nutrient profile than a pot would -- even a pot with Mel's Mix in it. Pots get hot so quickly and dry out so quickly that they need a lot more water than a raised bed does, and a lot more water means a lot more flushing away nutrients. I think Mel himself even remarks that pots can become almost sterile.

It's the same problem, but multiplied, that many areas in the Pacific Northwest have. The high level of rain flushes away so much soil and so many nutrients that the remaining soil can be very poor and not very thick, to boot. At my place in Oregon, the soil is little more than yellowish decomposed granite in most places, with a thin layer of not very rich soil on top. Pretty much all the neighborhood gardeners grow in raised beds to get around that. So do I, plus I use some pots and planters.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  jimmy cee on 10/14/2013, 10:17 am

I've done hanging baskets & 8 gallon containers for veggies, and flowers this past season.
Everything came out so good I will continue using MM.
I never over watered, adding enough just to keep the baskets from dripping.
On Wednesday's I added miracle gro, on Saturday's I added fish emulsion.
Just enough in my estimation to keep those little buggers happy, and happy they were..
I realize that wouldn't have happened if I had to leave town for some reason.

nasturtium with MM


Marigold with MM


Cayanetta peppers with MM
This plant grew so many peppers, it was mostly red when I picked them

Everything here was with MM, I am sold on it

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Re: Biochar?

Post  Yardslave on 10/14/2013, 6:12 pm

I'm a little confused here. Is biochar just the charcoal produced from burned vegitation or is it from burned hardwoods, or both? I burned all the fruit tree cuttings and leftover hardwood (oak) and reduced them to white ashes. I spread these out under my citrus trees and in my strawberry beds and it pretty much shut them down- no new vigorous growth-they looked like they were nitrate deficient. I tested the soil and the Ph. was now  too alkaline, and there seems to be too much potash in the soil. I had been warned that this may happen with ash applications, but had to see for myself. I think that biochar has to be largely charcoal rich in carbon, which it is if it isn't reduced to white ash. I'm going to have to add iron now to lower the Ph. I learned my lesson- everything in moderation.Twisted Evil

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Re: Biochar?

Post  Pollinator on 10/14/2013, 7:40 pm

@Yardslave wrote:I'm a little confused here. Is biochar just the charcoal produced from burned vegitation or is it from burned hardwoods, or both? I burned all the fruit tree cuttings and leftover hardwood (oak) and reduced them to white ashes. I spread these out under my citrus trees and in my strawberry beds and it pretty much shut them down- no new vigorous growth-they looked like they were nitrate deficient. I tested the soil and the Ph. was now  too alkaline, and there seems to be too much potash in the soil. I had been warned that this may happen with ash applications, but had to see for myself. I think that biochar has to be largely charcoal rich in carbon, which it is if it isn't reduced to white ash. I'm going to have to add iron now to lower the Ph. I learned my lesson- everything in moderation.Twisted Evil
Right, that's
the difference between "slash and burn" and "slash and char." It's very important to stop the burn before you get ashes. Ashes do salvage some minerals and reduce acidity, but you don't want to use them on soils that aren't acid. Biochar is much more near neutral in its effects. I'm not sure it it *can* be overdone, but I shoot for about 5% in my mixes.

You can make charcoal in open fires, by quenching the fire at the right time, but it does produce a lot of polluting gasses. In a retort, these gasses are redirected back into the fire, and mostly burn up. So a retort is a lot cleaner way to make biochar.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  southern gardener on 10/14/2013, 8:27 pm

@jimmy cee wrote:I've done hanging baskets & 8 gallon containers for veggies, and flowers this past season.
Everything came out so good I will continue using MM.
I never over watered, adding enough just to keep the baskets from dripping.
On Wednesday's I added miracle gro, on Saturday's I added fish emulsion.
Just enough in my estimation to keep those little buggers happy, and happy they were..
I realize that wouldn't have happened if I had to leave town for some reason.

nasturtium with MM


Marigold with MM


JimmyCee...you fed miracle grow every week? Do you think that's why your garden did so well? In addition to the fish emulsion? How did you apply the fish emulsion? I have some, but not sure how to "do it right". I'd rather stay away from the MG if possible. thanks for any help. Sorry if this hijacks the thread...feel free to move if necessary. Thanks!!

Cayanetta peppers with MM
This plant grew so many peppers, it was mostly red when I picked them

Everything here was with MM, I am sold on it

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