Dr. n. saibhaskarreddy Geoecology energy organisation BIOCHAR http://www.e-geo.org | http://www.goodstove.com | http://www.biocharindia.com Dr. N. SaiBhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
What is Biochar ? Biochar is the charcoal applied to the soil along with other amendments to enhance the fertility of the soils. The scope of Biochar can be extended to all aspects leading to sustainability of life on earth. Dr. N. SaiBhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
BiocharTraditional best practice The value of Biochar was known to many civilizations on earth since more than 5000 years. The evidences of use of biochar for improving soil fertility are found all over the World. Namely “Terra Preta” which is more than 5000 years old practice in parts of Amazon basin until the Europeans arrived. Along with charcoal the rural trash consisting of pottery shards, fish bones, compost, etc. was added to the less fertile acidic soils in the rain forests to improve their fertility. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
BiocharTraditional best practice Although the addition of charcoal to the soils was existing as a practice, but it was not explicit, it remained as part of traditional best practice. As we explore, more evidences are visible and proves that the farmers were using charcoal since hundreds of years. Because of such good practices agricultural activity is still sustainable in many parts of the World. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
BiocharIndian sub-continent People utilized Biochar as part of traditional and cultural practices for various purposes. The charcoal was never considered a waste material. The crop residue burnt in the fields , converted into charcoal and ash. In the process, the earth (soil) also gets burnt. This practice benefited the soils and farmers since ages (here no comparison with composting the biomass). The slash and burn in the margins of the forests or inside the forests is a very well known practice all over India (although it is no more sustainable because of huge population demands and costing the sustainability of forests). Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Traditional Biochar Compost Biochar a byproduct of the traditional stoves is added to the farm yard manure / compost, which gets inoculated with the soil microbes, was later transferred to the fields. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Potters kiln source of Biochar and Pottery shards The waste from the potters kiln a combination of charcoal, pottery shards and some ash was always a valuable resource for improving the fertility of the soils. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Present Concerns The exponential population growth, limited access to resources for agriculture, degradation / alkalinity / hardening of soils, food security, climate change and global warming are the various concerns. Biochar is a part of the solution for the above aspects. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Awareness Strategies There is a need to create large scale awareness among the farmers to continue traditional best practices of biochar application and also adopt appropriate best technologies for improving the fertility of the soils and their sustainability. Integrating Biochar production and Biochar application locally is the sustainable practice, then large scale production and dissemination. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Cumulative Biochar Biochar is added along with the farm yard manure / compost every year. As the retention time of biochar in soil is very high, the impact is cumulative. In many villages in India, agriculture is at least a few hundred years old (up to 500 years or more). The existing charcoal in the soil as found in majority of the fields is a cumulative contribution of the farmers - intentional / as a practice / by chance. In all types of soils some biochar is found. As this practice has become traditional, it is sustainable. This is irrespective of the climate and soil conditions. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
How much Biochar ? The quantity of the biochar suggested for a field devoid of biochar, it is in several tonnes per hectare. There is a need to assess the total biochar existing in each field from past practices or incidental occurance. The recommended application can be brought down through these assessments The quantity of biochar for different climatic conditions and soils should be evolved through standard experiments simultaneously done in different latitudes and longitudes. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Biochar and Climate change The biochar application is useful as a means of carbon sequestration and mitigating global warming issues too. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Methods of biochar application and preparation Biochar compost Application Point - eg. Horticulture Spread - eg. Paddy Biochar compost preparation practice Biochar + compost + green mulch + soil microbes + (pottery shards / fish bones / brick pieces / etc.)Addition of biochar to Farm Yard Manure pits in small quantities every day from traditional stoves - a traditional practice most common in India. The composition is (Cattle dung, cattle urine, straw, biochar, ash, pottery shards, pottery tile pieces, etc.) Biochar only application Point - Biochar mulching - eg. Horticulture Spread - Biochar broadcasting - eg. paddy Biochar Prepartion methods Combustion / Pyrolysis Updraft, Downdraft, high temperature / low temperature, etc. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Biochar mulching ? Biochar mulch is application of biochar directly to the plant as we do leaf litter mulching / stone mulching / etc. Biochar mulching is useful to the plants in the following ways: Retention of the soil moisture, reduction of evaporation of water from the soil Reduction in leaching of the bio / chemical fertilizers applied Increase in the soil microbes / worms at the biochar and soil interface Regulation of the soil temperature Suppression of weeds if thick biochar mulch is used, by blocking the sunlight the weeds sprouting and growth is suppressed. Repulsion of the termites / ants which might attack the live plants (less dense termites / ants are observed in biochar plots) Over a period of time due to various activities the biochar mixes with the soil, that is good. Prevents soil erosion too. Can increase the ph of the soil towards neutral (mulch very good for acidic soils) Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Biochar and food security in urban areas ? Biochar when added to the soil the density of the resultant soil composition reduces, therefore it is easy to add as a media for the rooftop gardens. It does not cause much weight on the structure of the rooftop. The urine collected from toilets could be diluted and added to the plants for improved fertility. The biodegradable garbage can be easily disposed of in the roofgarden, the methane emissions are reduced and composting is accelerated due to presence of higher density of soil life. The earthworms density increases with about 3% to 5% of the biochar application. The rooftop would be cooler due to these gardens as there is protection for direct sunlight. With little water the gardens can be easily maintained as the soil moisture is retained. All the urban concrete roof tops could be easily converted into beautiful gardens, which also address the food security to some extent. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Potential enhancement of C-loss from soils This point is of concern as one need to add more compost / mulch. This potential enhancement may be attributed to more density of soil microbial activity (residing in the charcoal), as they require food and may be they are using this SOM as food ? Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Hydrophobicity of fresh biochar Initially biochar has Hydrophobicity property, but after few days of curing with water, it looses it hydrophobicityto some extent. This property of biochar having two characters of liking and not liking water makes it unique, for soil life, nutrients and minerals along with water and air adsorbtion and circulation in the soil. The coolness attributed due to the presence of water in charcoal / moisture attracts many small insects / creatures / soil microbes to take shelter near or under charcoal, including scorpions, etc. as observed in the field. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Biochar in Alkaline soils : The experiments were conducted in the alkaline soils, the farmers are happy with the results. The farmers are convinced that the addition of charcoal along with other amendments has benefited them. Please see all the links in http://www.biocharindia.com Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Biochar Size Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1 The size of charcoal is being defined by us as we want immediate results. Whereas, the addition of charcoal to the soils is incremental, as small amounts of different sizes of the charcoal from stoves and other activities has found their way into the soil. Over a period of time the large chunks have been converted into small pieces. So we find different grades (sizes) of charcoal in the soil. I always able to easily collect large size pieces of charcoal from the farmers fields. Different size pieces of charcoal serve different purposes in the field. As the benefits of charcoal are related to various aspects, like physical, chemical, biological, etc. Small powder form of biochar could be easily carried into atmosphere and contributing to global warming as Black Carbon.
Biochar Myths Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
Biochar application is a novel way, it has many values, improving the fertility of the degraded soils (alkaline / acidic / poor / degraded), preventing wasteful burning of millions of tonnes of biomass in the open fields after harvesting the crop and for carbon sequestration.
The small and marginal farmers can easily adopt to this method very easily, who are the majority. They could be easily trained on charcoal making from the biomass available in their field and surroundings for treating their soils.
As part of tradition / culture people had been using charcoal and ash in their fields. Such practice is there all over the world, where civilizations existed in the last more than 5000 years, there is a need to recognize the values and create awareness.
The affect is based on the amendments made to soil along with charcoal, charcoal alone has very less value to improve the fertility of the soil. other additions are like soil microbes, FYM, vermicompost, Mulch, micro-nutrients, sand, gypsum, fertilizers, silt, etc. are also essential apart from biochar.
BIOCHAR PLUS - RURAL TRASH The people in the rural areas, collect the trash from the cattle sheds, kitchens, houses, etc. Kitchen waste consisting of charcoal and ash from the stoves, wasted food / vegetables, fish bones etc. and majority of the compost consisting of wasted biomass used as feed, dung and partly urine soaked with biomass and dung. Broken Pottery shards / roof tiles also found in this trash. All the trash collected day to day and dumped in a in a pit over a period of one year, gets composted very well, is also called Farm Yard Manure (FYM). The inoculation of charcoal with soil microbes is very much possible in this situation, which enhances the property of the charcoal. Similarly the pottery shards property in the compost is enhanced. This is one of the ways charcoal as biochar is contributed to the soils traditionally. This is a cultural and traditional practice existing in majority of the parts of Indian subcontinent. In most cases the livestock is kept close to the residential areas in many parts of India, for many reasons. For almost all types of events / occasions pottery items are ordered as part of the rituals. From birth to death pottery is used. So, many pottery shards are regularly contributed to the rural trash, which finds its way into the soils.Note: Compost pits located away from residential areas may not have charcoal in them. Ref: http://e-potteryshardssoil.blogspot.com/ Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
GSBC PROJECT Objective: To promote the improved production of biochar to save forests’ resources and bring social benefits to rural communities. To encourage the application of biochar into Indian soils to increase land’s fertility and to sequester carbon for hundreds or thousands of years.Partner: Geoecology Energy Organisation (GEO) is a registered Indian public charitable trust, which focuses on community capacity building and empowerment, geoecological and natural resources sustainability, climate change (Mitigation and Adaptation) and renewable energy.GEO’s major achievements are in the area of rural energy and carbon sequestration using charcoal. So far, GEO has designed 30different kinds of Good Stoves (biochar-making cookstoves) and their target is to facilitate one million Good Stoves to the communities within the next five years.Environmental Benefits:-Protection of Forests and Biodiversity: The improved appropriate technologies (cookstoves and kilns) save a significant quantity of fuel-wood and therefore, decrease human pressure on forests-Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture: Biochar, a porous material, increases water retention, stimulates symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes and creates a “cozy home” for bacteria, microorganisms, fungi, minerals and nutrients in general, which lead to an improved nutrient supply for plants and reduced nutrient losses by leaching (Glaser, 2002)-Agricultural waste management: The pyrolysis of organic material to produce biochar is an interesting alternative to the traditional disposal of waste and to the burning of crop residues in open fields -Long-term carbon sequestration: Biochar, as a relative stable form of carbon, is still found in ancient Terra Preta soils of the Amazon Basin and thus, it could be considered as a long-term carbon sink (Lehmann, 2007)Socio-economical Benefits: -Awareness Rising: According to the World Health Organization, Indoor Air Pollution (IAP) kills 1.5 million people annually. Nonetheless, women and children, who are the main players inthe kitchen, might not understand the relation between smoke and health. Moreover, forest resources might be perceived unlimited and the link between their extraction and global warming is not well known by many wood users. Further, farmers still believe that adding extra chemicals is good for our Earth. The project aims at educating the participants on these problems. -Health Improvements: Less respiratory and eye diseases.-Capacity Building and Employment Creation.- The project aims at training current and new stoves and charcoal producers. The commercialization of the new stoves will create new jobs.-Financial and Time Savings: Participants save money from the decreased use of chemical fertilizers and wood (when bought). Women save time when cooking with the biochar-making stove. Description / Context :According to the government, about 146 million hectares of land are considered degraded in India. Farmers still believe that adding extra chemicals is good for the soils, nonetheless, agricultural productivity is declining. Moreover, in rural areas in India and in most developing countries, women cook their food with biomass (mostly wood and charcoal) in highly polluting stoves, which represent a number of problems (Deforestation, lots of time spent on wood collection and on cooking, back pains and other life-threatening risks from wood collection, respiratory and eye diseases from Indoor Air Pollution, high fuel prices if the wood is bought, etc.). Furthermore, charcoal is inefficiently produced in the earth-mound kiln releasing a considerable amount of methane emissions. Therefore, the establishment of the commercialization chain of highly-efficient biochar-making cookstoves, the diffusion of improved small-scale kilns, the pyrolysis of agricultural residues that are burnt otherwise, the soil fertility’s enhancement and the long-term carbon sequestration through biochar application in soils offer an innovative window of opportunity to enhance the living conditions of rural families, counteract deforestation, protect biodiversity, increase crop production, improve agricultural waste management and remove carbon from the atmosphere as a carbon-negative strategy to fight global warming. Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1
References http://www.biocharindia.com http://www.e-geo.org http://www.goodstove.com Thank you Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, GEO Ver.1