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CAN BIOCHAR AMENDMENTS IMPROVE SOIL QUALITY AND REDUCE CO2? A Climate Change Mitigation Approach through Regenerative Agriculture


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Variations in rainfall, increased mean surface temperature, persistent drought, reduced soil moisture and nutrient, and crop failures have all been evidently linked to anthropogenic-induced climate change, which impacts food security. Agricultural soils can be used to reduce atmospheric CO2 by altering the physicochemical composition of soil organic matter through biochar soil amendments. This study draws on current literature published online, in peer review journal articles, books, and conference proceedings to assess the implications of biochar soil amendments to enhance soil quality, while reducing atmospheric CO2 concentration. Building on the critical analytical approach, biochar use as soil amendments have been tested to have promising environmental potential, which improves soil quality and quantity thereby enhancing soil moisture status and reduces atmospheric CO2. Analyses of biochar amended soils in terrestrial ecosystems reduces about 12% of the total Carbon (C) emitted through anthropogenic land use change. Biochar amended soil systems are dependable in tracing and quantifying sequestered C and can stay in the soil for thousands of years. The challenge with biochar as soil amendments is the type of biomass that can yield high quality biochar through the pyrolysis process.

Key words: Biochar, amendments, regenerative agriculture, food security, climate change, atmospheric CO2, pyrolysis, Carbon, soil moisture.

Published in: Education, Technology
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CAN BIOCHAR AMENDMENTS IMPROVE SOIL QUALITY AND REDUCE CO2? A Climate Change Mitigation Approach through Regenerative Agriculture

  1. 1. CAN BIOCHAR AMENDMENTS IMPROVE SOIL QUALITY AND REDUCE CO2? A Climate Change Mitigation Approach through Regenerative Agriculture Charcoal remedies, 2013 A Final Review Research Project for Climate Change, Energy, and Development taught by Dr. Jennie C. Stephens, Ph.D. Presented By Jenkins Macedo, M.A. IDSC December 6, 2013 BLACK IS THE NEW GREEN
  2. 2. The Biochar Blues First you take a big old drum Then fill it full of dry cow dung Make sure the lid’s on really tight Then just stick in a small stove pipe Light a fire under the drum Cook that cow dung till it’s done Open the door and there you are What you’ve got is biochar -International Biochar Initiative (IBI) Source: Fiona Harvey, 2009.
  3. 3. SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND & CONTEXT o Scientific consensus on anthropogenic-induced GHG emissions (IPCC, 2013). o Annual CO2 increased by 3% since 2000 (IPCC, 2013; Woolf et al., 2010). o Increased surface temperature impacts ecosystems regimes, biodiversity, soil organic matter, reduces soil moisture status and crop productivity (Brown & Funk, 2009b, 2010d; Gregory et al., 2005). o Agricultural productivity contributes about 24% of GHG emissions (Searchinger et al. 2013; Vermeulen et al., 2012; EPA, 2011): • 13% MH4 & N2O livestock, fertilizer applications, and other agrochemicals. • 11% CO2 allocated to operating farm machineries and tillage. • 75% of the total global land use change is attributed to agriculture (Vermeulen et al., 2012; EPA, 2011). Recent Global Monthly Mean CO2 Source: trends/global.html
  4. 4. CURRENT CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION APPROACHES Mode of capturing and storing CO2 o Oceanic o Pedologic o Biotic systems o Geological formations Proposed Approaches o Carbon capture and storage (Stephens & Verna, 2006; Robertson et al. 2006). o Geo-engineering (Pacala & Socolow, 2004; Crutzen, 2006); Bengtsson, 2006). o Eco-Efficient Agriculture (Wilkins, 2008; Keating et al. 2010; Lal, 2010b). o Energy Technology Innovation Systems (Gallagher et al. 2012). o Renewables and Nuclear Energy (Ausubel, 2007; Waide & Gerundino 2007). o Biochar Amendments (a win-win-win approach) (Lehmann, 2007; Laird, 2008; Woolf et al. 2010; Ippolito et al. 2012).
  5. 5. RESEARCH QUESTION Can biochar amendments improve soil quality and reduce carbon dioxide emissions as a regenerative approach to mitigate climate change?
  6. 6. WHAT IS BIOCHAR? Biochar: is the carbon-rich product when biomass (such as wood, manure or crop residues) is heated in a closed container with little or no available air (Lehmann & Joseph, 2012). Source: Temperature range =(400–500 °C (752–932 °F) (Biochar) > 700 °C (1,292 °F) (Liquid/gas fuels)
  7. 7. PYROLYSIS SYSTEMS Michigan Biochar Group International Biochar Initiative Hawaii Biochar Project Biochar Production in Serbia Biochar Farms
  8. 8. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT o Indigenous land management practices in the Northern Brazilian Amazonia terra preta soils (Lehmann et al., 2003; Fraser et al., 2011). o Japan (Ogawa & Okimori, 2010). o Africa (Cornelissen et al. 2013). Source: Woolf et al., 2010
  9. 9. Flowchart Illustrates inputs, process, outputs, applications and impacts on global climate Source: Woolf et al. 2010
  10. 10. BIOCHAR IS CARBON-NEGATIVE Diagram Source: Courtesy of Nature Publishing Group posted at biochar/carbon
  11. 11. ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF BIOCHAR o 2050 2.2 gigatons of Carbon will be sequestered o 12 percent of global GHG emissions could be offset with biochar. o Enhances soil fertility, increases crop productivity, preserves agricultural lands, and reduces agro-chemicals usability. o Retains soil water, prevents nutrients from leaching, and preserves groundwater resources. o Sustainable use agricultural wastes (plants & animals biomass) to generate bioenergy, soil fertility management, and reduce Carbon. o Discourages deforestation by enhancing degraded croplands. o Removes heavy metals on soil/or water.
  12. 12. THE ESSENTIAL STABILITY OF BIOCHAR Lehmann et al. 2006. Mitigation & Adaptation Strategies for Global Climate Change 11, 403-427
  13. 13. CHALLENGES OR LIMITATIONS o Biochar scalability o Financing biochar research and development o Establishment of standardized tests, tracking systems, classification systems, sustainability criteria and assessment for biochar production and application. o High yield biomass classifications product o The chance of producing biomass solely for biochar production could potentially impact crop production (e.g. ethanol production).
  14. 14. RESEARCH QUESTION REVISITED Can biochar amendments improve soil quality and reduce carbon dioxide emissions as a regenerative approach to mitigate climate change?
  15. 15. CONCLUSION Source: UK Biochar Research Center, 2013
  16. 16. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH o Investment in pilot projects in developing countries o Definitions, standards, and guidelines.
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