Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chip's new project: Biochar

Just recently I was talking with some rural folk about the efficacy of using something called "Biochar".  It's a fairly simple idea whereby you make a type of charcoal that "can store carbon while improving soil" for use in organic farming.  While I'm not (thus far at least) convinced of the evidence for man-caused global warming I don't think it's a bad idea to figure out new methods that make farming easier and more effective while (assumably) protecting the environment.  To quote from one of the above articles:
Biochar is made by decomposing biomass, like plants, wood and other organic materials, at high temperature, in a process called slow pyrolysis.  "Biochar offers one of the few ways we can create power, while decreasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. And it improves food production in the world’s poorest regions by increasing soil fertility. It’s an amazing tool," said Jim Amonette, a soil chemist at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.  
The part that grabs my attention, of course, is the idea of improving food production while increasing soil fertility.  I'm planning to start some efforts this summer using Biochar and I'll be sharing with the audience how it goes.   

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