Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Biomass Pyrolysis Product Bio-Char: Regenerating Depleted Soil Economically

When pursuing the bioenergy revolution, it is important to keep in mind the health and productivity of the underlying soil. Healthy, productive soil must be high in organic matter. Scientists are learning that biochar--a charcoal byproduct of biomass pyrolysis--can be a useful soil supplement for boosting the fertility of soils. This discovery is actually a "re-discovery", since Pre-Columbian indigenous people of Central and South America used charcoal to boost soil fertility thousands of years ago.
Substantial crop yield increases have been reported for the few trials where biochar has been added to agricultural soils.

“Biochar, or charcoal, contains most of the plant nutrients removed when the biomass was harvested and can slowly release them to growing plants,” Laird says. He lists additional agronomic benefits of adding biochar to soils:

*Lowers the density of clay soils, increasing drainage, aeration and root penetration.

*Increases sandy soils' retention of water and nutrients.

*Partially offsets the acidity of N fertilizers (liming agent).
Biochar is also cited as a "carbon sink" to lower the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. While soil fertility is obviously the most salient advantage to the use of biochar, if carbon hysteria is a useful motivation for some persons to "do the right thing", it is probably better than for them to be selling crack on the street. ;-)



Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

I have been hopeful for the potential of biochar for some time now. It sounds like a practical method for expanding agricultural productivity (both for food and for fuel-yielding biomass) to unproductive land. It might also be handy for jump starting wilderness areas for parks and nature preserves on what would otherwise be wasteland.

I don't know what kind of quantities could be produced but if it was a byproduct of a bioenergy system and bio waste recovery program it might be considerable.

4:01 PM  
Blogger al fin said...

Biochar is one of many exciting methods for regenerating tired, depleted soil.

Potentially, quite a bit of biochar could be produced as a pyrolysis byproduct. It depends on how clever the chemists become at turning pyrolysis oil into useful substitutes for petrofuels and petrochemicals.

5:09 AM  

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