[Gasification] Biochar et al.

Anand Karve adkarve at gmail.com
Mon Dec 9 19:13:27 CST 2013

Dear David,
rock dust is certainly a good additive to soil, but the ordinary soil in
our fields is itself derived from the rocks underneath the soil layer and
therefore soil contains more or less the same minerals that the rock
contains. Secondly, you have quoted that according to John D. Hamaker the
microbes produced  enzymes which dissolved the minerals in the rock dust.
That is true in the case of a few minerals which  are in the form of
calcium salts. But water is a universal solvent and all minerals are
soluble in water to a small extent. They are taken up by the microbes
directly, because the microbes absorb them through their entire cell
surface, which is a more efficient manner of absorption than the plants,
which absorb minerals only through their root hairs. The soil solution
represents a saturated solution of the minerals. Therefore, any mineral
molecule that is removed from the solution by either plants or microbes,
gets replaced immediately from the pool of undissolved minerals in the
soil. This property is called dynamic equilibrium. A 1 meter thick layer of
soil has enough minerals to allow you to conduct agriculture for about
25000 years.
On Sun, Dec 8, 2013 at 9:45 AM, David Murphy <djfmurphy at dodo.com.au> wrote:

>  Joe, you might find it of interest to look up John D. Hamaker on the
> net.  He was an American Mechanical Engineer who turned his mind (and
> subsequently devoted his life) to improving soil by the addition of rock
> dust.    He saw global warming as a precursor to the next ice age.  He saw
> an ice age as essential refurbishment of the earth's resources.     His
> argument has a lot of good solid logioc to it and it's worth adding to your
> store of knowledge on the general topic.     If he's proven right, then
> we're in a lot of trouble !    If you want to study it further I have a DVD
> I made from a tape he produced I could let you have.
> Rock dust is a storehouse of minerals, all of which are essential to
> growth.    First to plants and then to the animals which eat them -
> including us humans.   Rock dust is insoluble to water but not to enzymes
> which are produced by soil benevolent bacteria - bacteria which are present
> in soil with good OM and in compost.     Many readers of this string will
> be aware of it's benefits when used as fertiliser.
> Seeking to remedy climate change purported to be caused by anthropomorphic
> global warming is an extraordinarily complex question.   And seeking to
> make a contribution by sequestering carbon as charcoal is in itself another
> complex range of issues.     The charcoal must be first ligneos carbon -
> wood - and it is probably almost as good to lock up some of that carbon in
> timber for building houses or making furniture.
> I'd promote the first step by making the sequestration of the carbon as
> part of a broader program of building building soil organic matter OM.
> This includes animate carbon as well as vegetative.     At least get it up
> to 5% to plough depth, say 10 inches (250mm) as a minimum, aiming at 20%.
> That in itself locks away a lot of carbon, but of a different nature, in
> that it's available to contribute to plant growth, growth without the need
> for chemical or artificial fertilisers.
> Every 1% increase in soil OM (world wide) would be a lockup of around 30
> billion tonnes of carbon in  a world which generates now (probably) 20
> million tonnes annually.    Just for the record, the biggest emitter of
> CO2, bigger than every other agency combined - every factory, airplane, car
> truck tractor etc and so on - is the soil of the earth as it respires.
> So, the more land we put down under crop to feed the increasing billions,
> the more CO2 we produce and put into the atmosphere.
> So, it's a race against a proven runner - so called mother Nature - and
> she's a proven stayer.
> On the other hand, some of the wise owls are now saying it's not CO2 at
> all, but PCB's causing the damage.   Maybe they're right - who knows *for
> sure ?*    Nobody I'm aware of despite what they say.    It's all
> conjecture, some of it soundly based, but still conjecture relying on
> historical info compiled over a geological blink.
> Using charcoal and zeolite together is a bit like wearing belt & braces
> with self-supporting trousers.     It certainly works !
> The easy and less costly way is to just get the OM into the soil and plant
> stuff to grow and suck up all the CO2 and N.
> But whatever you do, don't stop the good work.
> David Murphy.
> On 08/12/2013 12:33 PM, Joe Barnas wrote:
> Thankyou for the insightful overview of biochar and comparative
> functionality of Zeolite, of which I was not familiar.
> However one thing I am focused on is how to address catastrophic global
> climate change and for that having billions of gardeners sequestering
> carbon, while building healthy soil and hence healthy food is not something
> that Zeolite can provide.  It is another tool in growing food, yes, but
> let's not lose sight of the long term benefit of promoting biochar.  I
> might even try mixing some with biochar just to gain the N adsorption
> benefits.
> On Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 2:00 PM, David Murphy <djfmurphy at dodo.com.au>wrote:
>> Greetings Biochar/Gasifier people !
>> Everybody & his dog seems to have something to say about
>> charcoal/biochar/biochar-compost mix and so on.    Well, here’s another
>> dog to bark his piece !
>> Biochar is often seen as the great agricultural panacea, but *it is not*.
>> Biochar is a name given to plain ordinary charcoal to indicate that it is
>> destined for use in soil improvement, but basically it is still plain
>> ordinary charcoal, just crushed into smaller particles.  In some
>> circumstances it is a very beneficial tool but it is not magical as some
>> proponents seem to think.   Just remember, all charcoal has a bio-origin -
>> wood.
>> In some Ag. trials in Australia it significantly improved crop volume
>> (treble in one case) but in other instances, nothing worth writing home
>> about.  It depends on what the soil is like to start with.
>> Charcoal is stable.  That means it does not take part in any composting
>> system (which is one primarily of bacterial digestion) and it is
>> indigestible so that when offered as a dietary supplement (in poultry food
>> for example) it passes through the digestive system physically unchanged
>> but will adsorb a high proportion of the gases and some toxins produced in
>> the process of digestion, because that is what charcoal does.    For this
>> reason, it's adsorption capability, poultry will generally do better on a
>> little charcoal.
>> Quite a few pages could be filled on the beneficial services provided by
>> charcoal as it travels through the digestive system, but it does it as
>> charcoal only and as nothing else.   By all means use a little in the feed,
>> you can only benefit.
>> The only physical way to change the nature of charcoal is to burn it.
>> That is why it lasts in soil (or wherever it is) for thousands of years.
>> It has an incredibly high surface area of 360 m2 (varies) and is a mass
>> of minute tunnels which in turn means a very high volume and gases become
>> trapped in these tunnels.  It does not *ab*sorb, it *ad*sorbs and traps
>> only.  The difference between absorb and adsorb is the same as the
>> difference in liquids of suspension and solution.  Clay particles will
>> be in suspension, sugar and salt go into solution.
>> Charcoal is useful in an aerobic composting system because again of the
>> entrapment of air in the tunnels.   A composting system goes well if
>> there is enough oxygen bearing air available to the bacteria which are a
>> significant part of the system.   The more air, the higher the
>> population of bacteria (other factors being OK).    The charcoal itself
>> is inoperative, and doesn’t change, nor is it a catalyst, it simply
>> provides a service.   It will only provide a haven for soil benevolent
>> bacteria if there is something trapped in the tunnels which the bacteria
>> can eat.
>> Charcoal is a good adsorber of gas and liquid simply because that is what
>> it does.   Zeolite on the other hand, can have an even higher surface
>> are per gram and has a propensity to entrap gases, most particularly
>> nitrogen in it’s various forms – as gas – ammonium for example – and in
>> liquids as a salt of NO3 .   It actually draws them in (like a magnet
>> attracts ferric objects) where charcoal just takes it as it comes.    It is
>> easy to see also why charcoal is so effective as a filter, but if you have
>> a solution rich in nitrogen, run it through Zeolite and the N will be
>> removed.  Add some to the litter in poultry grower sheds, there will be
>> fewer mortalities because the ammonia which sometimes will asphixiate small
>> birds will be absorbed.    Zeolite will take N out of solution, charcoal
>> will not.    There's 40 natural forms of Zeolite and more than another 150
>> can be synthesised, so choose carefully for the one most appropriate to
>> your problem.    Zeolite can perform an amazing range of actions.    Once
>> used and applied as fertiliser, Zeolite subsequently will release the N
>> slowly and remain in the soil as a balancer of N.  Too much, it will take
>> it in (so that the soil pH is not lowered) and release it as required.
>> Charcoal’s great stuff though, it's easy to make and holds answers to a
>> lot of problems - but not all !
>> David Murphy.
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> --
> Joe Barnas
> Portland, OR
> 541-525-1665
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Dr. A.D. Karve
Trustee & Founder President, Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI)
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