[Gasification] Biochar et al.
adkarve at gmail.com
Tue Dec 10 19:29:49 CST 2013
the solubility of soil minerals in water is extremely low. If you used
sterilized soil, it would not support plant growth. You have to have
micro-organismsin the soil, because it is the microbes that have the
ability to absorb minerals from an extremely dilute soultion. And in order
to maintain a high microbial population in the soil, you need to apply high
calorie, non-composted organic matter to the soil. The plants do it in
nature by dropping their leaves on the ground. I have noticed in the case
of sorghum, safflower and chickpea, that the leaves shed water in the
night. In sorghum and safflower, this water contains sugar, whereas in the
case of chickpea, the water contains an organic acid. Thus these plants are
actually feeding the soil microbes underneath their canopy.
Literally thousands of farmers in India are now following my advice and
instead of chemical fertilizers or compost, they apply to their soil a
mixture containing 25 kg sugar and 25 kg cowdung per ha to their soil. You
can however equally well apply 125 kg green leaves per ha to your field.
My research work was conducted in the corporate sector and thereefore I
have not published anything.
I give below the reference of one of my publications:
Karve, A. D.: Agriculture using soil minerals instead of chemical
fertilizers. 209-214, Biotechnology for Sustainable Development:
Achievements and Challenges. Ed. Hasnain, S.E.; Rashmi; Jha, B.; & Sharan,
R.N. (Tata McGraw Hill Education P. Ltd., New Delhi), 1910.
On Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 4:28 AM, David Murphy <djfmurphy at dodo.com.au> wrote:
> Hello Anand !
> I seem to recall, last time I was in Pune, when I was being shown worm,
> composting and anaerobic digesting sites, the mention of the name Karve.
> It's about 5 years ago now and my notes are in Singapore so I can't be sure
> and my memory is a bit slippery. Would that be right ?
> Clearly you are a far more full bottle on bacteria than I. It is a topic
> on which I I have found it difficult to extract information. My knowledge
> is much more of the broad brush variety than the specifics of yours and I
> would welcome some reading on the topic of soil benevolent bacteria.
> I guess in strict terms you are right about mineral solubility in water
> but I can't see water releasing minerals from basalt or granite at a rate
> that would support vigorous plant growth. I wonder though, does this
> still apply in pure (say distilled) neutral pH water ?). In my
> biofertilisers I use a little molasses as a base ingredient. It acts as a
> dust binder but also to stumulate bacterial activity in the soil.
> On 10/12/2013 4:24 PM, Anand Karve wrote:
> Dear David,
> I agree with you that organic matter is essential to maintain soil
> fertility. The organic matter causes the bacteria in the soil to
> proliferate and it is the bacteria that make the soil minerals available to
> the rest of the living beings. I reiterate here that all minerals are water
> soluble, even basalt rock, although to a very small extent. Even Quartz, if
> powdered and stirred in water, would give a solution having silica
> concentration of 5 PPM. Some other minerals may dissolve in water to give
> solutions, having concentration measurable only in PPB units, but the fact
> remains that all minerals dissolve in water.
> The microbes have the capacity to take up minerals from extremely dilute
> solutions (e.g. soil solution), because they have special ports of entry
> for minerals all over their cell surface. Therefore, in comparison to their
> cell volume, their absorptive area is large. In the case of plants, it is
> only the root hairs that serve as the absorptive organs. In comparison to
> the volume of the plant, the surface area of the root hairs is relatively
> All soils contain bacteria, irrespective of whether the soil is acidic,
> alkaline, saline, glacial or anything else. Just add a bit of sugar to the
> soil, and the bacterial population jumps up by 500 to 1000 times the
> original, within about 24 hours. *Anand, I'm really interested in this
> population expansion rate. I'm aware that some bacteria will double every
> 20 minutes but I was of the belief that this was restricted to a few and
> that in the main the rate of increase was much slower.* Sugar does not
> contain any minerals, whereas bacteria have almost 15% minerals in their
> cells (as against only 5% in plants, because plants have cellulose and
> lignin, which do not have any minerals). The fact that sugar causes soil
> bacteria to proliferate is an indirect proof, that soil bacteria can take
> up minerals from the soil. Apart from calcium and silica, the
> other minerals are present in living cells in very small quantities. They
> serve mainly as components of co-enzymes. The biochemistry of all living
> beings is similar and therefore the minerals needed by the soil bacteria
> are the same as what the plants and also what you and I need.
> I have found in the course of my work that there are bacteria even in
> soils that are deficient in certain minerals, and the native bacteria in
> the soil will proliferate if the soil is provided with sugar. The lateritic
> soil in our province is notoriously deficient of phosphorus. When this soil
> was incubated with sugar, one could detect only phosphate solubilizing
> bacteria in it. This is easy to explain, because these are the only
> bacteria that will survive in a phosphate deficient soil. If the soil were
> deficient in Nitrogen, one would have found in the soil only bacteria that
> fix atmospheric nitrogen.
> The microbes form food chains in the soil. For example the bacteria are
> eaten by amoebae, the amoebae are eaten by flat worms and free living
> nematodes *(What about earthworms ?)* they are in turn eaten by
> arthropods and so on. At each step, the carbon content of these organisms
> gets reduced, because the organisms are constantly respiring. Along with
> the carbon, the organisms are losing a corresponding amount of minerals,
> but when the minerals are released from the cells and bodies of the living,
> they are no longer in the form of original minerals but they are in the
> form of water soluble organic molecules, which can be readily taken up by
> On Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 8:21 AM, David Murphy <djfmurphy at dodo.com.au>wrote:
>> Anand, thanks for your comments. I answer them in the text below.
>> On 10/12/2013 12:13 PM, Anand Karve wrote:
>> 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. *Anand** that's not quite correct and to explain what I
>> mean would require quite a deal of space. Soil is one commiodity about
>> which it is impossible to make blanket statements.* Secondly, you have
>> quoted that according to John D. Hamaker the microbes produced enzymes
>> which dissolved the minerals in the rock dust. *That's not correct
>> either. I didn't credit JDH with that statement, it is a biological fac*
>> *t**.* 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. *Anand, any mineral
>> is soluble in water provided it is in a water soluble form.* *In basalt
>> - or any rock form - it is not water soluble and you rely entirely on
>> enzymes. * 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. *I'd like to read more of this - can
>> you give me a credible reference please ? * 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. *Not in Australia and many other countries !* *"Soils
>> ain't soils !". Australia, for example, missed the last Ice Age and a 1
>> metre thick slice of our soil won't keep your belly full for more than a
>> couple of birthdays. Australian soils are deficient in most minerals and
>> were almost entirely leached of P. Australian topsoil averages around
>> 12mm thick. For this reason our agricultural productivity leapt ahead once
>> we accessed the P in guano from Christmas Island and then from Nauru.
>> Then we set up superphosphate manufacturing and the rest in history.
>> Australia is not unique.* *But some areas here are quite mineral rich
>> and you can add rock dust as heavy and as aften as you like and get no
>> result, because it doesn't need minerals. But most other areas do need
>> it and you differentiate through soil analysis.* * Bu**t, all our soil
>> and soils of the world desperately need more Organic Matter.*
>> * Our national average is under 1%, where 5% is a desired minimum. *
>> * For general interest*
>> * have a look at
>> Got to go ! DJM.*
>> Yours A.D.Karve
>> 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
>>> 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 -
>>>> 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
>>>> 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
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>> Dr. A.D. Karve
>> Trustee & Founder President, Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI)
>> Gasification mailing list
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> Dr. A.D. Karve
> Trustee & Founder President, Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI)
> Gasification mailing list
> to Send a Message to the list, use the email addressGasification at bioenergylists.org
> to UNSUBSCRIBE or Change your List Settings use the web pagehttp://lists.bioenergylists.org/mailman/listinfo/gasification_lists.bioenergylists.org
> for more Gasifiers, News and Information see our web site:http://gasifiers.bioenergylists.org/
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Dr. A.D. Karve
Trustee & Founder President, Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI)
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