[Gasification] Morgan Schmidt Thesis

Ronal W. Larson rongretlarson at comcast.net
Wed Jan 1 12:35:28 CST 2014


   On Dec. 26 there were several messages on the “gasification” list about a very lengthy 2010 doctoral thesis on Terra Preta at the University of Florida by Morgan Schmidt, found at:

   There are also several much shorter academic articles that summarize his thesis.

   I found the thesis to be well done, and I learned a lot about the local culture.   There are numerous photographs,  There is an enormous wealth of information about a pH, organic carbon and a score of elements and how they vary by depth.  The culture appears to be successful in (heavily) managing their forest environment

    But I was left wanting more on terra preta both here and in other parts of Amazonia.  The reason: the word “charcoal” appears only as a side product from combustion.  I would think it mandatory to measure char in the ground for quantity, depth profile,  and age, but there were no measurements of those three char parameters.  It is clear that slash and char is not practiced - only slash and burn.  The local Kuikuro culture makes no effort to maximize char.  The soil is blackish, but it is only partially from char.  Organic carbon content is NOT high.

   My first question is whether any other research anthropological, archaeological and geographic activities in the Amazon are measuring the percent, age, and depth distribution of char (not organic carbon content - which Dr. Schmidt has done well)?

   My second question is whether a small local tribe that could/might apparently benefit from biochar can/should be encouraged by those studying the culture to try modern biochar out?  Modern meaning mixture with compost, inoculants, maybe some added minerals, etc.  Or should/must the research teams studying these cultures stay away from modifying their behavior in any way?   If so, what is the best way to get the help of (and presumably help) a local group that is already doing phenomenally well with a crude form (not turning/mixing) of compost?

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