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Re: [biochar] Virginia Biochar Field Trials...... Proposals & Questions

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  • Brent Neal
    In regards to the variables here and the levels, I -highly- recommend that you use a designed experiment assuming interactions between all the variables. You
    Message 1 of 24 , Oct 31, 2008
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      In regards to the variables here and the levels, I -highly- recommend
      that you use a designed experiment assuming interactions between all
      the variables. You will be less likely to miss something valuable.
      Standard statistical software, such as JMP, can help you build your
      model and determine whether the experiment can be easily factored.

      B



      On 30 Oct, 2008, at 6:57, Alex English wrote:
      >>
      >> My Treatment groups;
      >>
      >> 1. Char + Compost
      >> 2. Char + Compost + soluble fertilizer
      >> 3. Char + Compost + Mycorrhizal (at planting)
      >
      >> Control ; Local standard practices & fertilizer
      >> recommendations
      >
      > If we want to convince "American" agriculture that biochar
      > is useful and add to the international body of work that
      > David Yarrow refers too, then I suggest that the
      > experimental controls will need to include additional
      > catagories that don't include char.
      >
      > Please consider the following possibilities.
      >
      > 4. Compost
      > 5. Compost + soluble fertilizer
      > 6. Compost + Mycorrhizal
      >
      > It is not always easy to distill the essence of char with
      > experimental design. So to make a point we can continue
      > by including;
      >
      > 7. Char
      > 8. Char + soluble fertilizer
      > 9. Char + Mycorrhizal
      > 10. Mycorrhizal
      > 11. Mycorrhizal + soluble fertilizer
      > 12 Mycorrhizal + soluble fertilizer + compost
      >
      >
      > I am not really suggesting that you include all of these.
      > I am suggesting that you think through why you don't.
      >
      >
      >
      > Regards, Alex

      --
      Brent Neal
      Geek of all Trades
      http://brentn.freeshell.org

      "Specialization is for insects" -- Robert A. Heinlein
    • Lloyd Helferty
      I have a question regarding partial carbonization of Biomass. Suppose I have a bio-energy by-product that results from partial pyrolysis and partial combustion
      Message 2 of 24 , Nov 7, 2008
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        I have a question regarding partial carbonization of Biomass.

        Suppose I have a bio-energy by-product that results from partial pyrolysis and partial combustion of the feedstock such that the resulting constituents emerge:

        Ash content              49.9%

        Carbon content         45%

        Calcium                    27.2%          

        Magnesium               3.73%   

        Potassium                 1.79%    

         

        The resulting Total Alkalinity is 4800 parts per million (ppm) of calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

        The resulting pH is 11.50.

         

        What would be the estimated result of putting this mixture on soil?

        Would it likely be overall beneficial or detrimental?

         

        If it could be beneficial in any way, what would the estimated application rate be for different levels of soil acidity? (ex. pH 4, 5,6)

        Lloyd Helferty, Engineering Technologist
           Product Development Specialist
           603-48 Suncrest Blvd
           Thornhill , ON
           905-707-8754
           647-886-8754
           Co-founder, Biochar-Ontario
           http://groups.google.com/group/biochar-ontario


        From: biochar@yahoogroups.com [mailto: biochar@yahoogroups.com ] On Behalf Of Alex English
        Sent: October 30, 2008 6:58 AM
        To: Erich Knight; biochar@yahoogroups.com ; biochar@yahoogroups.com
        Cc: David Yarrow
        Subject: Re: [biochar] Virginia Biochar Field Trials...... Proposals & Questions

         

        Erich,

        Thanks for the direct answers. Rare!

        > BioCarbon (biochar); 95% C, 1% ash, 10% VM,

        Interesting numbers. Normally the first would be "fixed C"
        so as to keep the total < or = to 100.

        > My Treatment groups;
        >
        > 1. Char + Compost
        > 2. Char + Compost + soluble fertilizer
        > 3. Char + Compost + Mycorrhizal (at planting)

        > Control ; Local standard practices & fertilizer
        > recommendations

        If we want to convince "American" agriculture that biochar
        is useful and add to the international body of work that
        David Yarrow refers too, then I suggest that the
        experimental controls will need to include additional
        catagories that don't include char.

        Please consider the following possibilities.

        4. Compost
        5. Compost + soluble fertilizer
        6. Compost + Mycorrhizal

        It is not always easy to distill the essence of char with
        experimental design. So to make a point we can continue
        by including;

        7. Char
        8. Char + soluble fertilizer
        9. Char + Mycorrhizal
        10. Mycorrhizal
        11. Mycorrhizal + soluble fertilizer
        12 Mycorrhizal + soluble fertilizer + compost

        I am not really suggesting that you include all of these.
        I am suggesting that you think through why you don't.

        Regards, Alex

      • Philip Small
        ... pyrolysis and partial combustion of the feedstock such that the resulting constituents ... calcium carbonate (CaCO3). My understanding in this area is
        Message 3 of 24 , Nov 7, 2008
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          --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, "Lloyd Helferty" <lhelferty@...> wrote:
          >
          > I have a question regarding partial carbonization of Biomass.
          >
          > Suppose I have a bio-energy by-product that results from partial pyrolysis and partial combustion of the feedstock such that the resulting constituents
          > emerge:
          >
          > Ash content 49.9%
          >
          > Carbon content 45%
          >
          > Calcium 27.2%
          >
          > Magnesium 3.73%
          >
          > Potassium 1.79%
          >
          > The resulting Total Alkalinity is 4800 parts per million (ppm) of calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

          My understanding in this area is still evolving, but I believe the lab is communicating a calcium carbonate equivalent  (CCE) of 0.48%.  This surprises me because, in Alberta, it is reported that the range for wood ash is 55 to 65; however, at some facilities, values up to 100 per cent have been determined . Those values are consistent with values reported in the USA.  Thus your ash content would lead me to expect a CCE in the range of 27.5 to 50 percent.  Thus,  480000 or even 48000 ppm would make more sense to me.  Perhaps this total alkalinity is the alkalinity due to calcium carbonate alone, and does not include alkalinity due to the CaO, or due to the non-Ca carbonates and oxides of Mg, K, and Na? Can you confirm? - it makes a huge difference.
           
          > The resulting pH is 11.50.

          Charcoal pH tends to increase with pyrolysis temperature, (see figure 1 here ) in part because above 600 deg C calcium carbonate (which buffers pH to 8.2) is increasingly replaced by CaO (which buffers pH to 12.2).  So I again wonder if the alkalinity of the non-carbonate component is reflected in the total alkalinity value reported. I wish I was better grounded in lab procedures, your lab can better address this, but ideally I would request the lab perform the test recommended by your university or government support system to guage the lime requirement.
          >
          >
          > What would be the estimated result of putting this mixture on soil?

          One you do have the soil lime requirement result, bear in mind that the post-application pH will not exactly match the predicted pH because 1) effected depth is different than sampled depth, 2) pH effects vary over time because reactivity of the alkaline compounds varies 3) pH effects vary with moisture and 4) pH changes occur related to biology which is affected by may other influences (temperature, seasonal/diurnal fluctuations, community).

          It's important to find a good lab, familiar with your local conditions.  I see in the Alberta, Canada reference  that the incubation method is recommended.  This is not a method I am familiar with, but I have no trouble believing that it is the best test for most of Alberta, and probably not a bad bet for Ontario. 

          There are many competing approaches to deriving lime requirement.  Tropical areas rely on determining exchangeable aluminum (LR=2Xexch Al).  For the Ultisols and Oxisols  of the SE USA, the Adams and Evans Buffer method is common.  The Alfisol dominated areas of the USA, with higher CEC , use the SMP buffer (or an SMP alternative).   Folks in the Mollisols belt of the plains states use the Woodruff  buffer method. However North Carolinians use the Mehlich buffer method for a wide variety of soil types. And thats just the USA, I don't know much about what else is out there.  Again, find a good local ag soil lab.
          >
          > Would it likely be overall beneficial or detrimental?

          I would expect you have a high likelihood for it to be overall beneficial. 80% of the wood ash in the NE-USA is applied to benefit acid soils.  To the degree that your region is similar in wood sources and soil types, I would anticipate good results.

          >
          > If it could be beneficial in any way, what would the estimated application
          > rate be for different levels of soil acidity? (ex. pH 4, 5,6)

          That depends on soil type (especially buffering characteristics) and target pH for the crop or plant community.

          Final thought.  Remember that every incremental change in pH is an order of magnitude change in hydrogen ion activity, so it can take as much ash/lime to move from pH 6.0 to 7.0 as it can take to move from pH 5.0 to 5.1. or pH 4.0 to 4.01. That's not strictly true because a soil's buffering characteristics change with soil pH.
        • Philip Small
          Correction needed. ... Strike lime requirement, which is a soil test, replace it with the term lime equivalent, which is the test needed on the ash or the
          Message 4 of 24 , Nov 7, 2008
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            Correction needed.
            --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, "Philip Small" <psmall2007@...> wrote:
            >  ideally I would request the lab perform the
            > test recommended by your university or government support system to
            > guage the lime requirement.

            Strike lime requirement, which is a soil test, replace it with the term lime equivalent, which is the test needed on the ash or the charcoal material.
          • Lloyd Helferty
            Thank you Philip. This info should come in useful for me. The sample was prepared by a startup company here in Ontario seeking funding to move forward with
            Message 5 of 24 , Nov 8, 2008
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                Thank you Philip.  This info should come in useful for me.  The sample was prepared by a startup company here in Ontario seeking funding to move forward with their “Biochar” trials, but as you can see from the ratios of byproducts, this particular “Biochar” has a very high ash content, and I’m even a bit reluctant to call it “Biochar” at all.

               

              My question for you and the rest of the list would now be: Would the international Biochar community classify this as “Biochar”, as defined previously, or because the ash content is so high, would it be classified as something somewhat different?  I have no idea what the consistency of the byproduct is like (whether it still has a porous nature or whether it might have characteristics that would differ enough that the benefits to soil are negligible or even negative).

               

              Based on Fig 1 from http://biochar.pbwiki.com/, I would reckon that this “bio-energy by-product” was produced at temperatures well in excess of 1000ºC (extrapolate the black line forward until the Carbon content reaches 45%).

              My question would then be, if this is the case of very high temperature pyroysis (this may be the by-product of gasification), how does this affect parameters like surface area?

               

               

              Finally, the value for Total Alkalinity was given as “4800” but did not provide any units to work by.  I made an assumption that this number was meant to refer to “parts per million (ppm) of calcium carbonate (CaCO3)” because it was the only units that made sense to me.  Could there be another unit of measurement that would fit the value?

               

               I don’t know what lab did these measurements, so I could not tell you the methodology used to determine any of the numbers.  I’ll ask them if they can provide a calcium carbonate equivalent  (CCE) value for me.

              Lloyd Helferty, Engineering Technologist
                 Product Development Specialist
                 603-48 Suncrest Blvd
                 Thornhill , ON
                 905-707-8754
                 647-886-8754
                 Co-founder, Biochar-Ontario
                 http://groups.google.com/group/biochar-ontario


              From: biochar@yahoogroups.com [mailto: biochar@yahoogroups.com ] On Behalf Of Philip Small
              Sent: November 7, 2008 6:29 PM
              To: biochar@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: [biochar] Re: Wood Ash effects on Soils

               


              --- In biochar@yahoogroups .com , "Lloyd Helferty" <lhelferty@.. .> wrote:

              >
              > I have a question regarding partial carbonization of Biomass.
              >
              > Suppose I have a bio-energy by-product that results from partial pyrolysis
              and partial combustion of the feedstock such that the resulting constituents
              > emerge:
              >
              > Ash content 49.9%
              >
              > Carbon content 45%
              >
              > Calcium 27.2%
              >
              > Magnesium 3.73%
              >
              > Potassium 1.79%
              >
              > The resulting Total Alkalinity is 4800 parts per million (ppm) of calcium
              carbonate (CaCO3).

              My understanding in this area is still evolving, but I believe the lab is communicating a calcium carbonate equivalent  (CCE) of 0.48%.  This surprises me because, in Alberta , it is reported that
              the range for wood ash is 55 to 65; however, at some facilities, values up to 100 per cent have been determined . Those values are consistent with values reported in the USA .  Thus your ash content would lead me to expect a CCE in the range of 27.5 to 50 percent.  Thus,  480000 or even 48000 ppm would make more sense to me.  Perhaps this total alkalinity is the alkalinity due to calcium carbonate alone, and does not include alkalinity due to the CaO, or due to the non-Ca carbonates and oxides of Mg, K, and Na? Can you confirm? - it makes a huge difference.
               
              > The resulting pH is 11.50.

              Charcoal pH tends to increase with pyrolysis temperature, (see figure 1 here ) in part because above 600 deg C calcium carbonate (which buffers pH to 8.2) is increasingly replaced by CaO (which buffers pH to 12.2).  So I again wonder if the alkalinity of the non-carbonate component is reflected in the total alkalinity value reported. I wish I was better grounded in lab procedures, your lab can better address this, but ideally I would request the lab perform the test recommended by your university or government support system to guage the lime equivalent.
              >
              >
              > What would be the estimated result of putting this mixture on soil?

              One you do have the soil lime requirement result, bear in mind that the post-application pH will not exactly match the predicted pH because 1) effected depth is different than sampled depth, 2) pH effects vary over time because reactivity of the alkaline compounds varies 3) pH effects vary with moisture and 4) pH changes occur related to biology which is affected by may other influences (temperature, seasonal/diurnal fluctuations, community).

              It's important to find a good lab, familiar with your local conditions.  I see in the Alberta, Canada reference  that the incubation method is recommended.  This is not a method I am familiar with, but I have no trouble believing that it is the best test for most of Alberta , and probably not a bad bet for Ontario . 

              There are many competing approaches to deriving lime requirement.  Tropical areas rely on determining exchangeable aluminum (LR=2Xexch Al).  For the Ultisols and Oxisols  of the SE USA , the Adams and Evans Buffer method is common.  The Alfisol dominated areas of the USA , with higher CEC , use the SMP buffer (or an SMP alternative) .   Folks in the Mollisols belt of the plains states use the Woodruff  buffer method. However North Carolinians use the Mehlich buffer method for a wide variety of soil types. And thats just the USA, I don't know much about what else is out there.  Again, find a good local ag soil lab.
              >
              > Would it likely be overall beneficial or detrimental?

              I would expect you have a high likelihood for it to be overall beneficial. 80% of the wood ash in the NE-USA is applied to benefit acid soils.  To the degree that your region is similar in wood sources and soil types, I would anticipate good results.

              >
              > If it could be beneficial in any way, what would the estimated application
              > rate be for different levels of soil acidity? (ex. pH 4, 5,6)

              That depends on soil type (especially buffering characteristics) and target pH for the crop or plant community.

              Final thought.  Remember that every incremental change in pH is an order of magnitude change in hydrogen ion activity, so it can take as much ash/lime to move from pH 6.0 to 7.0 as it can take to move from pH 5.0 to 5.1. or pH 4.0 to 4.01. That's not strictly true because a soil's buffering characteristics change with soil pH.
               

            • Philip Small
              ... and I m ... defined ... classified as ... Interesting issue you bring up. Is high ash charcoal (high carbon ash) biochar? I suspect it fits better than
              Message 6 of 24 , Nov 8, 2008
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                --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, "Lloyd Helferty" <lhelferty@...> wrote:
                >
                > ... this particular "Biochar" has a very high ash content, and I'm
                > even a bit reluctant to call it "Biochar" at all.

                > My question for you and the rest of the list would now be: Would the
                > international Biochar community classify this as "Biochar", as defined
                > previously, or because the ash content is so high, would it be classified as
                > something somewhat different?

                Interesting issue you bring up.  Is high ash charcoal (high carbon ash) biochar? I suspect it fits better than not,especially in the eyes of the general public.  Consider the ash-centric wording used in this recent article - Carbon Neutral Flame for Green Games :
                ...the ash waste created by burning the wood as biomass will be reused to create terra preta soils, an ancient method, favoured by indigenous South Americans, of mixing ash with waste to create extremely fertile soils.
                High ash biochar is not appropriate for carrying fungal inoculate, but longer term effects on beneficial soil fungi should be consistent with a low ash version of the same biochar. 

                It is difficult for me to gauge what level of ash content in biochar would impair the viability of a fungal inoculate, but I can hazard a guess.  Obviously all charcoal starts out with some ash, so the mere presence isn't a problem, its the degree.  Maybe someone else has some insights?

                What I do know is that ashes at full strength have a well established reputation as a fungicide.
                Wood ashes ... are an excellent fungicide for the home garden.  Wood ash has a long history of horticultural use. ... contains about 40 percent lime, which is the basis of its caustic action.  Garden Use.  Wood ash is used as a dusting powder. In the spring, a dusting can be applied around delphiniums, gypsophilums, phlox, paeonies, hollyhocks, clematis, alliums, dictamnus, dwarf, intermediate, tall, and remontant iris.  ... Wood ash is useful as a fungicide because it has a strong caustic or alkaline reaction in contact with moisture.  This caustic reaction inhibits growth of all fungal spores and fungal mycellium. It is thus an excellent preventive fungicide if used in the spring because the fungal spores cannot germinate in such an adverse medium. (Source: A Garden for Life: The Natural Approach to Designing, Planting, and Maintaining a North Temperate Garden (2004) by Diana Beresford-Kroeger, M. Rothschild, C. Kroeger. ISBN 0472030124.  See p232 Garden Controls: Wood Ashes.)
                In Africa and Asia, especially in the tropics, wood ashes are used to prevent fungal infection of stored seeds and roots. [1], [2], [3], [4], [5].

                My view is that the fungicidal characteristic of ashes is going to be short-lived in a composting or live soil situation, but that the biochar industry needs to develop guidelines.  I am no expert, but expect a biochar with a pH below 8.5, and a CCE below 10%, will not harm inoculate assuming the charcoal is otherwise as expected.


              • Lloyd Helferty
                This is precisely the problem I see here. A lot of people seem to be hearing and reading about Biochar these days (i.e. we re starting to do a better job at
                Message 7 of 24 , Nov 9, 2008
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                  This is precisely the problem I see here.

                   

                    A lot of people seem to be hearing and reading about “Biochar” these days (i.e. we’re starting to do a better job at getting the info out), however I think there are a lot of people that don’t quite understand what Biochar is.

                  This article you referred states, “ash waste created by burning the wood as biomass will be reused to create terra preta soils, an ancient method, favoured by indigenous South Americans, of mixing ash with waste to create extremely fertile soils.

                   

                  In this case, the proponents of using the “ash” to “create terra preta soils” are very much confused and don’t seem to have the least concept of what they are doing!

                   

                  In this case, it seems they want to simply dump the ashes onto/into the soil!  No mention of “char”!  And, of course, there is no such thing as “creating terra preta soil”!

                  It already exists – and it isn’t “favoured by indigenous South Americans”. What a silly claim! ((Hi, I’m from South America and I like to “mix ash with waste” to create my favourite soil product, “Terra Preta”…))

                   

                    We can attempt to reproduce terra preta (and who knows if we actually could ever even perfectly reproduce it given the unique attributes terra preta has, which includes such attributes as ancient pottery shards… and an extremely long gestation time), so a more apt name for the (modern) attempt at reproducing these ‘carbon enriched soils’ would be “terra preta nova”.

                   

                    I would be really cautious about using articles like this one to base a claim to calling ashes ‘Biochar’ since I expect a lot of heisters and shucksters to be coming out of the woodwork (pun intended) as more people hear about it but don’t take any time to understand what it really is, yet start making absolutely ludicrous and baseless claims like this one that seems to be saying that dumping ashes into soil can somehow “make terra preta”.

                   

                    This is why, as I review this other claim I have before me that indicates such a high ash content, I am not so sure I would want to call this “Biochar” in the more strict sense of the word.

                   

                    Perhaps if the byproducts (ash and char) were washed (with water) and the ash was separated (dissolved and removed) from the char – and then the char dried -- before adding it to the soil, I would be satisfied that this is truly ‘Biochar’ as we understand it… [?]

                   

                    How high an ash content would we accept as being “Biochar”? In this particular case, the ash content is about 50%.  You seem to be saying that is acceptable.

                   

                     What if the ash content was 75%?  95%?  99.5% - about what you get when you burn charcoal in your BBQ, I would guess…

                  Lloyd Helferty, Engineering Technologist
                     Product Development Specialist
                     603-48 Suncrest Blvd
                     Thornhill , ON
                     905-707-8754
                     647-886-8754
                     Co-founder, Biochar-Ontario
                     http://groups.google.com/group/biochar-ontario


                  From: biochar@yahoogroups.com [mailto: biochar@yahoogroups.com ] On Behalf Of Philip Small
                  Sent: November 9, 2008 1:10 AM
                  To: biochar@yahoogroups.com
                  Subject: [biochar] Re: Wood Ash effects on Soils

                   


                  --- In biochar@yahoogroups .com , "Lloyd Helferty" <lhelferty@.. .> wrote:

                  >
                  > ... this particular "Biochar" has a very high ash content, and
                  I'm
                  > even a bit reluctant to call it "Biochar" at all.

                  > My question for you and the rest of the list would now be: Would the
                  > international Biochar community classify this as "Biochar", as
                  defined
                  > previously, or because the ash content is so high, would it be classified
                  as
                  > something somewhat different?

                  Interesting issue you bring up.  Is high ash charcoal (high carbon ash) biochar? I suspect it fits better than not,especially in the eyes of the general public.  Consider the ash-centric wording used in this recent article - Carbon Neutral Flame for Green Games :

                  ...the ash waste created by burning the wood as biomass will be reused to create terra preta soils, an ancient method, favoured by indigenous South Americans, of mixing ash with waste to create extremely fertile soils.

                  High ash biochar is not appropriate for carrying fungal inoculate, but longer term effects on beneficial soil fungi should be consistent with a low ash version of the same biochar. 

                  It is difficult for me to gauge what level of ash content in biochar would impair the viability of a fungal inoculate, but I can hazard a guess.  Obviously all charcoal starts out with some ash, so the mere presence isn't a problem, its the degree.  Maybe someone else has some insights?

                  What I do know is that ashes at full strength have a well established reputation as a fungicide.

                  Wood ashes ... are an excellent fungicide for the home garden.  Wood ash has a long history of horticultural use. ... contains about 40 percent lime, which is the basis of its caustic action.  Garden Use.  Wood ash is used as a dusting powder. In the spring, a dusting can be applied around delphiniums, gypsophilums, phlox, paeonies, hollyhocks, clematis, alliums, dictamnus, dwarf, intermediate, tall, and remontant iris.  ... Wood ash is useful as a fungicide because it has a strong caustic or alkaline reaction in contact with moisture.  This caustic reaction inhibits growth of all fungal spores and fungal mycellium. It is thus an excellent preventive fungicide if used in the spring because the fungal spores cannot germinate in such an adverse medium. (Source: A Garden for Life: The Natural Approach to Designing, Planting, and Maintaining a North Temperate Garden (2004) by Diana Beresford-Kroeger, M. Rothschild, C. Kroeger. ISBN 0472030124.  See p232 Garden Controls: Wood Ashes.)

                  In Africa and Asia , especially in the tropics, wood ashes are used to prevent fungal infection of stored seeds and roots. [1], [2], [3], [4], [5].

                  My view is that the fungicidal characteristic of ashes is going to be short-lived in a composting or live soil situation, but that the biochar industry needs to develop guidelines.  I am no expert, but expect a biochar with a pH below 8.5, and a CCE below 10%, will not harm inoculate assuming the charcoal is otherwise as expected.

                • Philip Small
                  ... that ... Yes, 50% ash can be OK for biochar, but it is complicated. The recent Oil Mallee study
                  Message 8 of 24 , Nov 9, 2008
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                    --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, "Lloyd Helferty" <lhelferty@...> wrote:
                    > How high an ash content would we accept as being "Biochar"? In this
                    > particular case, the ash content is about 50%. You seem to be saying that
                    > is acceptable.

                    Yes, >50% ash can be OK for biochar, but it is complicated.  The recent Oil Mallee study  used biochar with a 53.7% ash content to carry inoculum and the observed biochar effect included increased root colonization by AMF with inoculated plants. Char pH was 8.4 (good, right?) Electrical conductivity was 25 S/m (too high to support plant growth in a 100% char planting medium) so not so great for the inoculum.  CCE appears to be low, as Ca+K+Na add up to only 4.1%.  One wonders what was in the balance of the ash - dominated by silica, perhaps?  Silica is going to be inert, so high ash contents dominated by silica will be less of a concern, and will have lower CCE. 
                  • Sean K. Barry
                    Hi Philip, Lloyd, Lower alkalinity, less CaCO3, less KOH, etc is what you mean by lower CCE (Calcium Carbonate Eqquivalent), right? Can you tell us what
                    Message 9 of 24 , Nov 9, 2008
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                      Hi Philip, Lloyd,
                       
                      Lower alkalinity, less CaCO3, less KOH, etc is what you mean by lower CCE (Calcium Carbonate Eqquivalent), right?  Can you tell us what effect higher CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) has on inoculum, like VAM fungus (assuming a pH=~8.5)?
                       
                      Regards,
                       
                      SKB
                       
                      ----- Original Message -----
                      Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2008 11:53 AM
                      Subject: [biochar] Re: Wood Ash effects on Soils


                      --- In biochar@yahoogroups .com, "Lloyd Helferty" <lhelferty@.. .> wrote:
                      > How high an ash content would we accept as being "Biochar"? In this
                      > particular case, the ash content is about 50%. You seem to be saying that
                      > is acceptable.

                      Yes, >50% ash can be OK for biochar, but it is complicated.  The recent Oil Mallee study  used biochar with a 53.7% ash content to carry inoculum and the observed biochar effect included increased root colonization by AMF with inoculated plants. Char pH was 8.4 (good, right?) Electrical conductivity was 25 S/m (too high to support plant growth in a 100% char planting medium) so not so great for the inoculum.  CCE appears to be low, as Ca+K+Na add up to only 4.1%.  One wonders what was in the balance of the ash - dominated by silica, perhaps?  Silica is going to be inert, so high ash contents dominated by silica will be less of a concern, and will have lower CCE. 



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                    • Philip Small
                      ... CCE (Calcium Carbonate Eqquivalent), right? Yes. The pH only informs as to which reactive constituents are dominant, not so much as to how much buffer
                      Message 10 of 24 , Nov 9, 2008
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                        --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, "Sean K. Barry" <sean.barry@...> wrote:

                        > Lower alkalinity, less CaCO3, less KOH, etc is what you mean by lower
                        CCE (Calcium Carbonate Eqquivalent), right?

                        Yes. The pH only informs as to which reactive constituents are dominant,
                        not so much as to how much buffer capacity they have. Say that CaO
                        dominates. In the presence of water it forms Ca(OH)2 which results in
                        pH near 12. A charcoal with 20% CaO will have much more fungicidal
                        affect than one with 2% CaO (lower CCE), yet pH will be the same. Thus
                        it is conceivable to me that a charcoal with pH above 8.5 but with low
                        CCE could still be suitable for carrying inoculum, although I also think
                        it would be more risky. Also, note that I am using CCE as a proxy - I
                        truly don't know at what combination of pH and buffering the fungicidal
                        properties of ash kick in, or how that buffering relates to CCE.

                        One thing I don't have gauged at this point is how fungicidal calcium
                        (or Mg) carbonate is. "Lime" products dominated by oxides, bicarbonates
                        and hydroxides are clearly fungicidal, but carbonates (in the literature
                        I can find) are recommended for boosting fungicidal effects, not as a
                        stand alone fungicide. It is conceivable that a high CCE char dominated
                        by carbonates (pH 8.2 or so) could be OK for inoculum.

                        > Can you tell us what effect higher CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) has
                        on inoculum, like VAM fungus (assuming a pH=~8.5)?

                        Wow. mind bogglingly great question. Higher CEC should be better (if
                        it has any effect) but so much depends on what the CEC is serving up
                        into (and grabbing out of) the soil solution.

                        So much of this fungicidal ash concern hinges on what condition the
                        surviving VAM spores are in by the time plant roots come into contact
                        with them. That implies enough soil moisture to trigger the reactivity
                        in the ash, and to the degree a a caustic condition persist, subsequent
                        caustic damage to germinating spores. Moderating influences by
                        chemistry, biology, CEC, and dilution/dispersion insure that caustic
                        conditions decline over time. One assumes that if soil conditions are
                        OK for plant roots to come into, its likely to be OK for surviving
                        spores to initiate into. I have been assuming spore germination under
                        caustic conditions and I could be so very wrong in this. I am hoping
                        this discussion will draw in a mycologist. Or better I should reach out
                        to find someone.

                        Elaine Ingham comes to mind for expertise, although she teaches her
                        folks that the sulfur in gypsum is fungicidal enough to warrant avoiding
                        its use. Biochar has sulfur: I am not sure she will ever be able to get
                        on the same page with us despite biochar's stellar reputation for
                        complementing beneficial soil fungi. Gypsum is a common constituent of
                        growing medium recipes used for commercial mushroom operation. In my
                        view, a fungicidal concern for gypsum clearly doesn't pass the common
                        sense test.

                        It is important to note that, inoculum-carrier suitability is the only
                        concern we've been discussing that would otherwise limit the use of high
                        ash biochar. That is a fairly minor issue, is it not?

                        Matching the CCE to the soil LR doesn't really change with high vs low
                        ash. Loading rates (my industrial land application culture kicks in)
                        will be be limited lower, but, as far as I can discern, biochar effects
                        aren't erased at some level of high ash content. Other common sense
                        limits still apply. Certainly if the target is 140 MG ha-1 of black
                        carbon as biochar, you are not going to be able to achieve that with
                        high ash biochar aka high carbon ash. Even if it was silica ash, and
                        thus CCE was below LR, you could be hip deep in ash, smothering out any
                        plants (or soil life) intended to benefit.
                      • Sean K. Barry
                        Hi Philip, Richard Harrd at 4CN, Larry Williams, and some others have talked about aging charcoal for a time, in the open, on top of soil, and before
                        Message 11 of 24 , Nov 9, 2008
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                          Hi Philip,
                           
                          Richard Harrd at 4CN, Larry Williams, and some others have talked about "aging" charcoal for a time, in the open, on top of soil, and before amendment into soil.  Could this "aging" practice also potentially help prepare the charcoal before inoculants are added to it?
                           
                          Where are you getting the "heavy" 140 MG ha-1 application rate?  140 metric tons per hectare right?  At $200 MG-1, that's $28,000 ha-1! ... Nice farm.  Maybe spread the 140 tons out over 14 years @ $2000 yr-1?
                           
                          Regards,
                           
                          SKB
                           
                           
                          ----- Original Message -----
                          Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2008 3:08 PM
                          Subject: [biochar] Re: Wood Ash effects on Soils


                          --- In biochar@yahoogroups .com, "Sean K. Barry" <sean.barry@ ...> wrote:

                          > Lower alkalinity, less CaCO3, less KOH, etc is what you mean by lower
                          CCE (Calcium Carbonate Eqquivalent) , right?

                          Yes. The pH only informs as to which reactive constituents are dominant,
                          not so much as to how much buffer capacity they have. Say that CaO
                          dominates. In the presence of water it forms Ca(OH)2 which results in
                          pH near 12. A charcoal with 20% CaO will have much more fungicidal
                          affect than one with 2% CaO (lower CCE), yet pH will be the same. Thus
                          it is conceivable to me that a charcoal with pH above 8.5 but with low
                          CCE could still be suitable for carrying inoculum, although I also think
                          it would be more risky. Also, note that I am using CCE as a proxy - I
                          truly don't know at what combination of pH and buffering the fungicidal
                          properties of ash kick in, or how that buffering relates to CCE.

                          One thing I don't have gauged at this point is how fungicidal calcium
                          (or Mg) carbonate is. "Lime" products dominated by oxides, bicarbonates
                          and hydroxides are clearly fungicidal, but carbonates (in the literature
                          I can find) are recommended for boosting fungicidal effects, not as a
                          stand alone fungicide. It is conceivable that a high CCE char dominated
                          by carbonates (pH 8.2 or so) could be OK for inoculum.

                          > Can you tell us what effect higher CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) has
                          on inoculum, like VAM fungus (assuming a pH=~8.5)?

                          Wow. mind bogglingly great question. Higher CEC should be better (if
                          it has any effect) but so much depends on what the CEC is serving up
                          into (and grabbing out of) the soil solution.

                          So much of this fungicidal ash concern hinges on what condition the
                          surviving VAM spores are in by the time plant roots come into contact
                          with them. That implies enough soil moisture to trigger the reactivity
                          in the ash, and to the degree a a caustic condition persist, subsequent
                          caustic damage to germinating spores. Moderating influences by
                          chemistry, biology, CEC, and dilution/dispersion insure that caustic
                          conditions decline over time. One assumes that if soil conditions are
                          OK for plant roots to come into, its likely to be OK for surviving
                          spores to initiate into. I have been assuming spore germination under
                          caustic conditions and I could be so very wrong in this. I am hoping
                          this discussion will draw in a mycologist. Or better I should reach out
                          to find someone.

                          Elaine Ingham comes to mind for expertise, although she teaches her
                          folks that the sulfur in gypsum is fungicidal enough to warrant avoiding
                          its use. Biochar has sulfur: I am not sure she will ever be able to get
                          on the same page with us despite biochar's stellar reputation for
                          complementing beneficial soil fungi. Gypsum is a common constituent of
                          growing medium recipes used for commercial mushroom operation. In my
                          view, a fungicidal concern for gypsum clearly doesn't pass the common
                          sense test.

                          It is important to note that, inoculum-carrier suitability is the only
                          concern we've been discussing that would otherwise limit the use of high
                          ash biochar. That is a fairly minor issue, is it not?

                          Matching the CCE to the soil LR doesn't really change with high vs low
                          ash. Loading rates (my industrial land application culture kicks in)
                          will be be limited lower, but, as far as I can discern, biochar effects
                          aren't erased at some level of high ash content. Other common sense
                          limits still apply. Certainly if the target is 140 MG ha-1 of black
                          carbon as biochar, you are not going to be able to achieve that with
                          high ash biochar aka high carbon ash. Even if it was silica ash, and
                          thus CCE was below LR, you could be hip deep in ash, smothering out any
                          plants (or soil life) intended to benefit.



                          ____________________________________________________________
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                        • Sean K. Barry
                          Philip, Could controlling soil loading rates (LR?) be a way that high CCE might be controlled in the use of high ash biochar for soil amendments? Would the
                          Message 12 of 24 , Nov 10, 2008
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                            Philip,
                             
                            Could controlling soil loading rates (LR?) be a way that high CCE might be controlled in the use of high ash biochar for soil amendments?
                            Would the composition of the biochar made at 500C truly be "better" as a soil amendment, because of increased CEC (= ~150-175 mmol kg-1)
                            or more moderated pH (= ~8.5) as well?  Biochar made at 500C will have less "% of total C" and higher relative ash content than biochar made at 425C.  Is there an increased "carbon effect" from biochar (e.g. effect on microorganisms, soil bacteria, and/or fungi, etc) in soil that exceeds the effects of CCE , CEC, or pH?
                             
                            Regards.
                             
                            SKB
                            ._,___


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                          • Sean K. Barry
                            Hi Philip, Is there an analogy between high ash biochar with slash & burn practices, vs lower ash (more carbon) biochar from slash & char used on Terra
                            Message 13 of 24 , Nov 10, 2008
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                              Hi Philip,
                               
                              Is there an analogy between high ash biochar with "slash & burn" practices, vs lower ash (more carbon) biochar from "slash & char" used on Terra Preta sites?  Do lower temp pyrolysis products in soil lead to more hospitable conditions for fungi, all soil microorganisms, or only some?
                               
                              Regards,
                               
                              SKB
                              ----- Original Message -----
                              Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2008 3:08 PM
                              Subject: [biochar] Re: Wood Ash effects on Soils


                              --- In biochar@yahoogroups .com, "Sean K. Barry" <sean.barry@ ...> wrote:

                              > Lower alkalinity, less CaCO3, less KOH, etc is what you mean by lower
                              CCE (Calcium Carbonate Eqquivalent) , right?

                              Yes. The pH only informs as to which reactive constituents are dominant,
                              not so much as to how much buffer capacity they have. Say that CaO
                              dominates. In the presence of water it forms Ca(OH)2 which results in
                              pH near 12. A charcoal with 20% CaO will have much more fungicidal
                              affect than one with 2% CaO (lower CCE), yet pH will be the same. Thus
                              it is conceivable to me that a charcoal with pH above 8.5 but with low
                              CCE could still be suitable for carrying inoculum, although I also think
                              it would be more risky. Also, note that I am using CCE as a proxy - I
                              truly don't know at what combination of pH and buffering the fungicidal
                              properties of ash kick in, or how that buffering relates to CCE.

                              One thing I don't have gauged at this point is how fungicidal calcium
                              (or Mg) carbonate is. "Lime" products dominated by oxides, bicarbonates
                              and hydroxides are clearly fungicidal, but carbonates (in the literature
                              I can find) are recommended for boosting fungicidal effects, not as a
                              stand alone fungicide. It is conceivable that a high CCE char dominated
                              by carbonates (pH 8.2 or so) could be OK for inoculum.

                              > Can you tell us what effect higher CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) has
                              on inoculum, like VAM fungus (assuming a pH=~8.5)?

                              Wow. mind bogglingly great question. Higher CEC should be better (if
                              it has any effect) but so much depends on what the CEC is serving up
                              into (and grabbing out of) the soil solution.

                              So much of this fungicidal ash concern hinges on what condition the
                              surviving VAM spores are in by the time plant roots come into contact
                              with them. That implies enough soil moisture to trigger the reactivity
                              in the ash, and to the degree a a caustic condition persist, subsequent
                              caustic damage to germinating spores. Moderating influences by
                              chemistry, biology, CEC, and dilution/dispersion insure that caustic
                              conditions decline over time. One assumes that if soil conditions are
                              OK for plant roots to come into, its likely to be OK for surviving
                              spores to initiate into. I have been assuming spore germination under
                              caustic conditions and I could be so very wrong in this. I am hoping
                              this discussion will draw in a mycologist. Or better I should reach out
                              to find someone.

                              Elaine Ingham comes to mind for expertise, although she teaches her
                              folks that the sulfur in gypsum is fungicidal enough to warrant avoiding
                              its use. Biochar has sulfur: I am not sure she will ever be able to get
                              on the same page with us despite biochar's stellar reputation for
                              complementing beneficial soil fungi. Gypsum is a common constituent of
                              growing medium recipes used for commercial mushroom operation. In my
                              view, a fungicidal concern for gypsum clearly doesn't pass the common
                              sense test.

                              It is important to note that, inoculum-carrier suitability is the only
                              concern we've been discussing that would otherwise limit the use of high
                              ash biochar. That is a fairly minor issue, is it not?

                              Matching the CCE to the soil LR doesn't really change with high vs low
                              ash. Loading rates (my industrial land application culture kicks in)
                              will be be limited lower, but, as far as I can discern, biochar effects
                              aren't erased at some level of high ash content. Other common sense
                              limits still apply. Certainly if the target is 140 MG ha-1 of black
                              carbon as biochar, you are not going to be able to achieve that with
                              high ash biochar aka high carbon ash. Even if it was silica ash, and
                              thus CCE was below LR, you could be hip deep in ash, smothering out any
                              plants (or soil life) intended to benefit.



                              ____________________________________________________________
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                            • Philip Small
                              ... about aging charcoal for a time, in the open, on top of soil, and before amendment into soil. Could this aging practice also potentially help prepare
                              Message 14 of 24 , Nov 10, 2008
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                                --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, "Sean K. Barry" <sean.barry@...> wrote:
                                >
                                > Hi Philip,
                                >
                                > Richard Harrd at 4CN, Larry Williams, and some others have talked about "aging" charcoal for a time, in the open, on top of soil, and before amendment into soil.  Could this "aging" practice also potentially help prepare the charcoal before inoculants are added to it?

                                Certainly.  The Bellingham, Washington area, where Richard and Larry did this, has fairly high rainfall which would remove the soluble reactive constituents into the underlying soil. That type of aging can be relied on to control fungicidal properties in biochar. Similarly an aggresive quench at the end of the pyrolysis process would serve.
                                >
                                > Where are you getting the "heavy" 140 MG ha-1 application rate? 140 metric tons per hectare right? At $200 MG-1, that's $28,000 ha-1! ... Nice farm. Maybe spread the 140 tons out over 14 years @ $2000 yr-1?

                                140 MG C ha-1 was reported as a research rate that produced positive results and seems likely was a container study.  I couldn't locate my reference, but did find another container study that showed 97: "application of 60 g kg-1 is equivalent to an application of 121.5 mg bio-char per hectare ha-1 or 97.2 mg C ha-1 if calculated for the plough layer of 0.15 m with an average bulk density of 1.35 mg m-3."

                                Determining the maximum reasonable loading rate is a personal quest.  For municipal and industrial project design, understanding site capacity while protecting the interests (and land asset) of the hosting private landowner is key.  Without knowing that with confidence, biochar can never move past the demonstration project stage in this sector.  Was it Tim Flannery who identified which sectors are most likely to adopt biochar first?  It was those where pyrolysis can remove a cost factor such as construction waste needlessly filling up a limited capacity landfill, and such.  We are talking mega-volumes in urban areas with limited candidate application area.  Folke's HEAP trap aside, urban biomass has the sweetest economies for initiating the biochar culture.
                                >
                              • Philip Small
                                ... the use of high ash biochar for soil amendments? I reworded the above so I could answer Yes - hope this is the same meaning intended. That is my very
                                Message 15 of 24 , Nov 10, 2008
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                                  --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, "Sean K. Barry" <sean.barry@...> wrote:
                                  > Could controlling soil loading rates [using material] CCE [to limit]
                                  the use of high ash biochar for soil amendments?

                                  I reworded the above so I could answer "Yes" - hope this is the same
                                  meaning intended. That is my very strong inclination. The liming rate
                                  (as CCE) of the applied ash or biochar material should not exceed the
                                  lime requirement needed to produce the target soil pH range for the
                                  target crop/plant community.

                                  > Would the composition of the biochar made at 500C truly be "better" as
                                  a soil amendment, because of increased CEC (= ~150-175 mmol kg-1) or
                                  more moderated pH (= ~8.5) as well? Biochar made at 500C will have less
                                  "% of total C" and higher relative ash content than biochar made at
                                  425C.

                                  I find myself leaning to 500C and a tad higher if the char is going into
                                  compost (or a composting toilet, or chambe pot) oras a mulch to dissuade
                                  slugs or to neutralize acidic soil. I lean to 500C and a tad lower if
                                  going into a neutral or alkaline soil, using for seed balls, side
                                  dressing, or inoculant. Thus the CEC and %C differences wouldn't be
                                  enough to really affect my decision except to favor the 500C material if
                                  other factors not compelling. My inclination is well buffered to 500C
                                  but I could choose 1000C if reactivity (and transporation costs) were
                                  overriding, and I could see choosing 425C (and applying at a high rate)
                                  if the soil wasn't going to get any other source of organic C.

                                  > Is there an increased "carbon effect" from biochar (e.g. effect on
                                  microorganisms, soil bacteria, and/or fungi, etc) in soil that exceeds
                                  the effects of CCE , CEC, or pH?

                                  Yes on CEC, less true of pH (and affecting pH through CCE). Making acid
                                  soils more alkaline makes soil more favorable for bacteria, and less
                                  favorable for fungi as well as favoring different fungal and bacterial
                                  species. Juking the pH for no reason is bad soil husbandry, as it will
                                  affect the adapted community. For that reason it is generally better
                                  for the soil community when liming to undershoot the pH target than to
                                  hit it in the center or high. And if you are going to lime, having a lot
                                  of char surfaces for the fungi to shelter in is better than not. Maybe
                                  I should review my previous ratoional for 1000C....
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