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How did the native Amazon tribes create these remarkably fertile and productive soils? Small Patches average: 20 hectares (50 acres) average: 20 hectares.

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Presentation on theme: "How did the native Amazon tribes create these remarkably fertile and productive soils? Small Patches average: 20 hectares (50 acres) average: 20 hectares."— Presentation transcript:

1 How did the native Amazon tribes create these remarkably fertile and productive soils? Small Patches average: 20 hectares (50 acres) average: 20 hectares (50 acres) 350 hectares (865 acres) reported 350 hectares (865 acres) reported near settlements & on bluffs near settlements & on bluffs embedded pottery sherds embedded pottery sherds animal & fish bones, cultural debris animal & fish bones, cultural debris 1879 : explorer Herbert Smith tales of Amazon in Scribner's Monthly: extraordinary fecundity of cane fields… stalks ten feet high… big as a wrist… "rich terra preta… best in Amazon… fine, dark loam… often two feet thick" High Carbon (SOM) content up to 9% compared with.5% in other soils sometimes over 20% one to two meters deep Local farmers prize terra preta dug up and sold as potting soil yields up to three fold as great as surrounding infertile tropical soils sustained fertility in intensive use Mystery Soil of the Amazon High Microbial activity microbial reef nitrogenous bacteria (nitrogen fixing) High nutrient content Calcium & Phosphorus Nitrogen Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) 1867 : Ballard S. Dunn, Confederate exile book:Brazil: Home for Southerners book: Brazil: Home for Southerners lauds high fertility of Amazon dark soil Amazon Basin, Brazil dark earth (Portuguese) Charcoal Conservation Grassland Minnesota Age: years radio-carbon dating (charcoal) recent research: 6000 years Terra Preta de Indio Terra Preta Soil Minerals Carbon Terra Preta Ferralsol Made from Ferralsol or Acrisol Made from Ferralsol or Acrisol predominant soils in Amazon predominant soils in Amazon acidic, notoriously infertile acidic, notoriously infertile poor nutrient capacity poor nutrient capacity Aerial Surveys up to 10% of total land area up to 10% of total land area able to feed 5-10 million people able to feed 5-10 million people reduced carbon 1966 :Wim Sombroek (Dutch; ) 1966 : Wim Sombroek (Dutch; ) published his book: Amazon Soils first scientific study of terra preta 1992 Sombroek publishes his first book 1992 : Sombroek publishes his first book on terra preta for carbon sequestration 2002 Sombroek forms Terra Preta Nova 2002 : Sombroek forms Terra Preta Nova to use char on farms as a carbon sink 2007 : first international biochar conference How have these remarkable soils sustained their fertility and productivity for five centuries? What can we learn from these remarkable soils to sustain soil fertility and productivity today? Can this method to create tropical soils provide insights to improve temperate climate soils? Can this method to sequester carbon in soil help us reverse global warming and climate change? click to continue click to continue click to continue click to continue click to continue click to continue

2 is biochar a nutrient? Biochar is a sponge to hold water & nutrients, and a substrate to provide habitat & housing for microbes Terra Preta Increased Fertility biochar acrisol typical Amazon soil infertile terra preta In normal soil, biochar breaks down very slowly (oxidation,weathering & digestion) – over centuries, rather than months Biochar isnt consumed by soil life Adding only biochar to soil retards plant growth for up to two years Biochar freshly made is sterile, with no biological activity – no microbes – no microbes Fertilizers must be added with biochar click to continue click to continue click to continue higher Phosphorus & Calcium higher Phosphorus & Calcium higher Nitrogen higher Nitrogen increased nutrient availability increased nutrient availability lower acidity lower acidity higher pH buffering higher pH buffering water retention water retention physical structure physical structure biological habitat (microflora & fauna) biological habitat (microflora & fauna)

3 cation exchange capacityincreased (Glaser) water-holding capacity 18% increase (Glaser) biomass growth266% increase (Steiner 2 nd year ) 324% increase (Kishimoto & Sugiura) plant nitrogen uptakedoubled (Steiner) farm chemical runoffreduced (Yelverton) Global Research biochar benefits 2001 Terra Preta click to continue click to continue

4 Christoph Steiner 1 ; W. G. Teixeira 2 ; Johannes Lehmann 3; W. Zech 1 1 Institute of Soil Science, Univ. of Bayreuth, Germany 2 Embrapa Amazonia Ocidental, Manaus, Brazil 3 Dept of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell Univ., USA 267% 881% 366% 3-Year Field Trials Research Terra Preta Rice & Sorghum click to continue click to continue

5 NPK biochar+NPK control NPK biochar+NPK Effect of bark biochar and fertilizer on plant growth and soil properties in south Sumatra Yamato 2004 unpublished control Bark Biochar & Fertilizer Research Terra Preta click to continue


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