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“Biochar,” a bit of myth busting Lukas Van Zwieten Principal Research Scientist Adjunct Professor, Rural Climate Solutions University of New England and.

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Presentation on theme: "“Biochar,” a bit of myth busting Lukas Van Zwieten Principal Research Scientist Adjunct Professor, Rural Climate Solutions University of New England and."— Presentation transcript:

1 “Biochar,” a bit of myth busting Lukas Van Zwieten Principal Research Scientist Adjunct Professor, Rural Climate Solutions University of New England and Tony Walker Richmond Landcare

2 What is biochar and how is it made?

3 Biochar and Terra Preta Downie, AE., Van Zwieten, L., Smernik RJ., Morris, S., Munroe, PR (2011) Terra Preta Australis: Reassessing the carbon storage capacity of temperate soils. Agriculture Ecosystems Environment 140,

4 Pyrolysis is an engineering term “ energy and biochar can be produced”

5  Biosecurity  Odour  Concentration of C and nutrients  Transport costs  Beneficial agricultural reuse  Renewable energy Why pyrolyse biomass

6 Biochar is carbon that is going to last for hundreds of years Diagram source: Lehmann et al., 2006, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change

7 Agronomic trials Over 350 plots being managed as part of the Richmond Landcare collaborative project Key soil constraints on ferrosols  Declining C  Immobilisation of P  Low pH  High Al saturation  Low CEC

8 Control corn (13t cob/ha) 1200mm 1900mm Poultry litter biochar, 50t/Ha (35t cob/ha) Biochar “can” significantly improve soil fertility and crop production

9 Long-term field sites testing biochar

10 Trials in a macadamia orchard 45 trees used testing poultry litter char and greenwaste char 40kg per tree) 2 years on

11 Trials in coffee 3.3kg per tree, 30 trees per block, 4 treatments, 4 replicates, testing poultry biochar and rice husk biochar 2 years on

12 control1% biochar5% biochar Sections of x-ray computed tomography scans of a vertosol soil, packed into tubes of ~ 30 mm, at a resolution of 70 µm P Quin (PhD student) and I Young

13 Summary of effects of some biochars in some soils  Nutrients  Stable C content  Liming effect  Reactive surfaces and redox  CEC and AEC  Porosity/ water holding capacity and bulk density  Porosity / microbial habitat  Smoke chemicals? Increases in nutrient use efficiency allowing reduced fertiliser inputs Improved water use efficiency Reduced leaching and gaseous losses of fertiliser Reduced denitrification Lowered Al toxicity Reduced heavy metal bioavailability Increased P availability on P sorbing soils Improved mycorrhizae and biological N 2 fixation Long-term accumulation of soil C Properties of biocharSoil and crop outcomes

14 Myth Busting  Not all biochars will be valuable  Biochars may not be beneficial in all soil types  Value of the crop will limit application of biochar- and bottom line  Biochar certification is coming

15 More myth busting  Understand biochar characteristics to ameliorate soil constraints  Farming system impacts the way biochar works: Possible C accumulation under permanent pasture, but tillage and biomass removal under cropping can still result in a decline in C  Biochar can particularly target chemical constraints in ferrosols including low pH, high Al availability and low P availability  Biochars with high mineral ash component are more effective at improving crop production  Biochars with high C content are more effective at accumulating additional C in soil


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