Excerpt: “Farmers Coop Begin Innovative Soil Project
The National Resource Conservation Service’s Conservation Innovation Grants program has awarded $75,000 to the Virgin Islands Farmers Cooperative for a project that will improve the soils at its 60-acre Estate Grange organic farm. The three year-project will produce 750 tons of compost and 60 tons of biochar annually that will be applied to maintain and improve soil productivity at the farm. What makes the project innovative is its plan to combine compost, a well established organic farming technology, with biochar, an ancient soil improvement technology recently discovered in the Amazon. In the last twenty years archeologist and scientist have been unlocking the secrets of large pockets of soils known as “terra preta”, dark earth, that are spread throughout the Amazon. These soils had the unexplained ability to maintain their productivity with minimal inputs of fertilizer while at the same time delivering higher yields of fruits and vegetables than surrounding soils. After twenty years of investigation the mystery has now been explained; terra preta soils are man-made soils. Amazonian cultures had learned, as many as 5,000 years ago, that poor soils could be transformed into super soils by simply mixing charcoal into them. Biochar is the name given to process of taking any form of biomass (wood, grass, crop waste), and heating in to 400 degrees F in a kiln without oxygen to char it; hence the word biochar. Kelly Gloger, the project’s administrator said, “The process of making biochar for agriculture has two other significant benefits – it’s a sustainable carbon negative energy…”
I am considering using my brick oven to make biochar for my own gardening/farming experiments later in 2013, and possibly also selling it at the CBFM….
Another site about biochar: http://www.biochar-international.org/