Biochar production and aplication in soils

Biochar production and aplication in soils

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00:00
[Music] my name is daniel blackburn and today we're going to talk about biochar what is biochar how do you make it what is it useful for so let's get into it so what is biochar first of all that's very simple biochar is charcoal why don't we call it charcoal the reason
00:40
we don't call it charcoal is because we want to make a distinction that biochar is not produced for burning or for using as a source of energy or for barbecues biochar is produced with the single purpose of using it as a soil amendment so what does it what does it do as a soil amendment it enhances the physical and chemical properties of the soil in the biological properties of the soil it increases infiltration rate water
01:12
retention it also increases the microbial biomass and activity in the soil and also the cartoon exchange capacity from the soils and the ability of the soils of holding nutrients it's a very useful amendment and to make the difference between uh charcoal which is usually mixed with some uh paraffin or any fuel to help the ignite though that biochar the the charcoal the biochar is not mixed with any fuel
01:42
it's just simple charcoal made with the purpose of using in soils as an amendment for helping the fertility of soils the quality of the soils and the health of these soils and why biochar instead of compost for example other sources of organic matter the reason that we want biochar instead of compost or vermicompost or other source of organic matter is it's a long-lasting carbon amendment
02:12
when you add crop residues when you add compost and any amendments for that matter organic amendments this has a short life on the soil in tropical climates in in arid climates hot climates the compost that you add this year next year will be completely gone and will be completely decomposed mineralized by the soil microbes the advantage of the biochar is that the biochar will not be quickly degraded by the microbes
02:45
it is resistant for being degraded by soil microbes so we use that biochar as an amendment for improving soil properties not as a food or as a source of nutrient for the soil if we use a compost if we use a vermicompost we are actually stimulating the microbial biomass by giving them food and we are improving plant growth by giving nutrients that are
03:16
continuously being released by the the mineralization of that organic matter but with biochar is different we have some amount of nutrients that are coming but not as much as you would get from the compost and but the main property that you have is a conditioner of the soil properties it will improve the hydraulic properties of the soil it will improve also the the chemical and biological properties of this soil so this is biochar it's just charcoal that you use
03:47
it for uh as a soil amendment and uh how do you make biochar yeah when first before thinking about how do you make by a char where does it come from you know the idea of biochar is that some soils in the amazon forest when you describe those forests they will normally this in amazon forest the soils are very poor very acidic low fertility very sandy continuously being washed by
04:17
by rainfall but some soils in the amazon forest were found out that they were dark rich in organic matter very first time and uh further description of those soils uh uh led to this the discovery that those soils were anthropogenic which means that humans made it uh humans created that soil and how do they create that soil by adding charcoal there is some controversy if this was on purpose or
04:47
just a result of continuously slash and burn uh of the forest and then that led to an accumulation of black carbon in that soil but the end result is thousands of years later that charcoal is still in the soil and is still working as an improvement of soil quality and why don't we do it for the rest of our crops this is the the the the rationale behind the international biochar initiative
05:19
so the the reason of the bioshock is being proposed is a long lasting soil amendment that will improve the quality of the soils for the hundreds and thousands of years to come so the things that we do now will have a long-lasting impact in improving soil quality so to make biochar is the the same way you make charcoal yeah and you can do that at different scales for different purposes so i will show you what we are doing now
05:49
in our labs we we do this for research purposes but of course if you want to do this for agricultural large scale purposes you will have to use different systems so let's talk about starting from the smaller scale and then we go up in a way that we explain how this works so to make biochar you have to bring organic matter to a process it's called pyrolysis pyro fire lysis breakdowns so you are breaking
06:22
down organic matter by using temperature this is the idea behind the pyrolysis process so by by doing that what you really want to do is in order to make optimize the process of burning the least you can on the biomass and keeping the more you can as charcoal you need to have a slow combustion with low oxygen supply for that burning of that biomass so the idea of the pyrolysis is
06:55
that you have a slow combustion with a very limited oxygen supply so what will happen is the type of carbon that is on that organic material will turn into black carbon which is very resistant for microbial decomposition and will have all these properties of increasing the water retention in the soil and the charge and the colloidal charge in the soil so let first
07:26
when we do it on the lab let's go for the smaller scale and move up to the bigger scale when we do it on the lab we can do it in the furnace and then while we do it on the furnace we can regulate the temperature the the ramp in which we increase the temperature and we can the the the time that is being subjected to the temperature also and all these things can be regulated and started how these processes impact on the quality on the
07:58
properties of the resulting biochar so that's the reason we do it on the furnace so to do it on the furnace you need to have a can which we call a reactor and the can must have a lead this candy will compact your biomass your dry biomass inside that can and you will cover it with the lead and the lid will have just one small hole on the top and what what that will do is that the small hole will allow some oxygen to get in but not too much and then you will burn that at least for
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one hour in the furnace at the temperature that you want to regulate and at the end of this process it will cover that hole on the top of the can and allow it to dry and then you can see how much was left how much was lost during the burning process the charring process and by doing this you have a very specific conditions where you are producing the biomass and you can study the properties of this yeah the second
09:00
type of system is a system which is you can have a reactor which has a electrical power source electrical resistance where you can heat up the material using your electrical resistance and uh by doing that you can also regulate the temperature that you're making in the duration that you're making so i will show you here the the process of doing this um ahmed here in this image is showing the the wood chipper
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breaking down this biomass so we can compact it on the reactor but you can use big chunks of biomass or compacted small chunks of biomass and depending on how you were doing it you need to offer more or less resistance for the oxygen to flow through this system because if you have small chunks uh and you do not offer a a good compaction or put it inside a can or some closed reactor that will turn entirely into ash instead of being
10:04
charred so after you put your material inside your reactor you just put it inside this stove and allow regulate the temperature and that is it at the end of one hour you can uh um turn off the machine wait it to cool down and then you have your shard material yeah so before you use your discharge material you need to grind it down for a small particle size the next type of systems that we have
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here in the agricultural station is the one that was [Music] made by the the research group from organic farming from ronda janke and they it's a barrel style of reactor and this burial barrel is is as you can if you can imagine it's just like a closed barrel with the chimney and in a way that you have the opportunity to regulate the amount of oxygen that flows into this
11:10
so the the the the procedure is either you have a barrel where you put the biomass inside you light that up when the fire has sketched you put the chamomile on and after a while you close the oxygen input for that system and let it burn with low oxygen or you have a an another system where you have two chambers in the inner chamber you have a closed system with very low oxygen input in the closer chamber and
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the outer chamber you let all the oxygen go so the outer chamber will play the role of heating up the inner chamber and the inner chamber will be the one that will be making the biochar and all these systems that you that i described for you up to now and you have only that you you're losing energy you know all this heat that you were burning this biomass is just being lost nevertheless there are several proposed systems where you can recover energy in this
12:13
biomass process and this energy can be recovered either by gas and oils or by the same heat that is produced during this burning process so i will show here some images of some of these uh systems where the spirolysis systems where you can have them installed in large scale and you have a double purpose of energy production in the production of biochar so when the the this is one of the main limitations that we have for biochar
12:44
widespread use if you use the the biomass to make biochar the energy yield is quite low if you completely burn that biomass then the you can multiply that energy yield a lot so if you by any chance have the purpose of generating energy most likely you will have um the systems that you will use will be completely burning that so what in not making biochar in that process
13:14
in when you make biochar in that process because of the high profitability of selling this material as is charcoal uh normally this industry will opt to use that that resulting biochar s charcoal not for agricultural amendments and that is uh something that the only way to go around this actually is to buy government regulation and some subsidizing this activity of
13:48
biochar for improving the soil qualities yeah so uh moving from how you make biochar to how you use biochar how do you use biochar there are some things you have to consider biochar is actually an alkaline amendment so if you have alkaline soils like in oman you will you might have some problem of buffering this ph up you don't want your buffer ph
14:19
up when you have already alkaline soils so how do you get around this you you include this biochar in the composting process or mixed by a char at the end of when the biochar is ready at the end of the the compost mix the compost with biochar and that compost will uh regulate the ph of the biochar and at the same time will the the the charred material will bind to the organic matter
14:50
on the compost and will help stabilize a little bit the compost for the uh for the soil at the same time so you can have this mixed purpose of having a biochar encompass mixed together and it will improve the properties of the biochar for uh for amendment in alkaline soils that we have here in oman but if you're using for acid soils the direct use of biochar is also recommended and the only problem you would have for acid soils
15:21
is that usually acid soils are high has a high a high phosphorous fixing capacity and by heading by a char the biochar will immobilize some of that phosphorus when you recently etch the soil so you might have a slight negative impact of decreasing the availability of phosphorus when you recently added to the soil so how you get around that either you mix it by a char with organic amendments or you add some amount of phosphorus to that biochar
15:53
so that was that uh that biochar will not act as a phosphorus zinc but as a phosphorus source into the soil so this is some some of the things that must be taken into account when you use the biochar the the incubation of the biochar with compost or vermicompost before it into the soil will improve its uh performance in the soil environment uh and the things that you need to take care when you are using it for acid soils or alkaline soils
16:24
are different in the alkaline soils you were looking more into the the problem of alkalinization and in the acid soils you were looking it will act as a line into the soil but you have you may have some nutrient immobilization but in any way in the long term the biochar amendments will increase the carbon content in soils and the carbon this high carbon content in soils will act positively in the chemical properties of the soil the physical properties of the soil
16:57
and also the biological properties increasing overall the soil health increasing overall the soil health so this is all i had to bring for you today about biochar i hope you enjoyed and see you next practical you

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