Wood waste to boost soils

A Marlobrough company, Carbonscape has patented technology to turn wood waste into charcoal which has the potential to improve soil quality for farmers and horticulturalists.

The company’s website is here and a TV3 report on today’s plant opening is here.

2 Responses to Wood waste to boost soils

  1. dutchie down south says:

    All good and well, but there will be a cost involved to the improvement of the soil by using this product.
    Will the increase of production be significant enough to carry the cost of the useage of this product ?, if not, those costs will be passed on to the consumer and the question is if the consumer is willing to pay extra for their vegetables grown by a market garderner who has improved his soil structure in a “suistanable” way.
    On their website I can not find direct answers of how much carbon dioxide this product can trap.
    We must also take into consideration that a lot of our market garderners are based on the North Island…. to ship a tonne of this product up to the North Island from Marlobrough by truck will lead to a carbon emission of 150 kg.
    A nice initiative but is this really something what is suitable for e.g. horticulturists on a large scale ?
    Most of the directors involved with Carbonscape seems to be also involved in Aquaflow, a company working towards the production of biofuel from algae.
    I wil follow both projects with a healthy scepticism their they seem to me as great “green wash” projects.

    And didn’t have one of the directors a “labour party” background ?…I have never seen a green socialist…

  2. Ed Snack says:

    The use of “biochar” (I use this generically although i confess I don’t know if it is the proper term) is a genuine opportunity. The product is not straight charcoal, ideally it should be produced by pyrolysis, and with the right feedstock produces a gaseous fuel as well as a mostly carbon residue. This residue acts as a potent slow release fertilizer providing nutrients to plants. Oddly enough the concept was widely used by a now non-existent civilization in Brazil, where the are large tracts of “Loma Prieta” soils created by the use of biochar additions to the soil. These soils are still remarkably fertile, but the exact mechanisms used by these people to create and bury the biochar are not known.

    This all sounds like some kind of green/organics wet dream, but it may in fact be a real mechanism to achieve a number of laudable ends. It would, with the use of the right feedstocks, sequester significant carbon (soils already contain large amounts of carbon, a lot of which is released when the soil is worked), if you believe carbon sequestration is a worthy task. The Biochar additions have a long life in the soil and as stated above, steadily leach nutrients and minerals for plant use. And, one can produce usable fuels in excess of that required to power the charring process.

    May I recommend a website written by Gary Jones, who is an enthusiast for the concept. Following the stories and links which (amongst others) are found on his website, a good deal more can be found out about the concept. Link http://www.garyjones.org/mt/

    A fascinating subject, whether it can be scaled up remains a question, and I wonder about how one could economically incorporate the stuff into the soil. And finally one needs a suitable feedstock. I’m not sure whether certain things (for example pine wastes or bark for example) would be suitable, the mix of organic chemicals might be a problem, or maybe the pyrolysis process solves that problem.

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