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1st Asia Pacific Biochar Conference

W at e r m a r k H o t e l | G o l d C o a s t | A u s t r a l i a | 1 7 - 2 0 M ay 2 0 0 9
1st Asia Pacific Biochar Conference
Wat e r m a r k H o t e l | G o l d C o a s t | A u s t r a l i a | 1 7 - 2 0 M ay 2 0 0 9

Welcome to the 1st Asia Pacific Biochar Conference!

This conference features speakers from the Asia Pacific region presenting
the latest scientific research on biochar, and business opportunities for
development of a biochar industry. We have accepted 57 submitted
abstracts for posters and oral presentations, and are pleased to present
a comprehensive and well-rounded program that brings together
academics, farmers, media, policy makers and industry from around the
region. We are particularly pleased to welcome Professor Dr Johannes
Lehmann and Professor Makoto Ogawa as conference keynote speakers.
The goals of the conference are to:
• share expertise on aspects of biochar characterisation, standardisation
and its application to soil
• provide information on biochar production technologies and
renewable energy
• discuss business models for development of a biochar industry
• debate the environmental benefits of biochar, including mitigation of
major (CO2) and trace (CH4 and N2O) greenhouse gases
• discuss policy issues that impact on development of the biochar
industry.
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
ANZ Biochar Researchers Network 2009

© NSW Department of Primary Industries on behalf of the ANZ Biochar Researchers Network 2009
This publication is copyright. You may download, display, print and reproduce this material in an
unaltered form only (retaining this notice) for your personal use or for non-commercial use within
your organisation. To copy, adapt, publish, distribute or commercialise any of this publication you
will need to seek permission from the Manager Publishing, NSW Department of Primary Industries,
Orange, NSW Australia

For updates to this publication, check ANZ Biochar Researchers Network


http://www.anzbiochar.org/
Published by NSW Department of Primary Industries

First published May 2009


ISBN 978 0 7347 1973 7

Acknowledgements
The conference organising committee acknowledges the generosity of keynote presenters
Professor Johannes Lehmann and Professor Makoto Ogawa in giving precious time to present
their work at the conference. The committee thanks all sponsors, whose generosity enabled the
committee to sponsor delegates from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Fiji.

The committee also acknowledges the hard work of the following people:
• NSW DPI: Lee Munro (organisation), Josh Rust and Scott Petty (preparation),
Rebecca Lines-Kelly (proceedings), Elspeth Berger (photography), Brad Lane (IT support),
Lyn Cullen (administration)
• Watermark Hotel: Karen Kuss and Joelene Craig
• Carleen Imlach, evoke design (proceedings design)

Photographs
Cover: top left - Scanning electron micrograph of biochar. Adriana Downie, BEST Energies
top centre - Biochar amended Ferrosol. Stephen Kimber, NSW DPI
top right - Sugarcane in biochar-amended soil, Tweed Valley. Stephen Kimber, NSW DPI
bottom - Seedlings in biochar-amended soil. Adriana Downie, BEST Energies
Inside: All photos of greenwaste biochar in the proceedings by Elspeth Berger, NSW DPI

Disclaimer
The information contained in this publication is based on knowledge and understanding at the
time of writing (May 2009). However, because of advances in knowledge, users are reminded of the
need to ensure that information on which they rely is up to date and to check the currency of the
information with the individual author or the user’s independent advisor.

Opinions expressed in the sponsors’ editorials are those of the sponsors and their inclusion does
not imply endorsement by NSW Department of Primary Industries or the ANZ Biochar Researchers
Network. Editorials from sponsors were not edited.
Contents
Organising committee 1
Keynote speakers 2-3
Conference convenors 4-5
Sponsors 6-15
Conference program 17
Abstracts 23
Index of abstracts 103
Organising committee
Dr Annette Cowie Ms Adriana Downie Prof Stephen Joseph
NSW Department of BEST Energies University of NSW
Primary Industries Australia

Mr Steve Kimber Dr Evelyn Krull Mr Jerome


NSW Department of CSIRO Matthews
Primary Industries Australian Biochar

Dr Attilio Pigneri Dr Akira Shibata Dr Yoshiyuki Dr Lukas Van


Massey University, Ritsumeikan Shinogi Zwieten
New Zealand University, Japan National Institute for NSW Department of
Rural Engineering, Primary Industries
Japan

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Professor Johannes Lehmann
Cornell University, USA
Johannes Lehmann, associate professor of soil
biogeochemistry and soil fertility management at
Cornell University, received his graduate degrees
in soil science at the University of Bayreuth,
Germany. During the past 10 years, he has focused
on nano-scale investigations of soil organic matter,
the biogeochemistry of black carbon and the
development of biochar and bioenergy systems.

Dr Lehmann is co-founder and chair of the Board of


the International Biochar Initiative, and a member
of the editorial boards of Nutrient Cycling in
Agroecosystems and Plant and Soil.

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Keynote speakers
Professor Makoto Ogawa
Osaka Institute of Technology, Japan
Professor Ogawa graduated from the doctoral course
of Applied Botany, Faculty of Agriculture at Kyoto
University in 1967. He was engaged as the leader
of soil microbiology, mushroom sciences in the
Forestry and Forest Products Institute (MAFF), and
then worked in the Biological Environment Institute
as director until 2007. His major research fields
are mycorrhizae, ecology of soil microorganisms,
mushrooms and forest ecology. He has studied
reforestation techniques in tropical regions and
devastated areas using mycorrhizae and charcoal,
and investigated charcoal use in agriculture since
the 1980s. He has published many text books and
scientific papers and has received the Japan Forestry
Prize (1980), IUFRO Scientific Achievement Award
(1981), Nikkei Environment Technology Award (1998),
Japan Mycological Education Prize (2000) and Global
100 Eco-Tech Award (2005). At present he is working
as the opinion leader of the CSFC Project (Carbon
sequestration by forestation and charcoal use) and as
chair of Sea Coast Forest Rehabilitation and the Japan
Biochar Association.

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Australian and New Zealand Biochar Researchers Network
http://www.anzbiochar.org/

The Australian and New Zealand Biochar Researchers Network, formed


in 2008, is a group of researchers interested in advancing scientific
understanding of the production and utilisation of biochar. Collectively our
aim is to undertake collaborative research, promote the adoption of proven
biochar applications, and communicate the opportunities presented by
biochar to policy makers, land managers, the public, industry and fellow
scientists. The Network supports the use of biochars made from sustainably
harvested and renewable biomass resources, using biochar production
processes that meet relevant environmental, health and safety standards,
minimise net greenhouse gas emissions, and do not adversely affect air and
water quality. While our focus is biochar research in the Australian and New
Zealand context, we also engage in and encourage broader international
collaboration. The ANZBRN website provides basic information about
biochar and describes current research projects.

The network is a platinum conference sponsor.*

Japan Biochar Association


http://www.geocities.jp/yasizato/JBA

The Japan Biochar Association was established on 4 April 2009. It is named as


an association rather than an initiative because biochar has been produced
and used by farmers, foresters, gardeners and builders in Japan for more
than 20 years. The association’s objectives are listed below.

1. Define standards for the production and utilisation of biochar.


2. Evaluate the net carbon sink capacity of biochar.
3. Advocate biochar potential to combat global warming.
4. Network with Asian countries to promote international progress on
biochar.
5. Establish an institution for certification of biochar carbon sinks in Japan.

For more information, see the website, currently in Japanese. An English


version of the website is coming soon. We hope many Asian friends will join
in our movement.

Contact: Akira Shibata, Ritsumeikan University


4 asv28054@fc.ritsumei.ac.jp
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Conference convenors
International Biochar Initiative
http://www.biochar-international.org/home.html

IBI is a registered non-profit organisation supporting researchers, commercial


entities, policy makers, development agents, farmers and gardeners, and
others committed to supporting sustainable biochar production and
utilisation systems that remove carbon from the atmosphere and enhance
the earth’s soils. It advocates biochar as a strategy to:
• improve the Earth’s soils
• help mitigate the anthropogenic greenhouse effect by reducing
greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering atmospheric carbon in a
stable soil carbon pool
• improve water quality by retaining agrochemicals.

The IBI also promotes:


• sustainable co-production of clean energy and other bio-based products
as part of the biochar process
• efficient biomass utilisation in developing country agriculture
• cost-effective utilisation of urban, agricultural and forest co-products.

IBI supports biochar production and utilisation systems that reduce net
greenhouse (GHG) emissions on a full GHG lifecycle analysis, that do not
contribute to direct or indirect land use change, and that are supported by
indigenous peoples and stakeholders.

* The following pages feature our other platinum ($5000), gold ($3500)
and silver ($1500) conference sponsors. We would also like to acknowledge
Rick Davies, philanthropist, as a platinum sponsor. Rick Davies is a consultant
for international development aid programs and is interested in applications
of biochar that could benefit poor rural communities in Africa and Asia, via
increased soil fertility and income from carbon credit and carbon offset sales.

www.mande.co.uk

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Platinum Sponsor

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 
 
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 
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 

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 
 
  
  

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Platinum Sponsor

Sponsors
BEST Energies has engaged with the broader research community and
invested heavily in the market development of their AgricharTM biochar
product. Clients of our proprietary BEST PyrocharTM technology, through their
licensing agreement, gain access to the use of this industry recognised brand,
with the associated guarantees of product quality control and best practice
environmental and engineering standards.

BEST Energies Australia are part of the BEST Energies family of companies
which offers economically viable answers to the interrelated problems of
declining oil and gas reserves, greenhouse gas production and global warming.
By combining proprietary biomass technologies with proven production
solutions BEST is building distributed, clean energy production networks for
our customers. Our solutions focus on using renewable bio-based resources,
helping the environment through preventative management of the excessive
biomass waste streams which are responsible for many of the problem
greenhouse gases. By converting these waste streams into a stable form the
by-product is an effective carbon sequestration mechanism.

BEST Energies Australia holds a portfolio of proprietary key technologies that


significantly improve the economics of pyrolysis and gasification of biomass
streams. These advancements are essential for the creation of clean energy
alternatives to traditional oil and coal based fuels. By bringing together the
leading pyrolysis experts from around the world, with more than 20 years of
research and development experience, we have created a rich, patentable
pipeline of productivity and efficiency enhancement and 1st mover products.

When our customers are faced with waste management and green energy
generation challenges we provide integrated bioenergy solutions engineered
to their specific needs. The distributed solutions we create allow production
near biomass sources and close to consumption centres. Because of our
scalability, we have clean energy solutions for a wide range of commercial and
governmental producers and users of energy and the majority of producers of
biomass and biowaste products.

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Platinum Sponsor

Richmond Landcare Incorporated: the Landcare Network representing


Landcare Groups in the Richmond Catchment of Northern NSW

Originally named the Richmond Catchment Landcare Group, incorporated in January 1998
as a “not for profit” association, had the task of sourcing grant funding from the Federal and
State Governments to be “parked” in an incorporated entity and subsequently passed on to
various Landcare/Dunecare/Bushcare community groups for environmental projects. Funds
were also used to employ Landcare Coordinators.

In 2000 the organisation attained the tax status of a “charitable fund”. Three years later, the
original founders of Richmond Catchment Landcare Inc. handed management of the entity
over to landcare groups within the Richmond Catchment and the name of the organisation
changed to Richmond Landcare Inc.

The organization continued to pursue available grants and employ landcare coordinators,
community support officers and specific project officers. Funding originates from Federal,
State and Local Government agencies, the Northern Rivers Catchment Management
Authority as well as private organisations.

Richmond Landcare Inc. is managed by a committee of seven volunteers who are nominated
by landcare member groups of the association. These seven committee members have in
total more than 70 years experience in landcare. They also have had careers and or currently
are involved in education, banking, public relations, finance and corporate management
both in Australia and overseas, auctioneering, horticulture, beef cattle and forestry.

There are more than 65 life member groups (with over 3,000 individual members) in the
Richmond Landcare Network. Of these member groups, 14 are school (junior) landcare
groups, 23 are farmer related landcare groups and the remaining are community rainforest/
dunecare regeneration groups.

Examples of our projects are:


1. A Caring For Our Country Grant from the Australian Government running until 2011
which is in partnership with the NSWDPI for “carbon sequestration and biochar.”
2. A Community Support Officer grant from the Northern Rivers Catchment Management
Authority to provide support to environmental community groups in the East Richmond
Catchment..
3. A Soils Grant for the Cudgen Plateau from the Northern Rivers Catchment Management
Authority to remedy soil erosion on the vegetable farms on that plateau.
4. A Dairy Waste Composting grant from the Australian Government National Landcare
Program

In addition to the above, Richmond Landcare is providing $40,000 towards the cost of an
interpretive centre at Flat Rock, Ballina. This building will serve as shelter for the thousands of
school children who visit Flat Rock each year for their environmental studies. On this project
we are in partnership with the Aboriginal Community, Ballina Shire Council, Angels Beach
Dunecare, the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and several local businesses.
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Platinum Sponsor

Th e P r i m a r y I n d u s t r i e s I n n o vat i o n C e n t r e ( P II C )
PIIC, Directed by Professor Bob Martin, is a joint venture partnership between the NSW
Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and the University of New England (UNE) to boost
primary industries research, extension and training outcomes. PIIC develops science-based
innovative solutions to crises and trends that affect rural communities and the industries that
they rely on. PIIC is therefore committed to improving the profitability and sustainability of
primary industries through research and development, education, extension and training
which is relevant to northern areas of New South Wales in particular but which also has
national and/or international relevance. The work of the PIIC is aimed at two types of outcome.

• Integrated approaches to research, teaching and extension aimed at ensuring


improvement in sustainable primary production; and
• Coordination and co-investment of resources to improve cost-effectiveness in delivering
services and improving outcomes from these services.

The National Centre of Rural Greenhouse Gas Research (NCRGGR) is a new jointly funded
initiative of UNE and the NSW DPI and will be administered through PIIC. Professor Annette
Cowie commenced as Director, NCRGGR on 4th May 2009.

Annette’s research interests include: greenhouse accounting for forests, wood products and
bioenergy; soil carbon management; emissions trading in the forest and agricultural sectors;
and biochar as a soil amendment. Annette’s immediate role as Director of NCRGGR will be
to manage new projects funded under the federal Department of Agriculture, Forestry and
Fisheries Climate Change Research Program. These projects include research and on-farm
demonstrations to help prepare Australia’s primary industries for climate change and build
the resilience of the agricultural sector into the future. The program involves projects that
provide practical management solutions to farmers and industries.

Projects are focussing on:

• reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.
• improving soil management and determining the potential of sequestration of carbon
in agricultural soils – in a variety of soil types, locations and under differing management
practices.

The following UNE-DPI projects have received funding in the Climate Change Research
Program:

Land – the Carbon Bank – Professor Annette Cowie


Genetic Improvement of Beef Cattle for Greenhouse Gas Outcomes – Dr Roger Hegarty
Novel strategies for enteric methane abatement – Dr Roger Hegarty
Mitigating nitrous oxide emissions from soils – Dr Graeme Schwenke

Contact: Professor Bob Martin


Director, Primary Industries Innovation Centre
University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351

Phone 02 6773 2869


Fax 02 6773 3238
Mobile 0411 109 610
Email bob.martin@une.edu.au
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Platinum Sponsor

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Platinum Sponsor

The Queensland Government, like most governments


worldwide, is grappling with the issue of how to best
reduce greenhouse gas emissions and effectively sequester
the emissions that cannot be reduced. The Queensland
Government’s Office of Climate Change, incorporating the
Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence (QCCCE), is
engaged in work on carbon sequestration in the rural sector.

Biochar production technologies may offer considerable


potential for carbon sequestration. However, there is a need to
strengthen our knowledge of the benefits they might deliver
in local applications.

There are a wide range of soil types across Queensland.


Current research indicates that the response of these soils to
biochar is variable in terms of both effectiveness to sequester
carbon and also in the beneficial effects of the material.

The potential benefits include the reduced use of inorganic


fertilisers produced and transported using fossil fuels and
a reduction of the nitrous oxide emissions that occur when
inorganic fertilisers are applied.

Given the expensive nature of research trials and the need


to assess a wide range of soil types, a modelling approach is
required to examine the many combinations of source material
and soil types. Accounting for the carbon that is sequestered
through biochar or any other technology is also a major
challenge.

The Queensland Government is pleased to support the Asia


Pacific Biochar Conference, as a key opportunity to bring
together experts in the biochar field and to share the latest
research evidence about the carbon sequestration potential
associated with biochar production technologies.

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Platinum Sponsor

NSW Department of Primary Industries


NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) is the largest
provider of science and research services within the NSW
Government. The department undertakes strategic science which
underpins the growth, sustainability and biosecurity of primary
industries in New South Wales. The Science and Research Division
has over 700 scientists and technicians working on more than 900 projects in collaboration
with government and research partners, universities and industry groups. In 2007/08 the NSW
government and external partners contributed over $100M towards these projects.

For the past decade, NSW DPI has investigated strategies to help the state’s primary industries
cope with a variable and changing climate and inform governmental climate change mitigation
programs.

In 2007/08 NSW DPI participated in 121 projects to improve water use efficiency, mitigate
greenhouse gas emission, adapt to climate variability or improve soil health. Soil-based problems
cost Australia over $2700 million annually. Healthy soils hold more moisture, are more productive
and have the potential to sequester a significant proportion of NSW’s carbon emissions.

As part of the department’s soils research program, NSW DPI has developed research
partnerships with university, government, industry, landcare and farmers to evaluate the use of
biochar for climate mitigation, adaptation and economic development. Activities include:
• 160 field plots under management on research stations and farms throughout the state
• NATA accredited laboratories for chemical characterisation of biochars, soils and plant tissue
• ISO9001:2000 certified research facilities for testing biochars in laboratory, glasshouse and
field studies
• Greenhouse gas emission monitoring from soil to test benefits of biochar
• Biometrical support
• Involvement in ANZ Biochar Researchers Network and International Biochar Initiative
• Managing scoping studies for business development and implementation of biochar
production technologies
• Lifecycle assessment
• Economic assessment of biochar

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Gold Sponsor

Biosequestration is a path to
combat climate change but
it requires vast quantities of
biochar to be manufactured
using waste biomass and applied
to soil. The challenge is to find a
commercially viable agricultural
mechanism to facilitate this
process.

AnthroTerra is responding to this


challenge by leading the R&D
to develop a stable carbon rich
additive able to be applied to
soil using existing agricultural
techniques to mimic the effect of
the larger application rates.
www.anthroterra.com.au

Silver Sponsor

Australian Biochars would like to welcome all delegates


and guests to the conference.

Biochar research is rightly at the vanguard of


international efforts to both alleviate hunger through
generating increased crop yields and reduce global
warming by the sequestration of greenhouse gases.
The region’s researchers and scientists are to be
congratulated.Australian Biochars wishes all attendees
an informative, productive and most of all an enjoyable
1st Asia Pacific Biochar Conference.

Jerome Matthews, Director


www.biochars.com

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Silver Sponsors

BioSol a v is a business modeling company. Logo


a moving green globe atop a tree symbolises that
earth will go around only when it remains green. The
signature statement adapto velox meaning, “adopt fast”
underscores its belief that intervention should be fast
as technologies are there in plenty. Active in the area
of bio-char, renewable energy, fossil fuel analogs such
as DME and bio Hydrogen Tripod Projects---EnerGreen
Power---Venus Engineers are technology associates.

Principal advisor and partner is Mr. Krushnun Venkat


who can be reached at Mobile: 91-98400 28596
www.biosolav.com Email: krushnunv@yahoo.com

Transfield Services is a leading global provider of


operations, maintenance and project management
services to key industries in the resources, industrial,
infrastructure and facilities management sectors; with
more than 29,000 employees in Australia, New Zealand,
North America and the Middle East. Transfield Services
is publicly listed in Australia and included in the S&P/
ASX 100.

Transfield Services sees great potential in biochar as a


technology for addressing major challenges like climate
change and declining soil fertility.
www.transfieldservices.com

SoilCare Inc is a Landcare group based in northern New


South Wales, Australia. Ninety percent of the members are
farmers and the remaining members are soil professionals.
All members share an interest in soil processes and a
commitment to sustainable soil management. SoilCare
objectives are to access and share current information on
soil management; secure funding for educational seminars
and workshops; sponsor fieldtrips; and address soil issues
of sustainability and productivity to promote secure
livelihoods and vigorous communities. SoilCare also
sponsors TAFE biological farming courses and ‘SoilCare
Expo’, a one-day event showcasing sustainable soil

14 www.soilcare.org management strategies and products.

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Silver Sponsors

The Northern Rivers CMA is a proud supporter of the Asia


Pacific Biochar Conference, 2009. Along with our partners,
NSW DPI, Soilcare and Richmond Landcare, we look
forward to demonstrating local soil health projects that
have increased soil carbon and improved soil condition.
Supporting the development of such innovations in
natural resource management enhances our communities
ability to effectively contribute to the broader goals of
reduced impacts of climate change and the creation of
resilient natural landscapes in the long term.

Gansel Australia is pleased to announce the launch of


its Outback Biochar premium soil conditioner at the
Asia Pacific Biochar Conference. Outback Biochar will
be available from the company’s website and through
national resellers working to bring biochar into the
hands of Australian gardeners. The company’s aim is to
increase public awareness about the benefits of biochar
while demonstrating the economic viability of what we
consider to be a cornerstone of future environmental
policy.

Gansel Australia: 02 9773 9455


www.outbackbiochar.com

The New Zealand Biochar Research Centre (NZBRC) aims


to advance the understanding of biochar for mitigating
global climate change and to enable its use in New
Zealand, particularly by agricultural and forestry sectors.
The work at the NZBRC is organized into three closely
linked streams of R&D activities:
• soil science and biochar
• pyrolysis plant and biochar engineering
www.biochar.org.nz • biochar and greenhouse mitigation strategies
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Conference program
Day 1: Sunday 17 May 2009
Time Activity Presentation Speaker
4.00 pm Registration and speaker preparation
6.00 - Welcome reception, Atlantis Auditorium, Level 2 Watermark Hotel
8.00pm Welcome address by The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP

Day 2: Monday 18 May 2009


Time Activity Presentation Speaker Page
7.30 am Registration
Speaker preparation
8.15 am Opening address TBA
8.30 am Keynote address Biochar: Science and policy Prof. Johannes 24
Lehmann
Cornell University US
9.25 am Platinum sponsor Queensland Government
presentation
9.30 am Session keynote Biochar: How stable is it? And Evelyn Krull 27
Biochar characterisation
Chair: Lukas Van Zwieten

how accurately do we need to CSIRO Glen Osmond SA


know?
10.00 am Oral presentation Turnover of biochars in soil: Bhupinderpal Singh 29
Preliminary estimates based on NSW DPI, West Pennant
two years of observation Hills

10.20 am Platinum sponsor Crucible Carbon


presentation

10.25 am Morning tea


10.50 am Oral presentation Influence of biochar on the Balwant Singh 30
availability of As, Cd, Cu, Pb and University of Sydney
Zn to maize (Zea mays L.)
Biochar characterisation

11.10 am Oral presentation Biochar addition to soils: Rai Kookana 31


Chair: Adriana Downie

Implications for pesticide CSIRO Land & Water,


persistence and efficacy Glen Osmond
11.30 am Oral presentation Detailed analyses of 20 year old Nikolaus Foidl 32
biochar recovered from Bolivian Venearth Group USA
lowland agricultural soils
11.50 am Oral presentation A simple method for determining Ron Smernik 33
biochar condensation University of Adelaide

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Day 2 (continued)
Time Activity Presentation Speaker Page
3 minute poster oral Development of a synthetic Terra C Chia 35
Preta (STP): Characterisation and University of NSW
initial research findings
3 minute poster oral Detailed characterisation of William Aitkenhead 36
biochars obtained from NZ Massey University,
feedstocks at different pyrolysis New Zealand
temperatures
3 minute poster oral Evaluation of laboratory Balwant Singh 38
procedures for the University of Sydney
characterisation of biochars
3 minute poster oral Temperature sensitivity of black Binh Thanh Nguyen 39
carbon decomposition and Cornell University, Ithaca
oxidation
3 minute poster oral Black carbon characterisation: Michael Bird 40
Implications for understanding James Cook University,
biochar behaviour in depositional Cairns
environments
3 minute poster oral Retention capacity of three types Ajit Sarmah 41
of biochar for estrogenic steroid Landcare Research,
hormones in dairy farm soil New Zealand
3 minute poster oral Simulating the weathering of FX Yao 42
biochar with a Soxhlet reactor Massey University,
Biochar characterisation

New Zealand
Chair: Adriana Downie

3 minute poster oral Characterisation of chars Marta Camps-Arbestain 44


produced from different Massey University,
carbonisation processes New Zealand
3 minute poster oral A fundamental understanding Lynne M Macdonald 45
of biochar: Implications and CSIRO
opportunities for the grains
industry
12.45 pm Lunch and poster viewing
1.45 pm Oral presentation Carbonisation of empty fruit Nsamba Hussein Kisiki 46
bunches using the hydrothermal Universiti Putra Malaysia
Biochar production & technologies

method
2.05 pm Oral presentation Production of charcoal compost Gustan Pari 47
from organic solid waste Forest Products RDC
Indonesia
2.25 pm Oral presentation Assessment of yield, salt Chris Williams 48
Chair: Attilio Pigneri

tolerance and energy conversion SARDI


of Arundo donax, a potential
biochar and biofuel crop
2.45 pm 3 minute poster oral A simple method for production Gou Yamamoto 49
of porous bamboo charcoal International Charcoal
Co-op Association Japan

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Time Activity Presentation Speaker Page
3 minute poster oral Preparation of low volatile Michael Somerville 50
charcoal for liquid steel CSIRO
recarburisation plant trials
3 minute poster oral Maximising char yield from Rex Manderson 51
Biochar production & technologies

pyrolysis of low cost biomass Chaotech Pty Ltd


Australia
3 minute poster oral Openchar: Open-sourced biochar Andrew Murphy 52
production technology Hatch, Brisbane
3 minute poster oral Project 540: Low-emission, low Paul Taylor 53
Chair: Attilio Pigneri

cost biochar kilns for small farms Rainforest Information


and villages Centre, Australia
3 minute poster oral Maximising environmental and Matthew Martella 55
economic benefits of biochar University of Western
production using an innovative Australia
indirectly-fired kiln technology
3.10 pm Afternoon tea and poster viewing
3.35 pm Session keynote Carbon abatement potential Joe Herbertson 57
Business models for commercialisation

and sustainability credentials of Crucible Carbon Pty Ltd


Project Rainbow Bee Eater Australia

4.05 pm Platinum sponsor BEST Energies


presentation
Chair: Yoshiyuku Shinogi

4.10 pm Oral presentation Agro-economic valuation of Lukas Van Zwieten 58


biochar using field-derived data NSW DPI, Wollongbar
4.30 pm Oral presentation Biochar: A people initiative Krushnun Venkat 59
BioSol India
4.50 pm 3 minute poster oral Development of sustainable fuels Michael Somerville 60
and reductants for the iron and CSIRO
steel Industry
4.55 pm Panel discussion Biochar: Addressing the Johannes Lehmann
unanswered questions Makoto Ogawa
What criticisms have been Annette Cowie
levelled at biochar? Chair:
Are these criticisms valid? Rebecca Lines-Kelly
What are the knowledge gaps?
How do we address these issues?
5.30 pm Close
7.00 pm Gala dinner
8.30 pm Keynote address TBA

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Day 3: Tuesday 19 May 2009
Time Activity Presentation Speaker Page
8.15 am Housekeeping
8.30 am Keynote address Charcoal use in agriculture in Professor Makoto Ogawa 61
Japan Osaka Institute of
Technology, Japan
9.15 am Platinum sponsor NSW Department of Primary
address Industries
9.20 am Session keynote Discovering Terra Preta Australis: Adriana Downie 64
Rethinking the capacity of BEST Energies
Australian soils to sequester C
9.50 am Platinum sponsor Richmond Landcare Inc.
address
9.55 am Session keynote Greenhouse gas mitigation Annette Cowie 66
benefits of biochar as a soil NSW DPI
Environmental benefits of biochar including greenhouse gas mitigation

amendment West Pennant Hills


10.25am Platinum sponsor University of New England-
address National Centre Rural
Greenhouse Gas Research
10.30 am Morning tea and poster viewing
11.00 am Oral presentation Estimation of net carbon Yoshiyuki Shinogi 68
sequestration potential with National Institute for
farmland application of bagasse- Rural Engineering, Japan
char: Lifecycle CO2 analysis
through a pilot pyrolysis plant
11.20 am Oral presentation Biochar effects on nitrous oxide Leo Condron 69
emissions from a pasture soil Lincoln University
New Zealand
11.40 am 3 minute poster oral Influence of biochars on nitrous Bhupinderpal Singh 71
oxide emission and nutrient NSW DPI
leaching from two contrasting West Pennant Hills
soils
3 minute poster oral BEST pyrolysis of waste wood: Adriana Downie 72
Chair: Steve Kimber

Greenhouse gas balance BEST Energies


assessment
3 minute poster oral Biochar holds potential for Steve Kimber 74
reducing soil emissions of NSW Dept of Primary
greenhouse gases Industries, Wollongbar

20
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Time Activity Presentation Speaker Page
11.50 am Session keynote The reaction of soil with high and Stephen Joseph 75
low mineral ash content biochars University of NSW,
Australia
12.20 pm Platinum sponsor Mantria Industries USA
presentation
12.25 pm Oral presentation The role for biochar in Robert Quirk 77
management of the agricultural Duranbah
landscape: A farmer’s perspective
12.45 pm Oral presentation Productivity and nutrient Katrina Sinclair 79
availability on a Ferrosol: NSW Dept of Primary
Biochar, lime and fertiliser Industries, Wollongbar
1.05 pm Lunch and poster viewing
2.00 pm Oral presentation Evidence for biochar saving Paul Blackwell 80
fertiliser for dryland wheat Department of
production in Western Australia Agriculture and Food
WA, Geraldton
2.20 pm Oral presentation Charcoal application for poultry Tsuyoshi Hirowaka 81
farming International Charcoal
Co-op Association, Japan
2.40 pm Oral presentation Effect of biochar application on Chairil Siregar 82
soil amelioration and growth Forestry Research and
of Acacia mangium (Willd.) and Development Agency
Michelia montana Blume Ministry of Forestry,
Indonesia
3.00 pm 3 minute poster oral The effects of biochars on maize Helen Free 83
(Zea mays) germination Massey University
New Zealand
3 minute poster oral Effect of bagasse charcoal and Yoshiyuki Shinogi 84
digested slurry on sugarcane National Institute for
growth and physical properties Rural Engineering, Japan
of Shimajiri-maji soil
Effects of biochar utilisation

3 minute poster oral Concepts of dryland farming Paul Blackwell 85


Chair: Jerome Matthews

systems incorporating biochar Department of


and carbon-rich biological Agriculture and Food
fertilisers WA, Geraldton
3 minute poster oral Soil nutrient retention under David Waters 86
biochar-amended broadacre NSW DPI, Wagga Wagga
cropping soils in southern NSW
3 minute poster oral Nitrogen use efficiency improves Lukas Van Zwieten 87
using greenwaste biochar NSW DPI, Wollongbar

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Day 3 (continued)
Time Activity Presentation Speaker Page
3 minute poster oral Effect of biochar on mycorrhizal
Zakaria Solaiman 89
colonisation in subterranean University of Western
clover and wheat growth Australia
Effects of biochar utilisation

3 minute poster oral Preliminary assessment of the Paul Blackwell 91


Chair: Jerome Matthews

agronomic value of synthetic Department of


Terra Preta (STP) Agriculture and Food
WA, Geraldton
3 minute poster oral Biochar research in sandy soils of Hoang Minh Tam 92
central coastal Vietnam Vietnam Academy of
Agricultural Science
3 minute poster oral Developing collaborative biochar Malem McLeod 94
research in Aceh, Indonesia NSW DPI, Tamworth
3 minute poster oral Towards a faster and broader Tek Narayan Maraseni 96
application of biochar: Assessing University of Southern
and recommending appropriate Queensland,
marketing mechanisms Toowoomba
Policy issues for the biochar industry

3 minute poster oral Prime Carbon presents a program Debra Burden 97


that rewards farmers with carbon Prime Carbon Pty Ltd,
credits for increasing the carbon Townsville
in their soil
3.35 pm Afternoon tea and poster viewing
Chair: Annette Cowie

4.05 pm Session keynote The New Zealand Biochar Marta Camps-Arbestain 98


Research Centre: Firmly walking Massey University
on the ‘ground’ New Zealand
4.35 pm Oral presentation Opportunities and challenges Attilio Pigneri 100
for biochar/bioenergy systems Massey University
in the compliance and voluntary New Zealand
carbon markets
4.55 pm Workshop wrap-up Stephen Joseph and
Evelyn Krull
5.30 pm Post conference canapés and drinks

Day 4: Wednesday 20 May 2009 - Post conference field tour


Time Activity
8.00 am Depart Watermark Hotel
9.00 am Arrive sugar cane site, Tweed Valley
9.30 am Depart sugar cane site
10.30 am Arrive NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar field sites
11.30 am Lunch at NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar
12.30 pm Depart NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar
1.00 pm Arrive Baclisin, avocado and macadamia farm
1.30 pm Depart Baclisin
3.00 pm Arrive Watermark Hotel

22
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Abstracts

23
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Biochar: Science and Policy

Johannes Lehmann
Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853 USA

CL273@cornell.edu

The science of biochar has made rapid progress in the past two years since the biochar
research and development community began creating platforms for communication.
The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) builds on regional activities that drive research
and national policy debate. This first regional conference of the Asia Pacific Biochar
Initiative is a testament to the interest in advancing the development of our knowledge
on biochar. The impressive mobilising of intellectual capacity is mirrored by an equally
impressive public interest in biochar and its use in home gardens and on farms. But
demand for information on biochar production and application currently outstrips our
ability to provide recommendations.

The increasing number of scientific publications provides a significant step forward


in demonstrating basic scientific principles of biochar behaviour that are critical
for refining biochar systems. For example, significant progress has been made in
quantifying the stability of biochar and several recent publications calculate a mean
residence time in excess of 1000 years (Cheng et al 2008; Lehmann et al 2008; Liang et
al 2008; Kuzyakov et al 2009). This body of literature employs both incubation studies
that are longer (up to 3.2 years) than have been used previously and modelling of
equilibrium conditions under natural char production. It also combines observations of
aged and freshly produced biochars which significantly expands the body of published
literature that had mostly studied fresh biochars.

These analyses need to be expanded to a wider variety of biochar types and soil
environments. Interactions between mineral surfaces, metal ions and biochar particles
are still insufficiently explored. These refinements are necessary to estimate the extent
biochar may be able to mitigate climate change. But it will not question the principal
argument of the benefits of biochar soil management for climate change mitigation.

The science of biochar is complex; it requires new theories to explain its environmental
behaviour, adaptation of established methods for its study, and a systems approach to
its appraisal. The required systems thinking is for example made clear by the differences
in conclusion drawn from findings by Wardle et al (2008) who interpreted data of mass
loss from litterbag experiments as a greater loss of forest humus after the addition of
biochar. This interpretation has found criticism because mass loss from the litterbags
may not only be explained by mineralisation to carbon dioxide but may also lead to a
more rapid stabilisation in mineral soil (Lehmann and Sohi, 2008). Indeed, greater and
more rapid incorporation of litter into soil carbon fractions is now being found in the
presence of biochar in a number of experiments.

24
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Biochar: Science and
Policy
Johannes Lehmann

While this process-oriented research is the basis for the evaluation of biochar for
environmental management and vital for its adoption, it is not sufficient to ensure the
sustainability of biochar systems, so that they deliver agronomic and environmental
benefits and are economically viable.

We need to know more about, for example, energy outputs and emissions during
pyrolysis, methods for applying biochar to soil, and transportation. Yield increases on
different soils with different types of biochar require field experimentation. While some
information from field trials has recently become available (Steiner et al 2007, 2008;
Kimetu et al 2008) the published body of research is still restricted to highly weathered
soils. And not a single case study has been published reporting a systems-scale
assessment of energy or carbon budgets.

The main challenge in the past has been the lack of pyrolysis systems available to
stakeholders. A sustainable approach to environmental management of carbon means
it must be relevant to farm economies, waste processing facilities and home kitchens.
Some groundbreaking advances have recently been made for farm-scale biochar
systems (Lehmann and Joseph 2009), and this trend is expected to continue.

Communication of research results on biochar provides opportunities and distinct


challenges. Realistic expectations must be grounded in reliable basic science as well as
site-specific adaptive science. Reliable science has largely been embraced by an increasing
number of research organisations, but adaptive science is still in its infancy; learning from
implementation is required to be able to scale biochar systems. Only if sufficiently large
demonstration projects are available will we we be able to better quantify the potential
of biochar. The number and scope of demonstration projects that will advance the
development of biochar systems and forecast their long term and large-scale potential are
still insufficient, a clear signal for investment in research on biochar.

Policy is increasingly investigating the potential of biochar. Biochar has been front
page news in Australia and several countries are now preparing internal policy briefs
to educate their staff. Intergovernmental organisations are investigating biochar as
an option to meet their goals. Feeding unbiased science into this process is critical to
advance biochar research and development.

From a policy perspective, biochar is certainly a strategy that deserves special attention.
Since it has been overlooked for decades, much work needs to be done in a short period
of time. But biochar alone will not solve climate change or declining productivity of
the world’s soil resources. Conservation of energy, a portfolio of renewable energy
options, and sustainable resource management are all part of a broader strategy.
Biochar has helped bring soils and carbon sequestration in agricultural landscapes into
global discussions. In hindsight it may well turn out to be the entry point that brings a
sustainable bioenergy option, an accountable soil carbon sequestration option and a
viable soil conservation option, to the negotiation table of national and international
policy makers.

continued > 25
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Biochar: Science and
Policy
Johannes Lehmann

References

Cheng CH, Lehmann J, Thies JE, Burton S 2008. Stability of black carbon in soils across a
climatic gradient. Journal of Geophysical Research 113, G02027.

Kimetu J, Lehmann J, Ngoze S, Mugendi D, Kinyangi J, Riha S, Verchot L, Recha J, Pell A


2008. Reversibility of soil productivity decline with organic matter of differing quality
along a degradation gradient. Ecosystems 11: 726-739.

Kuzyakov Y, Subbotina I, Chen H, Bogomolova I, Xu X 2009. Black carbon decomposition


and incorporation into soil microbial biomass estimated by 14C labelling. Soil Biology
and Biochemistry 41: 210-219.

Lehmann J, Sohi S 2008. Comment on “Fire-derived charcoal causes loss of forest


humus”. Science 321: 1295.

Lehmann J, Skjemstad JO, Sohi S, Carter J, Barson M, Falloon P, Coleman K, Woodbury


P, Krull E 2008. Australian climate-carbon cycle feedback reduced by soil black carbon.
Nature Geoscience 1: 832–835.

Lehmann J, Joseph S 2009. Biochar systems. In: Lehmann J and Joseph S (eds.) Biochar
for Environmental Management: Science and Technology. Earthscan London, 147-168.

Liang B, Lehmann J, Solomon D, Sohi S, Thies JE, Skjemstad JO, Luizão FJ, Engelhard MH,
Neves EG, Wirick S 2008. Stability of biomass-derived black carbon in soils. Geochimica et
Cosmochimica Acta 72, 6096-6078.

Steiner C, Teixeira WG, Lehmann J, Nehls T, Macedo JLV, Blum WEH, Zech W 2007. Long
term effects of manure, charcoal and mineral fertilisation on crop production and
fertility on a highly weathered Central Amazonian upland soil. Plant and Soil 291: 275-
290.

Steiner C, Glaser B, Teixeira WG, Lehmann J, Blum WEH, Zech W 2008. Nitrogen retention
and plant uptake on a highly weathered central Amazonian Ferralsol amended with
compost and charcoal. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science 171: 893-899.

Wardle DA, Nilsson MC, Zackrisson O 2008. Fire-derived charcoal causes loss of forest
humus. Science 320: 629. 

26
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Biochar: How stable is it? And how accurately do we
need to know?

Evelyn Krull (1), Annette Cowie (2), Bhupinderpal Singh (2)


1. CSIRO Land and Water, Glen Osmond SA 5064 Australia
2. Forest Science Centre, NSW Department of Primary Industries
PO Box 100, Beecroft NSW 2119 Australia

Evelyn.Krull@csiro.au

In order for biochar to be accepted by emissions trading schemes, it is fundamental


to demonstrate the stability (turnover time) of biochar in soil. A review of currently
published estimates has placed turnover time of natural and synthesised biochar in the
range from decades to centuries to millennia. The wide range in these assessments has
several causes.

1. The stability of biochar is highly dependent on the type of biomass feedstock used.
2. Different pyrolysis conditions (temperature, heating time) will create biochars with
different degrees of stability.
3. Many studies compare the stability of biochar with that of charcoal produced by
natural fires.
4. Different C isotope-based methods (δ13C, 14C, 13C labelling) could be used to assess
the stability (expressed either as 14C-age, mean residence time, mean turnover time,
half-life etc) of biochar.
5. Edaphic and climatic conditions may influence biochar stability.

With regard to (1): Our data from incubation experiments found that biochar produced
from chicken manure is chemically (based on 13C-NMR data) very different to biochar
produced from wood or green waste, and much less stable.

With regard to (2): Biochars produced at higher temperatures (>450ºC) have comparably
higher stability than lower temperature biochars.

With regard to (3): The presence, quantity and age of natural char from wildfires,
recovered from soils and even in the geologic rock record, cannot give a quantitative
measure of the stability of synthetic biochars because a) the proportion this remaining
charcoal constitutes of the original total is unknown and b) preservation in the geologic
record requires unusual circumstances (rapid burial and oxygen exclusion) which cannot
be used as an analogue for the biochemical and physical conditions biochars would be
subjected to when added to soil.

With regard to (4): Due to the highly stable nature of biochar, direct estimation
of turnover time of biochar in soil using field or laboratory incubation studies is
challenging because it decomposes very slowly during commonly-used experimental
periods (ie <5 years) compared to native soil organic matter. Thus, isotopic methods are
necessary that allow the approximation over this time period, with each method having
its own advantages and disadvantages.
continued > 27
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Biochar: How stable
is it? And how
accurately to we need
to know?
Evelyn Krull (1), With regard to (5), dynamics of decomposition will be affected by soil type (clay
Annette Cowie (2), type and content), native organic matter content and quality, plant inputs, and soil
Bhupinderpal Singh (2) temperature and moisture.

While these uncertainties are an important topic for further scientific studies which will
provide vital data for long term models and understanding long term decomposition
of different biochars, it is clear that biochars produced through pyrolysis at 400–500 ºC,
particularly from woody biomass, are stable over the timescales required for acceptance
in emissions trading schemes (eg, >100 years). Thus, the knowledge to date with regard
to the stability of biochars is adequate for emissions trading purposes but requires
further studies to confirm long term trends (>100 year time scales) and differences in
various biochar and soil types. 

28
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Turnover of biochars in soil: Preliminary estimates based
on two years of observation

Bhupinderpal Singh, Annette L Cowie, Kamaljeet Kaur


NSW Department of Primary Industries, PO Box 100, Beecroft NSW 2119 Australia

Bp.Singh@sf.nsw.gov.au

The rate of turnover (decomposition) of biochar carbon (C) is the major determinant
of its value in long term C sequestration in soil. Biochar produced during heating of
biomass at temperatures >200ºC under limited oxygen supply (pyrolysis) is considered
highly resistant to biological degradation due to its increased chemical recalcitrance
(aromaticity), compared with the parent feedstock. With some exceptions, C in natural
charcoal has been shown to possess turnover time of a few hundred to thousands of
years in soil. However, little research has been undertaken to:
• document turnover rate of manufactured biochars applied to soil
• measure and account for any priming effect of biochar addition on turnover of
‘native’ soil C
• elucidate stabilisation mechanisms of biochar C in soil.

In order to precisely determine the magnitude and rate at which biochar C is


decomposed in soil and released as CO2, we have initiated a long term (at least five
years) incubation experiment using a novel method based on measuring the inherent
differences in 13C isotope content between biochar and soil. Briefly, biochar materials
from a range of C3-vegetation feedstocks (bluegum wood and leaves, paper sludge,
poultry manure on rice hull, and cow manure) produced at different temperatures
(400ºC or 550ºC) and activation level (activated or non-activated), were applied to
soil (Vertosol) collected from a C4-pasture (Astrebla spp.) field. Soil-respired CO2-C
and microbial-C and their associated δ13C values are being measured periodically.
Additionally, detailed chemical characterisation of organic C fractions (separated
physically) is being performed periodically to gain insights into the causes of biochar C
stability in soil.
Early results show decomposition of biochar C in soil in the first 83 weeks of incubation
varied from 0.2% to 8.4% of biochar C applied. These estimates are not yet corrected
for the priming effect of biochar on ‘native’ soil C, but we expect it to be small because
of the low C content of the soil (0.42% C). Biochar application did not change the initial
(day zero) microbial-C in soil. On day 196, microbial-C in biochar- and non-amended
soils was not significantly different. However, total bacterial and fungal counts on day
196 determined by the viable plate count method were significantly higher in most of
the biochar-amended soils than in the non-amended soil.
We will present preliminary estimates of mean turnover time of C in different biochars,
determined by fitting the two-pool kinetic model to the cumulative CO2-C evolved
over two years of incubation. Implications of biochar C turnover on greenhouse gas
mitigation through its application to soil will be discussed. The importance of long term
decomposition observations for obtaining reliable estimates of biochar mean turnover
time will be highlighted.  29
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Influence of biochar on the availability of As, Cd, Cu, Pb
and Zn to maize (Zea mays L.)

Tshewang Namgay (1), Balwant Singh (1), Bhupinderpal Singh (2)


1. Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006
2. Forest Science Centre, NSW DPI, Post Box 100, Beecroft, NSW 2119

b.singh@usyd.edu.au

Biochar is a product of thermally decomposed waste biomass via pyrolysis. It has


gained attention due to its being biochemically recalcitrant in soils while improving soil
properties. It is seen as an effective tool to mitigate climate change due to its potential
to increase long term soil carbon pools and reduce greenhouse emissions. Biochar
has high porosity and it lowers the bulk density of soils; negatively charged biochar
surfaces and their progressive generation during oxidation are expected to improve
cation exchange capacity. Numerous studies have shown that biochar increases crop
productivity, but to our knowledge no research has evaluated the influence of soil
biochar applications on availability of trace elements to plants.

A pot experiment was conducted to investigate the influence of biochar on As, Cd,
Cu, Pb and Zn uptake by maize (Zea mays L.). An activated wood biochar, synthesised
at 550°C, was applied at three rates (0, 5 and 15 g kg-1) in factorial combination with
three rates (0, 10 and 50 mg kg-1) of As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn to a sandy soil (Orthic
Tenosol). Polythene-lined pots were filled with air-dried soil (1kg), and fertiliser was
applied to all pots at recommended rates. Six seeds were sown in each pot which were
thinned to three on germination to obtain uniform plants. Shoots were harvested
after 10 weeks of growth, and dry matter yield was recorded. The plant samples were
digested in perchloric––nitric acid mixture and analysed for trace elements. The uptake
of trace elements was calculated from the plant dry matter yield and trace element
concentrations. Data on plant dry matter yield, and concentration and uptake of trace
elements as affected by biochar will be presented. 

30
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Biochar addition to soils: Implications for pesticide
persistence and efficacy

Rai S Kookana
CSIRO Land and Water, PMB No. 2, Glen Osmond SA 5064 Australia

Rai.Kookana@csiro.au

Soil amendment with biochar is increasingly being recognised as an attractive


practice. Furthermore, charcoal can be a significant component of soil organic matter
in many soils from regions that experience frequent fires or receive input from partial
combustion processes. For example, in some Australian soils, up to 40% of the total
organic carbon has been found to consist of charcoal. Facilitated by wind and water
movement, terrestrial biochar readily finds its way to marine or freshwater aquatic
ecosystems. Our recent research has shown that charcoal has a strong affinity for
pesticides and other organic compounds, depending on their nature and properties.
Even when present as a small fraction of the total organic carbon pool, charcoal can
largely govern the sorption-desorption behaviour of pesticides in both terrestrial
and aquatic ecosystems. We also noted that certain types of biochar are effective in
sequestration of pesticides and in reducing their bioavailability to organisms.

To evaluate the potential reduction in plant uptake of pesticides from soil through
charcoal amendment, we carried out an experiment by growing spring onion (Allium
cepa) in a sandy soil. The charcoal was prepared by burning redgum (Eucalyptus spp)
wood chips at 450ºC (BC450) and 850ºC (BC850) and was then incorporated into soil
at varying amounts (0, 0.1, 0.5 and 1% by soil weight). Charcoal amendment not only
stimulated the growth of spring onion (indicated by significantly higher biomass than
the control soil), but also significantly reduced the bioavailability of the pesticides in soil,
when amendments were >0.5%. The dissipation of both pesticides in soils decreased
significantly with increasing amounts of biochar in the soil. Over 35 days, 86-88% of
the pesticides were lost from the control soil, whereas only 51% of carbofuran and 44%
of chlorpyrifos dissipated from the soil amended with 1.0% BC850. Despite greater
persistence of the pesticide residues in biochar-amended soils, the plant uptake of
pesticides decreased markedly with increasing biochar content of the soil. With 1%
of BC850 soil amendment, the total plant residues for chlorpyrifos and carbofuran
decreased to 10% and 25% of that in the control treatment, respectively. The BC850 char
was particularly effective in reducing phytoavailability of both pesticides from soil.

The strong affinity of biochars to sorb and sequester pesticide molecules, thus rendering
them unavailable to biota, has potential implications for efficacy of pesticides and
herbicides. The application rates of pesticides are sometimes based on the organic
carbon content of soils. Given that biochar is particularly effective in rapid inactivation
of pesticides, it is likely that higher rates of application of pesticides may be needed
in soils amended with biochars. The long term fate and effects of pesticide residues
sequestered in biochar is not clear. This aspect deserves further investigation in order to
fully appreciate the implications of biochar application to soils.  31
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Detailed analyses of 20-year-old biochar recovered from
Bolivian lowland agricultural soils

Nikolaus Foidl (1), SD Joseph (2), Paul Munroe (2), Y Lin (2), L Van Zwieten (3),
Steve Kimber (3)
1. Venearth Group
2. School of Material Science and Engineering, University of NSW, NSW 2052 Australia
3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar NSW 2477 Australia

nikolaus33@yahoo.com

Approximately 20 years ago, an area of some 800,000 ha forest in the lowlands of Bolivia,
160 km outside Santa Cruz, was cleared and converted to crop production. The leaves,
twigs, bark and branches, covered in red earth, were stacked into rows 10 to 12 metres
wide and, after several month of drying, were ignited.

The short but intensive combustion period resulted in the production of ash, torrefied
woody biomass, probably produced at temperatures below 250ºC, biochar, produced
over a range of temperatures, and baked clayish soil. These products were then
incorporated into the fields to a depth of approximately 20 cm. Over a period of 20
years, a number of different crops were planted on these soils (0-tillage). Application
rates, edafic and foliar, to areas with added biochar and those with no biochar were the
same.

In 2007-08 a detailed program of sampling and analysis of the soils was undertaken.
Detailed extraction of torrefied and carbon biomass from several areas (500 ha)
indicated concentrations ranging from 136 t/ha to over 150 t/ha in a profile up to
50 cm deep. Soils with biochar and torrefied biomass show significant increases in
the concentration of Ca, K, Na, Mn and minor improvements in CEC. Yield increases
for maize grown in the soils with biochar were in the order of 250%, in soy 27%, in
sunflower 39%, in wheat 37% and in sorghum around 180%.

To try to understand why the application of torrefied and carbonised biomass resulted
in improved productivity, detailed chemical and physical analysis of selected samples
was undertaken using a range of spectroscopic, microscopic and chemical analytical
techniques. It will be shown that the oxidation of the biochar surfaces and their reaction
with minerals and soil biology resulted in the formation of organo-mineral complexes
with similar morphology, chemical and agronomic properties to Terra Preta soils. It
will be shown that root hairs from the plants penetrated these complexes to reduce
energy required to adsorb nutrients and water. It will be hypothesised that the biochar
enhances microbial growth which in turn assists in nutrient uptake. 

32
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A simple method for determining biochar condensation

Ronald J Smernik, Anna V McBeath


Soil and Land Systems, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences,
The University of Adelaide, Waite Campus, Urrbrae 5064 SA, Australia

ronald.smernik@adelaide.edu.au

One of the challenges of biochar research is that biochar is not a single material, but
a term that describes a wide range of different materials. By way of analogy, the term
biochar is more like the general term ‘food’ than the specific description such as ‘a large
Big Mac meal with a Diet Coke instead of a Coke’. One pretty much knows what one is
getting with the latter, but the former could be chicken soup, fried egg, ham sandwich
or wedding cake, none of which are terribly interchangeable. The same goes for biochar,
and as a consequence it is difficult to draw general conclusions from specific studies on
biochar, at least not unless you know what type of biochar was used. So how can you tell
if a biochar is (metaphorically) chicken soup, fried egg, ham sandwich or wedding cake?

As it stands, biochars are usually described in terms of the starting material (eg
greenwaste, chicken manure, rice husk etc) and the production conditions (eg fast
pyrolysis at 450°C). While it is true that many of the important properties of biochar will
vary with these parameters, how does one compare the results for a greenwaste biochar
produced at 450°C to those for a chicken manure biochar produced at 550°C? To do so
one needs chemical analyses, but which ones?

Elemental analyses are a good starting point: they can tell you how much ash there is
and what it consists of. Elemental analyses also reveal the total nutrient content (but
often not its availability). Elemental analyses may also reveal something about the
composition of the organic fraction (C:N ratio, extent of charring), especially for low-ash
biochars. However, elemental analysis is a pretty blunt instrument for characterising
organic matter.

Decades of research have identified nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR)


as perhaps the sharpest tool for characterising organic matter as diverse as fresh plant
material, peat, soil organic matter, coal and kerogen. NMR is very good at differentiating
biochar (virtually all aromatic) from other types of organic matter (which contains a range
of different C types). However, standard NMR methods are not great at differentiating
between different types of biochar (and neither is any other method I know).

continued >

33
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
A simple method for
determining biochar
condensation
Ronald J Smernik
Anna V McBeath So what is it about biochar chemistry that we need to identify? Well, we think a key
parameter is the degree of aromatic condensation or ‘graphiticness’. All biochar is mostly
aromatic, consisting of extensive sheets of hexagonal arrays of carbon atoms (a bit like
chicken wire), but as it is heated to higher temperatures, these sheets become bigger and
purer. This changes its physical properties (eg its surface area increases) and we believe it
also makes it more resistant to degradation (which is the key property of biochar).

We have developed an easy method to measure the degree of aromatic condensation


of biochar, and have used it to compare over two dozen biochars and natural field chars
(from a recent bushfire). The results are interesting and in some cases surprising. I’d love
to tell you what we found, but I’ve run out of space, so you’ll just have to come to find
out. 

34
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Development of a synthetic Terra Preta (STP):
Characterisation and initial research findings

CH Chia (1), SD Joseph (1), P Munroe (1), Y Lin (1), J Hook (2), A Shasha (2),
L van Zwieten (3), S Kimber (3), A Cowie (4), Bhupinderpal Singh (4), J Lehmann (5),
K Hanley (5), P Blackwell (6), E Carter (7), D Manning (8), C Philips, Elisa Lopez Capel
1. School of Material Science and Engineering, University of NSW, NSW 2052
2. NMR Facility, Analytical Centre, UNSW, Sydney 2052
3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar NSW 2477
4. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Sydney NSW 2000
5. Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,
Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853 USA
6. Department of Agriculture, Geraldton WA
7. Vibrational Spectroscopy Facility, School of Chemistry, University of Sydney, NSW 2006
8. School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Drummond Building,
Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU UK

c.chia@unsw.edu.au

Amazonian Dark Earths (Terra Preta) are unique soils that exhibit outstanding fertility by
promoting and sustaining plant growth, as well as effectively sequestering atmospheric
carbon dioxide. They have high organic carbon content and are rich in the key elements,
N, P, Mg, Zn, and Mn. They have higher water-holding capacity than the surrounding
soil, higher pH, and greater cation exchange capacity (CEC) through which they sustain
higher fertility compared to the intensely weathered, acidic and leached adjacent soils
(Sombroek 1966; Lehmann et al 2001). Examination of Terra Preta soils has revealed that
they are composed of microaggregates formed by the interaction of organic matter, clay
particles, residual fired clay, sand, microorganisms and human input of decomposing/
cooked food. These microagglomerates comprise areas of high amorphous carbon
surrounded by phases that are high in aluminium, silica, iron, calcium and phosphorus.

Inspired by these extraordinary soils, an exploratory program aimed at producing


materials mimicking the properties of the Terra Preta has now been completed. This
synthetic Terra Preta (STP) is manufactured by combining biomass, clay, crushed brick,
and high calcium and iron waste products and then heating at low temperatures (220-
240°C) in an oxidising environment. This process is known as torrefaction.

Detailed chemical, physical and agronomic examination of these STPs shows that they
have microstructure and characteristics similar to the microagglomerates found in
Terra Preta soils , and parallel properties to biochar produced under cool fire conditions.
Possible reasons for the similar structures, based on an understanding of the interaction
of clays and soil biota and minerals, will be outlined. Pot and field trials of the STPs are
reported in an accompanying paper. 

35
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Detailed characterisation of biochars obtained from New
Zealand feedstocks at different pyrolysis temperatures

William Aitkenhead (1), Jason Hindmarsh (2), Marta Camps-Arbestain (1),


Mike Hedley (1)
1. New Zealand Biochar Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North,
New Zealand
2. Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, Massey University, Palmerston North,
New Zealand

waitkenhead@gmail.com

Producing chars through the pyrolysis of biomass and incorporation into soils is
proposed as a method for long term sequestration of carbon dioxide into soils
(Swift 2001, Lal 2003, Lehmann et al 2006). The long term goals are the reduction of
atmospheric CO2 concentration and slowing of global warming. Biochar has been
reported to have beneficial effects on soil properties, increasing the water holding
capacity in sandy soils (Rasool et al 2008), improving soil structure (Chan et al 2008),
and enhancing the chemical fertility (Lehmann, 2007). Chars are already widely present
in soils due to natural events (eg forest fires) (Skjemstad 1999) and anthropogenic
processes (eg Amazonian Terra Preta soils).

Interest in the production of commercial pyrolysis units has been expressed by several
parties in New Zealand. These groups wish to create chars from a wide range of
feedstocks, from grasses to sewage sludge. There is an urgent need for information
about the characteristics of such chars before they are added to soil to increase soil
carbon stocks and /or improve the chemical and physical properties of the soil. Studies
have shown that chars vary according the type of feedstock and to slight adjustments
in pyrolysis conditions. Changing the heating rate has been shown to affect the
morphology of the char (Dall’Ora et al 2008). Heating to different temperatures
influences the CEC and ash content of the char, the latter affecting the char’s liming
ability. In this study we report the production of chars in a gas-fired rotating drum
kiln from a range of feedstocks (sewage sludge, woods and crop residues) using two
different pyrolysis heating regimes (final temperatures 400 and 550°C). Each char
was analysed for yield, bulk density, lime equivalence, and elemental composition.
The carbon chemistry of each char was studied using solid state 13C NMR using a
combination of cross polarisation and direct polarisation coupled with magic angle
spinning. Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) spectra, using an ATR attachment, were
also obtained for each char. The combination of these studies has provided a basis for
relating the desired char properties to the feedstock type operating conditions of the
pyrolysis kiln. Char chemical characteristics will also be used to explain the behaviour of
these chars after incorporation into soils for agronomic experimentation.

continued >

36
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Detailed
characterisation of
biochars obtained
from New Zealand
References
feedstocks at
different pyrolysis
Swift R 2001. Sequestration of carbon by soil. Soil Science 166, 858-871
temperatures
Lal R 2003. Global potential of soil carbon sequestration to mitigate the greenhouse
William Aitkenhead,
effect. Critical Reviews in Plant Science 22, 155-184
Jason Hindmarsh,
Lehmann J, Gaunt J, Rondon M 2006. Biochar sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems – Marta Camps-
A review. Mitigation and adaption strategies for global change 11, 403-427 Arbestain,
Mike Hedley
Rasool R, Kukal S, Hira G 2008. Soil organic carbon and physical properties as affected
by long term application of FYM and inorganic fertilisers in maize–wheat system. Soil &
Tillage Research 101, 31-36

Chan K, Van Zweiten L, Meszaros I, Downie A, Joseph S 2008. Using poultry litter
biochars as soil amendments. Australian Journal of Soil Research 46, 437-444

Lehmann J 2007. Bioenergy in the black. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5,
381-387

Skjemstad JO, Taylor JA, Smernik RJ 1999. Estimation of charcoal (char) in soils.
Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 30, 2283-2298

Dall’Ora M, Jensen P, Jensen A 2008. Suspension combustion of wood: Influence of


pyrolysis conditions on char yield, morphology, and reactivity. Energy & Fuels 22, 2955-
2962 

37
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Evaluation of laboratory procedures for the
characterisation of biochars

Balwant Singh (1), Bhupinderpal Singh (2), Annette L Cowie (2)


1. Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006
2. Forest Science Centre, NSW Department of Primary Industries, PO Box 100
Beecroft NSW 2119

b.singh@usyd.edu.au

There is considerable interest in using biochar as a soil amendment to improve soil


fertility and increase carbon sequestration. Biochar can be produced from various
organic waste materials including forestry residues, crop residues, paper sludge and
poultry waste. The properties of biochar vary significantly depending on the organic
waste and pyrolysis conditions such as temperature and activation treatment. Standard
soil characterisation procedures can be applied to characterise biochar, but these
procedures need to be optimised for this purpose.

We determined chemical properties of 11 biochars using standard and modified


laboratory procedures. The biochars used in the study were synthesised from bluegum
wood and leaves, paper sludge, poultry manure on rice hulls, and cow manure, at
different temperatures (400ºC or 550ºC) and activation level (activated or non-activated).
The biochars were analysed for pH, electrical conductivity, cation exchange capacity,
exchangeable cations, total C and N, total concentration of major and trace elements,
surface functional groups, and some other properties.

This study will highlight the differences in the properties of biochars as affected by
the biomass sources and pyrolysis conditions, as well as the laboratory procedures
employed for the analyses. The results will be used to make suggestions about
appropriate procedures for the characterisation of biochars. 

38
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Temperature sensitivity of black carbon decomposition
and oxidation

Binh Thanh Nguyen (1), Johannes Lehmann (1), Stephen Joseph (2),
Bill Hockaday (3)
1. Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 USA
2. University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW, Australia
3. Department of Earth Science, Rice University, Houston TX USA

CL273@cornell.edu

Global warming accelerates decomposition of soil organic carbon (SOC) with different
rates and sensitivity, depending on the quality of the material. However little is known
about the effect of increasing temperature on decomposition of black carbon (BC)
materials with different structures and properties. Four BC materials produced by
carbonising corn residue and oak wood at 350 and 600°C (corn-350-BC, corn-600-BC,
oak-350-BC and oak-600-BC) were mixed with pure sand and incubated at 4, 10, 20,
30, 45 and 60°C for one year to investigate the effect of structure and temperature on
decomposition. Corn-BC was more porous than oak-BC as determined by scanning
electron microscopy (SEM). Increased charring temperature led to better orientation of
graphene layers as observed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Decomposition
increased rapidly with increased incubation temperature, and depended significantly
on the type of BC. As temperature increased from 4 to 60°C, decomposition of corn-350-
BC increased from 10 to 20% of initial C content, corn-600-BC from 4 to 20%, oak-350-
BC from 2.3 to 15%, and oak-600-BC from 1.5 to 14%. Temperature sensitivity (Q10)
decreased with increasing temperature and was highest in oak-600-BC, followed by oak-
350-BC, corn-600-BC and corn-350-BC, indicating that decomposition of more stable
BC was more sensitive to increased temperature than less stable materials. Carbon loss
and potential cation exchange capacity (CECp) correlated significantly with O/C ratios
and change in O/C ratios, indicating that oxidative processes were the most important
mechanism controlling BC decomposition in this study. 

39
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Black carbon characterisation: Implications for
understanding biochar behaviour in depositional
environments
Philippa Ascough (1), Michael Bird (2), William Meredith (3), Colin Snape (3)
1. AMS Laboratory, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, East Kilbride
2. Earth and Environmental Science, James Cook University, Queensland
3. SChEME, University Park, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

michael.bird@jcu.edu.au

Although it is evident that a fraction of pyrolysed biomass is highly recalcitrant, and


can survive for thousands of years in sediments or the dissolved organic carbon pool
prior to its ultimate burial in the deep ocean, it is also clear that other components do
undergo environmental degradation on comparatively short timescales, apparently
as a function of both starting material and environmental conditions. Thus there are
fundamental concerns about quantifying the stability of material such as biochar in a
range of environments, and understanding the mechanisms by which alteration can
occur in natural environments. Natural charcoal samples exposed to the environment
for varying periods of 50 to 50,000 years show far greater overall susceptibility to
oxidative degradation than freshly produced charcoal from both hard and softwood
species. However, there is a wide range in the behaviour of 13 charcoal samples from
a range of depositional environments, which appears strongly dependent on relative
proportions of different carbon fractions within the materials. A key problem is that of
reliably separating and quantifying these different labile and recalcitrant components in
carbonaceous samples, in order to answer the concerns outlined above.

A new approach which holds great promise in this regard is hydropyrolysis (hypy), in
which pyrolysis assisted by high hydrogen pressures (>10 MPa) facilitates reductive
removal of labile organic matter. Hypy has been demonstrated to reliably separate
functionally different carbonaceous sample components for engineering and geological
applications, but its potential in biogeochemical applications remains unexplored. Here,
we present results concerning the potential of hypy to quantify and isolate different
carbon fractions within a variety of sample types, including ancient charcoals from
deposits of geological and archaeological significance. The results presented show that
it is possible to identify a set of conditions for hypy analysis under which lignocellulosic
and other easily convertible organic carbon material (eg lipids, proteins) are fully
removed, but degradation of the resistant black carbon (BC) component of the sample
has not yet commenced. Operating conditions for up to 100% conversion to volatile
products and quantification of BC content (c.5000C) are consistent with other hypy
studies for lignocellulosic material. In addition, hypy appears to provide an effective
means of removing trace contamination from samples for age determination close to
the 14C dating limit and allows retention of the non-BC component of a sample, which
may then be subject to further analysis and measurement. This suggests that hypy
represents a promising new approach not only for BC quantification as an end in itself,
but also for 14C dating where purified BC is the target material for dating. 

40
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Retention capacity of three types of biochar for estrogenic
steroid hormones in dairy farm soil

Prakash Srinivasan (1,2), Ajit K Sarmah (1), Merilyn Manley-Harris (2),


Michael J Antal Jr (3), Doug Stewart (4), Adriana Downie (5), Lukas Van Zwieten (6)
1. Soil Chemical & Biological Interactions, Landcare Research, Private Bag 3127,
Hamilton New Zealand
2. Chemistry Department, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105,
Hamilton New Zealand
3. Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu HI 96822
4. Lakeland Steel Products Ltd. 3 Davis Street, PO Box 1976, Rotorua 3040 New Zealand
5. Best Energies Australia Pty Ltd. 56 Gindurra Road, Somersby NSW 2250 Australia
6. NSW Department of Primary Industries, 1243 Bruxner Highway, Wollongbar
NSW 2477 Australia

sarmaha@landcareresearch.co.nz

Estrogenic steroid hormones are naturally occurring compounds produced by


humans and mammals of all species. Apart from their normal regulatory functions,
steroid hormones are also capable of disrupting the endocrine system and related
developmental processes in wildlife. New Zealand has a rapidly expanding dairy
industry and established beef, sheep, pig and poultry production, with the livestock
population excreting 40 times more waste than that produced by the total human
population. Given the increased land application of effluents, coupled with direct
excretal input by the grazing animals, there is a heightened concern among regulatory
bodies and industry to understand the fate of effluent-related steroid hormones
and the associated risk to the environment. Development of effective remediation
techniques for land contaminated with these compounds will help reduce the risk that
the compounds pose to the receiving environment. There has been a growing interest
in recent years in the potential of biochar for carbon sequestration, reduction in nutrient
leaching, maintenance of soil health and other environmental and agronomic benefits,
although research into such uses is still in its infancy. Biochar can comprise 60-80%
of black carbon, and due to its high surface area, potential exists for this material to
be used as an effective remediation tool (eg biochar-bed filtration system) to remove
contaminants associated with animal waste effluent. The potential of various types of
biochar for such remediation has not yet been investigated. In this preliminary study,
we examined three types of biochar (corn cob, pine sawdust and greenwaste) and their
ability to retain an estrogenic steroid hormone (estradiol), and its primary metabolite
(estrone) using a representative dairy farm soil from New Zealand. This poster presents:
• findings of the preliminary biochar characterisation data
• initial results of the laboratory batch sorption studies using a simple mass-
balance approach and a complex solvent extraction scheme to derive partitioning
coefficients for these hormones in biochar-amended farm soil. 

41
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Simulating the weathering of biochar with a Soxhlet
reactor

FX Yao (1,2), S Virgel (1), F Macías (3), J Arostegui (4), M Camps-Arbestain (1,5)
1. NEIKER, Berreaga 1, Derio 48160, Spain
2. Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, East Beijing Street 71,
Nanjing 210008 PR China
3. Departamento de Edafología y Química Agrícola, Facultad de Biología, USC,
Santiago de Compostela15782 Spain
4. Depto de Mineralogía y Petrología, Facultad de Ciencia y Tecnología, Leioa-48080,
UPV Spain
5. Soil and Earth Sciences, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University,
Palmerston North New Zealand

fyao@neiker.net

Biochar consists of a biomass-derived black carbon (BC) obtained by low temperature


pyrolysis. Black carbon has been postulated to make a significant contribution to
recalcitrant organic carbon (C) in soils and sediments and consequently to play an
important role in global C cycling (Lehmann et al 2008). Much interest has focused
on the potential for the addition of biochar to soils to provide a large C sink and
enhance soil properties (Lehmann, 2007). However, when biochar is applied to soil,
it will weather to some degree, no matter how recalcitrant it is. As the weathering
proceeds, characteristics of biochar such as pH, CEC, nutrient content, reactive surface,
C sequestration potential and even morphology, may change over time. Moreover,
compounds released from the weathering of biochar may have as yet unknown impacts
on the environment. In order to investigate the long term behaviour of biochar, a
modified Soxhlet extractor was used to accelerate the weathering of biochar with
aqueous solutions. Soxhlet experiments were previously used by Pédro (1961) to study
the geochemical weathering of rocks. Recently, a modified reactor has been used to
study the long term release of compounds from solidified/stabilised wastes (Humez et
al 1997, Humez and Prost 1999, Badreddine et al 2004). In the present study, the reactor
was further modified to maintain the leaching water temperature at around 30°C. The
flow rate of water was controlled to approximately one drop every two seconds. The
biochar used in the study was produced from sewage sludge at 550ºC in a gas-fired
rotating kiln (char provided by P Bishop and M Hedley, Massey University). One reactor
cartridge of the Soxhlet reactor was filled with biochar only, while the other cartridge
was filled with a mixture of biochar and humic acid (20:1 wt:wt basis). The kinetics of
element release were studied during the 300 h-period of weathering. Changes in the
crystalline fraction of the solid phase were assessed by X-ray diffraction (XRD). Scanning
electron microscopy (SEM) monitored the morphological transformations. Energy
dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) was carried out for elemental analysis and chemical
characterisation of the samples. Here we will describe the chemistry of the leachates
during the weathering of biochar and the transformations that may arise within the
solid phase.
42
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Simulating the
weathering of biochar
with a Soxhlet reactor
FX Yao, S Virgel,
References F Macías, J Arostegui,
M Camps-Arbestain
Badreddine R, Humez AN, Mingelgrin U, Benchare A, Meducin F, Prost R 2004. Retention
of trace metals by solidified/stabilised wastes: Assessment of long term metal release.
Environ. Sci. Technol. 38, 1383-1398.

Humez N, Prost R 1999. A new experimental approach to study the long term behaviour
of solidified/stabilised wastes. Chemical Speciation and Bioavailability 11, 1-24.

Humez N, Humez AL, Juste C, Prost R 1997. A new assessment of mobility of elements in
sediments and wastes. Chemical Speciation and Bioavailability 9, 57-65.

Lehmann J 2007. A handful of carbon. Nature 447, 143-144.

Lehmann J, Skjemstad J, Sohi S, Carter J, Barson M, Falloon P, Coleman K, Woodbury P,


Krull E 2008. Australian climate-carbon cycle feedback reduced by soil black carbon.
Geoscience. Doi: 10.1038/ngeo358.

Pédro G 1961. An experimental study on the geochemical weathering of crystalline


rocks by water. Clay Minerals Bull 4, 266-281. 

43
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Characterisation of chars produced from different
carbonisation processes

AB Fuertes (1), M Sevilla (1), W Aitkenhead (2), JA Macia Agulló (1), S Fiol (3),
R López (3), F Macías (4), F Arce (3), M Camps-Arbestain (2)
1. Instituto Nacional del Carbón (CSIC), Apartado 73, 33080-Oviedo Spain
2. New Zealand Biochar Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North
New Zealand
3. Departamento de Química Física, Facultad de Química, Universidad de Santiago de
Compostela, 15782-Santiago de Compostela Spain
4. Departamento de Edadología y Química Agricola, Facultad de Biologia, Universidad
de Santiago de Compostela, 15782-Santiago de Compostela Spain

M.Camps@massey.ac.nz

The conversion of biomass (short term biodegradable C) into a more durable form
(eg black carbon) is considered an important method of withdrawing CO2 from the
atmosphere and has generated a great deal of interest within the framework of global
climate change. A lot of the attention is currently being paid to obtaining black carbon
from slow-pyrolysis processes, with the final aim of adding it to soils as a C sink and
soil amendment. In this context, the charred material is denoted biochar. Conversion
of biomass into a carbonised material can also be achieved though hydrothermal
carbonisation of biomass, the final solid product of this process being termed hydrochar.
While the pyrolysis is based on the carbonisation of dried feedstocks under O2 free
conditions, the hydrothermal carbonisation produces char by applying high pressure
to a feedstock mixed with a certain volume of water. In this study, we characterised
different biochars and hydrochars produced by the two processes. The feedstocks used
for biochar production were eucalyptus and corn stover. These were pyrolysed using
a gas-fired rotating drum kiln at 550°C. The feedstocks used for hydrochar production
were eucalyptus sawdust and barley straw. These were autoclaved at 250°C and
40 atm of pressure. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) microphotographs, FT-IR,
Raman, X-ray photoelectron (XPS) and solid state 13C NMR spectra were obtained for
each char. Elemental composition, cation exchange capacity, content of acid groups
(mainly carboxylic and phenolic groups), porosity, yield and bulk density were also
determined. The characterisation of the different chars is currently being evaluated with
the aim of having an in-depth knowledge of their properties and their suitability as soil
amendments. 

44
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
A fundamental understanding of biochar:
Implications and opportunities for the grains industry

Lynne M Macdonald (1), Daniel V Murphy (2), Evelyn S Krull (1)


1. CSIRO Land & Water, PMB 2, Glen Osmond SA 5064
2. University of Western Australia, School of Earth & Geographical Sciences,
Crawley WA 6009

Lynne.Macdonald@csiro.au

Although biochar-carbon is largely unavailable to biological degradation, it has a


strong physico-chemical impact on the microbial habitat. Since soil microbial processes
underpin many key ecosystem functions, there is a need to improve our mechanistic
understanding of how biochar application to soil influences microbial community
structure and function. We explore key biological issues including:
• meta-genomic and NanoSIMS approaches to assess functionally-significant
microorganisms and their spatial distribution in biochar amended soil
• energy flow and nutrient fate via altered bacterial and fungal ratios
• improved functional resilience through providing a protective micro-habitat.

This GRDC project will address these issues across a range of biochar and soil types.
The work will help to clarify the mechanisms by which biochar application alters
soil functioning, and where biochar application can contribute most significantly to
sustainable agricultural management. 

45
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Carbonisation of empty palm oil fruit bunches using the
hydrothermal method

Nsamba Hussein Kisiki


Universiti Putra, Malaysia

Nsambahussein2000@yahoo.com

Disposal of empty fruit bunches (EFB) that remain after oil palm fruits are removed at
processing plants is an important problem in the palm oil industry. More than 8 million
tonnes of EFB are generated annually in Malaysia and Indonesia. Parts of the bunches
are used for boiler fuel and fertiliser, and the rest is waste, resulting in the loss of
valuable potential energy.

We have investigated the use of EFB as a fuel. To produce charcoal, EFB was treated
under hydrothermal condition at 423-623 K without a catalyst, and then compared
with charcoal carbonised under dry nitrogen conditions. The charcoal yields were
31.4% under hydrothermal conditions at 573K and 27.8% under dry conditions at 873K,
respectively. The carbon content of charcoal was almost equal value: 573K produced
under hydrothermal conditions, and 873K under dry conditions. The heating value
of charcoal obtained from hydrothermal conditions at 573K was high (25.8MJ/kg),
compared with that obtained from dry conditions at 873K (22.0MJ/kg) so it is suitable
as an energy feedstock. The studies clarified that hydrothermal conditions promoted
carbonisation of EFB at low temperatures. 

46
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Production of charcoal compost from organic solid waste

Gustan Pari (1), Abdul Gani (2)


1. Forest Products Research and Development Center, Bogor-Indonesia
2. Syiah Kuala University, Aceh-Indonesia

gustanp@yahoo.com

Concerns about increasing levels of atmospheric carbon and the consequences for
global warming have prompted attempts to sequester carbon. Several authors have
recommended charcoal as a potential carbon sink. Charcoal manufacture requires
woody biomass, and abundant wood wastes are generated from logging and wood
industry activity, together with organic solid waste. These wastes decompose naturally,
or are burnt and emit CO2. If they are carbonised and stored, for example, in soil under
forest plantations, carbon is sequestered and waste managed productively.

This paper discusses the carbon sink potential of charcoal and wood vinegar produced
from organic solid waste and compost produced from soft organic waste. The charcoal
was produced in a drum retort with condenser system to collect wood vinegar at
temperatures of 350-510ºC. The soft organic waste was converted into compost by
biodecomposers. The charcoal compost from organic waste was used for fertiliser in a
plantation of Gynura pseudochina.

The yield of charcoal was 21-41% (w/w) with a moisture content 2.5-4.3%, ash content
12-18%, volatile matter 18-31%, and fixed carbon 56-69%.

The yield of wood vinegar was 30-38% (w/w), with 0.0082-0.022% phenol, and pH
of 3.8-4.8. The major component of the wood vinegar was 1,1 di methyl hidrazin, 2,6
dimethoxy phenol.

Total biomass of G. pseudochina increased from 89 to 233 g after 90 days. 

47
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Assessment of yield, salt tolerance and energy conversion
of Arundo donax, a potential biochar and biofuel crop

Chris M Williams (1), Tapas K Biswas (1), Adriana Downie (2), Prof Peter Rogers (3)
1. SARDI, Waite Research Precinct, GPO Box 397 Adelaide SA 5001 Australia
2. BEST Energies Australia, Somersby NSW Australia
3. University of NSW, Sydney Australia

williams.chrism@saugov.sa.gov.au

Recent study by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and
partners has shown that the perennial rhizomatous grass Arundo donax produced 45
t/ha of above ground oven-dry biomass in its first year of growth on saline land with
saline winery wastewater (2-9 dS/m), near Barmera, South Australia. Twenty-one tonnes
of this biomass was carbon, sequestered by photosynthesis. We classed Arundo donax as
a halophyte because of its tolerance to the high saline environment of up to 25 dS/m.

BEST Energies conducted trials on the Arundo donax biomass and found it suitable for
conversion to biochar and green energy via their proprietary slow pyrolysis process.
Pyrolysis processing to achieve a 30% biochar yield (dry basis) resulted in 52% of energy
in the 19MJ/kg feedstock being liberated as a syngas, which is suitable for generating
thermal or electrical energy. The carbon : hydrogen ratio was increased from 8.2 in
the biomass to 29.4 in the resultant biochar, with a respective increase in fixed carbon
content from 20 to 74%, indicating a significant increase in the aromaticity and, hence,
stability of the material.

Initial laboratory scale tests at UNSW estimated that a dry tonne of Arundo donax should
yield 250 litres of ethanol, based on 65% cellulose and hemicellulose in the Barmera
biomass sample, and an initial 65% sugar recovery to ferment to ethanol. Further work is
in progress to apply improved acid and alkali pre-treatment and better use of enzymes
to increase the recovery of sugars to 85%, to obtain an estimated yield of ethanol of
some 330 litres per dry tonne of Arundo donax.

Lignin-based residues from ethanol ferments can be used for biochar production.
Our preliminary study indicated that Arundo donax has good potential to be grown as
a feedstock for biochar and biofuels on marginal lands in non-floodplain zones using
saline and/or wastewaters. 

48
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
A simple method for production of porous bamboo
charcoal

Gou Yamamoto (1), Tsuyoshi Hirowaka (2)


1. Organic farmer, Gaia System Co Ltd, Shizuoka Japan
2. International Charcoal Cooperative Association, Tokyo Japan

hrwk_arang@yahoo.co.jp

Bamboo grows very fast. Within two months, it reaches 20 metres height and is fully
grown after three years. It sprouts every year and the shoots are harvested for food.
The canes can be used to produce porous bamboo charcoal (PBC). PBC is produced
as powder or particles and is soft, alkaline and highly absorbent. Compared to wood
charcoal, it contains more minerals, less tar and no harmful ingredients. Production costs
are 80% less than traditional kiln production.

Method of production
Tools: Shovel, hoe, tin plate 270cm x 90cm, 500 litres of water.

1. Fell the bamboo, cut it into 3-4m lengths and leave until the leaves have dried
2. Clear a 10m x 10m area, lay the tin plate on the ground and cover it with branches
of bamboo and dry canes. Use the branches to build the fire until it is burning well,
and then throw on branches and canes alternately in a same direction until the fire is
burning slowly.
3. Draw out the live coals and spread them to cool down. If water is available, use it to
extinguish the coals. If they are not properly charred, throw them into the fire again.
4. Repeat these steps until all the bamboo is charred. One person can produce 160kg of
PBC in half a day.
5. Leave the PBC to dry well. When it is dry and light, store it in the warehouse.

Application
PBC can be applied directly to farmland (2t/ha) and bamboo forests (5t/ha). For bamboo
shoots, higher yields are realised after the third year. I also use PBC for my bokashi
fertiliser. Bokashi is a kind of compost made of organic material and usually needs hard
work to turn it over. When I mix it with PBC, I don’t have to turn it over to get better
quality bokashi. PBC is very useful for organic farmers. 

49
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Preparation of low volatile charcoal for liquid steel
recarburisation plant trials

Michael Somerville (1), John Mathieson (2), Phil Ridgeway (3), Sharif Jahanshahi (1)
1. CSIRO Australia
2. BlueScope Steel, Australia
3. OneSteel, Australia

Michael.Somerville@csiro.au

This paper summarises the processes used to produce three tonnes of low volatile
charcoal suitable for plant trials of the recarburisation of molten steel. The relatively
large tonnage of material required for the trials coupled with the requirement of a
very low volatile content created a number of problems for the project participants.
The paper outlines the equipment and processes used and the problems which were
overcome before a satisfactory charcoal product was produced. The stages covered
include:
• sourcing and handling of the wood
• charcoal production using beehive coke ovens
• charcoal characterisation
• charcoal handling, drying and bagging. 

50
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Maximising char yield from pyrolysis of low cost biomass

Rex and Daniel Manderson


Chaotech Pty Ltd, Australia

Rexm@chaotech.com.au

Chaotech Pty Ltd has been working to produce a pilot plant for the production of char
from biomass waste. From the beginning we have made the maximising of the char
yield the objective of the development project. In this paper we describe the process
identified from our analysis of published work and how that has been developed
into a continuous production plant. Only char with a carbon content above 75% was
accepted. To establish a base line for testing our process and equipment modules we
have used only one sawdust source. This material from a local furniture manufacturer
is predominantly Australian hoop pine. We discuss the implications of the process for
the application to scale-up plants. The applicability of the plant design to alternative
biomass sources is discussed. 

51
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
OpenChar: Open-sourced biochar production technology

Andrew Murphy (1), Lizzie Brown (2)


1. Hatch Consulting, Brisbane
2. Engineers Without Borders, Brisbane

AMurphy@hatch.com.au

The sequestration of carbon in agricultural soils in the form of charcoal has been
recognised as a cornerstone technology in the drive to halt and reverse the increasing
levels of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere.

Due to the distributed nature of biomass, the intended application, and the potential
synergies from operating a pyrolysis facility, the most advantageous pathway to
implement the technology is at the scale of individual farms. The key barriers to
implementation at this scale are the capital cost and operating know-how of the
pyrolysis technology.

The Hatch-EWB OpenChar Initiative aims to eliminate these as barriers to adoption of


the process. With the primary focus of profit potential put to one side, the extraordinary
potential of biomass pyrolysis and biochar application to soils will be unleashed.
Initiated by Hatch and in partnership with Engineers Without Borders, a not-for-profit
organisation that connects engineers with social development projects, the OpenChar
Initiative will allow engineers and other interested participants to collaborate in
developing technologies that enable implementation of biochar at a range of scales
and in a range of circumstances. All technologies developed and experience gained will
be open-sourced and available for anyone in the world to access, with the only proviso
being that all lessons-learnt are provided back to the OpenChar community. Through
this open and collaborative process, the Initiative aims to provide simple and low cost
designs that can be implemented on a distributed basis. As a consequence, the Initiative
will also provide a vehicle for young engineers to develop new skills while contributing
to a project with numerous social benefits.

The OpenChar Initiative will exist as an open-source web site that will allow any
interested person to contribute by submitting designs, modifying designs, solving
problems, contributing case histories, providing practical guidance and operational
knowledge, etc. Open sourcing is an emerging field and is demonstrating substantial
success particularly with design initiatives typified by the examples of Innocentive.com,
Asknature.org and Instructables.com.

Biochar is a technology with such enormous potential to address a problem that needs
such immediate action that anything that can be done to accelerate its acceptance
needs to be pursued. The Hatch-EWB OpenChar Initiative is proposed as a vehicle to
drive its adoption. 

52
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Project 540: Low-emission, low cost biochar kilns for
small farms and villages

Geoff Moxham, Paul Taylor, Peter Gibson, John Seed


Rainforest Information Centre, Lismore NSW

potaylor@bigpond.com

Half the world’s population uses biomass for cooking, much of it charcoal. As a fuel
source charcoal has an exaggerated impact on global warming, even more than direct
biomass use, because of the inefficiencies of low-tech pyrolysis (less than 25% of
biomass energy retained in the charcoal), the greenhouse potency of emitted methane,
often-used clear felling, and transport. Yet the charcoal cycle could produce net carbon
capture if more efficient pyrolysis of local waste biomass was achieved, along with the
use of emitted wood gas as fuel for cooking, heating and electricity generation, and
with application of the char to the soil for soil fertility and C sequestration. Additionally,
much small farm and property woody waste could be pyrolysed to biochar for
sequestration if affordable, easy to construct biochar kilns could make the process non-
polluting and economical.

Project 540’s focus is on proving that emissions from small biochar kilns can be
controlled to best practice standards, while still using easy designs, accessible materials,
simple cues for emissions checking, and basic instrumentation. The intention is to
correlate emissions-related settings and cues, such as air control devices and visual
assessment of exhaust gases, with hard results of emission measurements from CO,
hydrocarbons and temperature monitors.

The project is building and intensively testing a series of small kilns, labelled the Phoenix
Series. Phoenix-1 and Phoenix-2 are biochar mini-kilns integrated with space-heating,
hot bath or other devices to productively use the waste heat. These are from 20 up
to 60 litres capacity, cold-loaded with 20 litres Folke Guenther inverted drums. The
project intends to scale devices to provide at least three litres of char/person/day, while
providing C-negative process heat and hot water. Both P-1 and P-2 are being used in
preparation and proving of the 1000 litre Phoenix-3 design elements, and are also a
source of various char samples sent to Wollongbar DPI, under Lukas Van Zwieten, for
characterising.

The operation of the large P-3 kiln will include extensive data logging, and air control,
allowing kiln temperatures to be controlled at 700ºC at the kiln ceiling, 500ºC at the
pyrolysis vessel core, with a one hour soak, and a total residence time of about 2½ hours.
The height and efficiency of the chimney-stack will be a prime focus, to make use of
natural vortex and venturi effects, thus obviating the parasitic power costs of fan-forced
air. Pre-heated air is supplied by tuyeres to the combustion zone. A ‘bourrey-box’ after-
burner fuelled with charcoal is used for complete combustion, in excess air at >800ºC, of
the start-up smoke.

continued >
53
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Project 540: Low-
emission, low cost
biochar kilns for small
farms and villages
Geoff Moxham, Pending further grants, a series of innovative ring kilns will be constructed to allow
Paul Taylor, continuous manual batch operation, and high efficiency, in a planar version of the
Peter Gibson, ‘climbing’ or Naborigama community pottery kiln. Project 540 is funded by environment
John Seed grants from Artists for Planet earth-UK, Rainforest Information Centre, Lismore NSW, and
Australian Tropical Research Station, Daintree Qld. The project results are committed
to the Creative Commons public domain, and a Small Kilns Wiki has been set up at
carbonforlife.com, to act as an information and development node for small user-
producer kiln makers around the planet. 

54
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Maximising environmental and economic benefits of
biochar production using an innovative indirectly-fired
kiln technology
Dongke Zhang (1), Danny Griffin (2), Matthew Martella (2), Michael Martella (2)
1. Centre for Petroleum, Fuels and Energy, School of Mechanical Engineering (M050),
The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley WA
2. ANSAC Pty Ltd, Bunbury WA

Dongke.Zhang@uwa.edu.au

This contribution presents an innovative and cost-effective kiln technology for biofuels
and biochar production and reports the results of a series of pilot-scale plant trials of
biochar production using a variety of biomass feedstocks.

The author, in collaboration with ANSAC Pty Ltd, has conducted a preliminary scoping
study to integrate renewable bioenergy production into mine land rehabilitation. At
the centre of this strategy is an indirectly-fired kiln process in which dry biomass, along
with appropriate catalyst if required, is fed into the inner kiln tube. Here it is heated to
undergo a pyrolysis process to break the biomass into biochar and volatile matter with
easy and effective atmosphere control to maintain an inert pyrolysis condition. Heat for
the pyrolysis is provided by combustion of the volatile matter and a supplementary fuel
(natural gas or LPG) in the combustion chamber between the inner kiln tube and an
outer shell. Since the atmosphere is strictly controlled, the quality and yield of biochar
depend only on the kiln operating temperature and solid mixing characteristics and
retention time in the kiln.

The kiln temperature is controlled by the firing rate and flame dynamics of the fuel
and volatile matter from the pyrolysis process. Enhanced solid mixing is achieved by
the installation of lifters within the kiln and the solid retention time can be adjusted by
varying the rotation speed of the inner kiln tube. The process offers sufficient freedom of
operation to allow the pyrolysis to be optimised for a given feedstock.

Laboratory experimentation and pilot-scale plant trials with various biomass feedstocks
(sawdust, straw, and woodchips) as well as sand and glass beads have been undertaken.
Correlations of sophisticated temperature measurements and biochar quality have
enabled the mechanisms of the pyrolysis and biochar formation process in the kiln to
be understood, which sheds further light on the future development of this technology.
This technology allows independent control of the solid retention time and the process
gas residence time in the kiln, so its applications in small-scale char activation and waste
gasification operating at higher temperatures offer both environmental and economic
advantages. 

55
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Maximising
environmental and
economic benefits of
biochar production
using an innovative
indirectly-fired kiln
technology
Dongke Zhang,
Danny Griffin,
Matthew Martella,
Michael Martella

56
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
The carbon abatement potential and sustainability
credentials of Project Rainbow Bee Eater

Dr Joe Herbertson
Crucible Carbon Pty Ltd, PO Box 183, Mayfield NSW 2304

Joe.Herbertson@thecrucible.com.au

Project Rainbow Bee Eater in the Western Australian wheat belt is arguably the
most ambitious biochar project under commercial development in the world at the
moment. The project is described in another presentation at this conference; here
we provide a lifecycle evaluation of the carbon abatement potential of the project, in
which agricultural residues (straw) and synergistic woody crops (mallee) are converted
by pyrolysis to biochar (returned to the soil) and renewable energy (electricity in the
base case). The analysis confirms the importance of process efficiency in maximising
the level of net achievable abatement. For the adopted technology, efficiency is high
since green biomass can be processed directly without prior drying, process heat is
generated internally and there is full utilisation of the biogas and bioliquids produced
along with the char. In these circumstances the net carbon abatement of the process
is at least 1.5 t CO2 per tonne of biomass feed (on a dry weight basis). The fixed carbon
within the biochar returned to the soil is an effective, long lasting, value adding and
easily quantifiable method of carbon capture and storage. The importance of having
this recognised within the emerging emissions trading scheme in Australia is discussed.
The presentation also presents a review of the wider sustainability dimensions of Project
Rainbow Bee Eater, in relationship to ‘food versus fuel’ issues, system benefits for wheat
farming, nutrient recycling, soil quality, water impacts and regional employment. This
review shows that the project not only makes sustainable use of land and biomass
resources, it will have significant regenerative benefits in the region. 

57
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Agro-economic valuation of biochar using field-derived
data

Lukas Van Zwieten (1), Steve Kimber (1), Leanne Orr (2), Steve Morris (1),
Adriana Downie (3,4), Katrina Sinclair (1), Stephen Joseph (3), K. Yin Chan (5)
1. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar NSW 2477 Australia
2. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Forest Road, Orange NSW 2800
3. BEST Energies, Somersby NSW 2250 Australia
4. School of Material Science and Engineering, University of NSW, NSW 2052 Australia
5. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Richmond NSW 2753 Australia

lukas.van.zwieten@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Scientific data on the agronomic benefits of biochar allows for economic evaluation of
its value using a range of methodologies. This is an industry-enabling analysis allowing
justification of the economic models of potential pyrolysis projects. A number of
replicated long term field trials were established in a subtropical environment on the far
north coast of NSW (29°S, 153°E) Australia. Trials are on an acidic red Ferrosol with low
nutrient availability.

In December 2007 biochar derived from poultry litter was incorporated into soil at
rates of 0, 5, 10, 20 and 50t/ha and planted with sweetcorn in replicated (n=4) plots.
Agronomic parameters, including soil chemical and biological characteristics, were
measured so that changes could be observed. Emissions of greenhouse gases from the
soil surface were also tested using a static chamber technique. The nil treatment plot
yielded 16t corn cob/ha while the 10 and 50 t poultry litter biochar/ha achieved 25 and
35 t cob /ha, respectively. Similarly improved yields were obtained in the following faba
bean crop, planted May 2008. Changes in soil chemistry included a reduction in soil
acidity, and an increase in soil N, P, CEC and C. This was an immediate response to the
biochar treatments which was sustained over the two cropping seasons.

In an adjacent field trial with sweetcorn, papermill biochar and poultry litter biochar
(both at 10t/ha) were tested in a randomised design (n=3) with controls including
nil treatment, lime at 3t/ha, and commercial compost at 25t/ha. All treatments were
repeated with and without luxury-rate fertiliser application. The highest yields were
observed where biochars were added with fertiliser. However, poultry litter biochar
alone outperformed luxury-rate fertiliser treatment, lime amendment and compost
amendment. These plots were sown to faba bean (May 2008) and back to sweetcorn
December 2008, with no additional biochar application.

This paper will describe the field trials in detail and include methods for application
of the biochar to soil in the different farming systems. An economic value of biochar
amendment will be presented using two methodologies:
• chemical composition of the biochars
• gross margin analysis with sensitivity calculations. 

58
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Biochar: A people initiative

Krushnun Venkat
BioSol a v, Chennai India

krushnunv@yahoo.com

Biochar will find agricultural usage when field-produced biochar is standardised and
blended with nutrients as an agricultural input. India produces around 50-100 million
t/year of agricultural residues, leaf litter and biotrash that can be used to make biochar.

The biochar industry can operate at two levels: one investment-based and the other
people-based. An industrial scale biochar plant will produce high carbon biochar from
standardised inputs (eg rice husk) and power, so will be a zero waste initiative. The
payback period of such a plant is less than three years.

At the village level, leaf litter and bio trash can be converted into biochar with low
capital investment (eg A$100 per kiln) to produce non-standard biochar of around 30 kg
per day per field kiln. Larger field kilns producing up to 100 kg output per day are also
known. Both kiln types are available in India.

The field kilns could supply non-standard leaf litter biochar to the industrial plants at
commercial rates for blending to standardise carbon levels. This material could then
be added to biofertilisers such as castor/jatropa cake or chemical fertilisers to produce
a pelletised product that could partially replace existing fertiliser usage. Complex
fertilisers could also be produced with biochar for slow release to establish the first
footprints for biochar in India via a known market for NPK.

The symbiotic relationship between the industrial plant and the field kilns will
popularise biochar usage, as supporting biochar means increasing income for farmers.
This will lead to a large acreage of trial plots for biochar based on which a national
biochar initiative can take off. India can then avoid over-reliance on monsoons for its
food supply by moving into irrigated land fully for its food based on biochar-driven
abundant productivity.

Power production will qualify for carbon emission reduction (CER) under the Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM). Pyrolysis of leaf litter may entitle field biochar
production to CER as well, as the quantity of carbon from litter can be verified. My paper
contains more details on the cost-benefit analysis of biochar proposals, and also looks at
India’s fertiliser usage patterns and laws. 

59
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Development of sustainable fuels and reductants for the
iron and steel industry

Michael Somerville (1), John Mathieson (2), Phil Ridgeway (3), Sharif Jahanshahi (1)
1. CSIRO Australia
2. BlueScope Steel, Australia
3. OneSteel, Australia

Michael.Somerville@csiro.au

The Australian iron and steel industry in cooperation with CSIRO and CSRP ( Centre for
Sustainable Resource Processing) has initiated a long term project on the utilisation of
biomass in the iron and steel making process. The industry, represented by BlueScope
Steel and One Steel, envisages major reductions in CO2 emissions through the
substitution of sustainable charcoal derived from biomass for fossil based coal and coke.

This paper outlines the approach used by the research participants to facilitate the
use of charcoal in the iron and steel making process. The paper outlines different
components of the project including:
• Identification of opportunities for charcoal utilisation
• Estimation of biomass resources available for industrial applications
• Pyrolysis technologies suitable for the iron and steel industry
• Defining charcoal quality suitable for particular applications.

Future research directions in the project will also be outlined. 

60
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Charcoal use in agriculture in Japan

Makoto Ogawa
Osaka Institute of Technology

makoto-ogawa@mvg.biglobe.ne.jp

Intensive agriculture has been practised in Asian countries since ancient times because
of high population densities, limited arable areas, and rice cultivation. All kinds of
organic wastes, including human and livestock excreta, straw, leaf litter, grass, sewage
and rice husk charcoal have been used as fertilisers and soil amendments in agriculture,
gardening and revegetation. Wood ash containing cinders was an important material for
soil amendment and mineral supply. In Japan, forest resources, firewood and charcoal
were the most important energy sources until the 20th century, with charcoal production
reaching 2.7 million t/year in 1947. It has been estimated that 10 million tonnes of wood,
mainly broad-leaved trees, was carbonised by traditional kilns at that time.

With increased use of imported fossil fuels in the 1960s, use of charcoal dwindled to
30,000 t/year by the 1980s but in the 1970s scientists began promoting its production
and use, and in 1986 a technical group was established to study carbonisation
technology, soil amendment in agriculture and revegetation, activation of
microorganisms and water purification. In 1990 the research results were published and
widely distributed, and charcoal and wood vinegar were authorised for soil amendment
by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery.

Rice husk charcoal


Rice husk charcoal is a common soil amendment in Asian countries. Dried rice husks are
carbonised automatically and continuously in self-fuelled kilns, with extra heat used for
small scale power generation. Research since the 1980s has found that it can enhance
formation of arbuscular mycorrhiza and root nodules and increase the rate of nitrogen
fixation; increase plant biomass, root biomass, and crop yields; improve soil porosity, water
holding capacity, pH and cation exchange capacity; and absorb pesticides and herbicides.

Wood and bark charcoal


Trials using bark charcoal powder and chemical fertiliser showed increased mycorrhiza
formation in pinetrees and increased arbuscular mycorrhiza and root nodule formations
in soybeans. Yields indicated that chemical fertiliser could be reduced to 5% if charcoal
was also applied, due to growth of roots and symbiotic microorganisms. Charcoal
carbonised under high temperature is usually alkaline and porous with no substrate for
saprophytic microorganisms. When added to soil, however, plant roots grow towards it
and microorganisms that can endure high alkalinity propagate in and around it. Other
research has found that while wood charcoal improves soil properties, plants respond
more when the charcoal is mixed with chemical fertilisers, zeolite, wood vinegar and
organic fertiliser.

continued > 61
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Charcoal use in
agriculture in Japan
Makoto Ogawa

There are noticeable differences in plant growth between white and black charcoal. In
general, white charcoal with fine pores and high pH is suitable for immobilisation of
bacteria, while black charcoal is more suitable for fungi formation. Trials have found
that finer-pored oak charcoal is more suitable than pine for immobilising bacteria, and
coconut shell charcoal inoculated with arbuscular mycorrhiza suppressed infection by
the soil-borne pathogen Fusarium spp.

Charcoal compost
Making compost from litter and excretions has been common in Japan for a long time.
In the 1980s, charcoal compost was made from fresh chicken dung and palmshell
charcoal; the more charcoal used, the faster the composting process. Under aerobic
conditions the Bacillus group became dominant and produced antibiotics that inhibited
growth of soil-borne pathogens and suppressed root diseases. Charcoal compost is now
sold in Japan as a biological fungicide. Various other organic composts are now being
been produced from livestock excretions and charcoal and sold commercially.

Wood vinegar
Wood vinegar is a liquid produced by cooling the smoke from carbonisation with
air or water. The liquid contains the volatile substances emitted with pyrolysis; the
water soluble fraction is wood vinegar and the oily fraction is wood tar. The chemical
composition of wood vinegar depends on the raw materials. The major components
of broad-leaved trees are water (81%), acetic acid (8-10%), methanol (2.44%), acetone
(0.56%) and soluble tar (7%). Conifers are rich in water and acetic acid (3.5%), but the
other components are lower than in broad-leaved trees. The chemical components of
wood vinegar tend to be unstable, so the vinegar is sold as a complex material. It has
been recognised since the 1960s that wood vinegars extracted from broad-leaved trees
are more efficient than conifer vinegars for growth and rooting of various plants. The
acidity of wood vinegar concentrate can kill microorganisms, plants and some larvae,
but the diluted form stimulates rooting, plant growth and microbial propagation.

Use of waste
In 2000 incineration of waste was prohibited in Japan to reduce the discharge of CO2
and dioxins. Some cities are now carbonising their garbage, but are encountering
problems. The high water content of the waste requires a lot of energy to carbonise, and
some products are unsuitable for agricultural use because of the high concentration of
heavy metals and salt. Thermal electric power plants have tried burning the charcoal
with coal and oil. Wastes disposed from food processing and livestock excretions
have been also carbonised and used in agriculture with compost. The construction
industry produces 4.6 million tonnes of waste wood each year and some construction
companies have now switched from incineration to carbonisation to produce charcoal
for agricultural use, and for humidity control in houses and buildings to control moulds
and ticks. Thinnings from bamboo forests produce a charcoal with a different structure
to wood charcoal, useful for purifying water and air.
62 continued >
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
A feasibility study of carbonisation of waste wood from construction, saw mills, prunings
and other sources powerd by surplus heat from the carbonising incinerator estimates
that waste wood of 936.0 Mg-C/year could be converted into a net carbon sink of 298.5
Mg-C/year, fixing 31.9 % of the carbon into charcoal.

Another study in Sumatra, Indonesia estimates that 368,000 t/year of biomass residue
and waste from the plantation and pulp mill can be converted into 77,000 t/year of
charcoal, thereby reducing carbon emissions by 62,000 t-C/year (or 230,000 t-CO2).

As charcoal production and use expands, technology has grown from simple kilns to
automatic mass production facilities including movable batch type kilns, rotary kilns
and swing kilns. In some cases the extra gas has been used for thermal electric power
generation. At the same time, studies are establishing industrial standards and functions
for carbonised materials, bringing the charcoal industry into the 21st century.

This abstract summarises the results of Japanese research into the use of charcoal in
agriculture in the past 30 years. For copies of the full paper, which also covers forestry
and has extensive references, please email me. 

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Discovering Terra Preta Australis: Rethinking the capacity
of Australian soils to sequester carbon

Adriana Downie (1,2), Lukas Van Zwieten (3), Ronald Smernik (4), Tim Flannery (5),
Stephen Kimber (3), Paul Munroe (1)
1. School of Material Science and Engineering, University of NSW, NSW
2. BEST Energies, Somersby NSW
3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar NSW
4. Department of Soil and Water, University of Adelaide, SA
5. Faculty of Science, Charles Sturt University Orange NSW
6. Macquarie University NSW

This paper describes the discovery of Terra Preta Australis, and redefines our
understanding of the long term carbon storage capacity of some of Australia’s
agricultural soils.

Two thousand years ago, above the flood zone of the Amazon River in South America,
the pre-Columbian inhabitants were attending earthen ovens. Along with cooking and
pottery these ovens produced biochar which was added to the surrounding soils to
create the Amazonian Dark Earths or Terra Preta we know today. The Terra Preta of the
Amazon basin have provided an invaluable case study of the long term turnover rates,
productivity (soil fertility) and possible side effects of biochar-amended soils. They have
demonstrated that biochar addition can provide an agronomically beneficial, low risk
sink, capable of storing large amounts of carbon for hundreds to thousands of years at
levels far beyond those in surrounding soils.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the pre-European Aboriginals in nomadic camps above the


flood zone of the Murray River were also using earthen ovens to cook food. The resulting
biochar and refuse was discarded, building up into mounds over generations, creating
the anthrosols which remain today.

In an expedition in 2007, Downie and Van Zwieten discovered and mapped dozens of
these camps. They are visually distinguished in the environment by raised mounds and
altered natural vegetation.

Soil profile photographs (see below) show stark differences between the Terra Preta
Australis sites and nearby soils, reminiscent of those taken by Sombrek et al in the Amazon.

An extensive range of techniques have been used to characterise the Terra Preta
Australis and surrounding soils. These include chemical and biological tests, radio carbon
dating, Py-GC-MS, SEM/ EDAX to assess the physical structures of the comparative soils
and identify discrete biochar pieces in the soil matrix. 13C CP NMR technique was used to
profile the soil carbon and determine the contribution of biochar to the carbon pool.

continued >

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Terra Preta Australis resemble Amazonian Dark Earths. High levels of aromatic carbon,
characteristic of biochar, were identified. The proportion of aromatic signal increased
down the profile, and represented >50% of total signal. There is a close association
between the biochar carbon, recognisable by the distinct cellular structures, and the
surrounding mineral content. The high calcium content amalgamated in the biochar is a
common feature in the Terra Preta Australis samples.

The discovery of the existence of Terra Preta Australis accelerates our understanding of
biochar’s potential in the Australian environment and redefines our assumptions of the
upper limits of soil carbon sequestration potential. Converting Australian agricultural
soils to Terra Preta Australis through the application of biochar will sequester carbon
and improve soil chemistry and structure, increasing agricultural viability in a changing
climate. 

65
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B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Greenhouse gas mitigation benefits of biochar as a soil
amendment

Annette Cowie
Forest Science Centre, NSW Department of Primary Industries,
PO Box 100, Beecroft NSW 2119

annettec@sf.nsw.gov.au

There is growing interest in the use of biochar as a soil amendment, with potential to
increase soil carbon, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and enhance agricultural
productivity.

The pyrolysis process generates renewable bioenergy and also produces biochar that
can provide long term carbon sequestration in soil, and therefore it is said to be a
‘carbon negative’ energy source, that is, it removes more CO2 from the atmosphere than
is emitted through the use of biomass for energy.

To document the extent to which pyrolysis is ‘carbon negative’, it is necessary to calculate


the whole of life GHG balance of the biochar production and utilisation process, and
compare this with conventional practice.

This study provides estimates of the whole of life GHG balance for various biochar
feedstocks applied to different cropping systems (biochar case) in comparison with
current practices (reference case). The emissions reduction benefit of biochar application
to soil is calculated as the difference in emissions between the biochar and reference
cases.

The factors that influence the GHG benefit of biochar as a soil amendment are:
• the proportion of feedstock-C that is retained in biochar after pyrolysis
• the net energy exported from the pyrolysis process
• the turnover rate of biochar-C in soil
• the reduction in nitrous oxide emissions from soil due to biochar application
• the reduction in fertiliser requirements due to increased nutrient-holding capacity of
biochar
• the crop growth increases resulting from biochar application
• the fossil fuel consumption in production, processing, transport and application of
biochar
• the fossil fuel source and biomass use in the reference case.

The net emissions reduction for different biochar scenarios ranged from 80 to 150 kt
CO2e per 50 kt (dry) feedstock, equivalent to 1.3–2.0 times the CO2e in the feedstock.

continued >

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The main factors influencing GHG balance of biochar application were, in order of
significance, avoided landfill, C sequestration in soil, displaced fossil fuel emissions
and reduced N2O emissions from soil. The most uncertain aspects are the assumptions
associated with landfilling of biomass in the reference case: the extent of biomass
decomposition and the proportion of decomposed biomass that is released as methane.
The turnover rate of char-carbon, and impact of biochar on crop yield and nitrous oxide
emissions from soil are also uncertain aspects that require investigation to improve
estimates of these components.

The greatest GHG mitigation is obtained for the cases that utilise waste material that
would otherwise be landfilled. The benefit is lower for cases that divert biomass from its
current beneficial use as a fertiliser.

Under the assumptions used in this study, the case where biomass is pyrolysed to
syngas for generation of electricity has a slightly lower GHG mitigation benefit than
where biochar, for soil amendment, is the major output of pyrolysis.

Under emissions trading, credit for avoided methane and renewable energy would
readily be awarded. Credit for stabilising organic carbon could theoretically be granted
either as avoided emissions or increase in soil C. Claims in relation to reduced N2O
emissions will be hard to substantiate due to high uncertainty. 

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Estimation of net carbon sequestration potential with
farmland application of bagasse-char: Lifecycle CO2
analysis through a pilot pyrolysis plant
Koji Kameyama (1), Yoshiyuki Shinogi (1), Teruhito Miyamoto (1), Koyu Agarie (2)
1. National Institute for Rural Engineering, National Agriculture and Food Research
Organisation, 2-1-6, Kannondai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki Japan
2. NPO Subtropical Biomass Research Center, 1190-204, Ueno-Nobaru, Miyakojima,
Okinawa Japan

kojikame@affrc.go.jp

Enrichment of soil carbon storage is regarded as a viable option for mitigation of


greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agricultural sector. Carbon sequestration
through application of biomass into the soil is an effective sequestration pathway
for agriculture. Biochar, charcoal produced from pyrolysis of biomass, is highly stable
against microbial decomposition, and farmland application of biochar as a soil
amendment has potential in mitigating GHG emissions. However, GHG is emitted
throughout the lifecycle of biochar including production, transportation and farmland
application. Therefore, it is important to estimate the net carbon sequestration potential
(carbon balance) by taking into account such GHG emissions. To this end, we collected
data from a pilot pyrolysis plant operated in Miyako Island, Japan and performed
experiments on farmland application of bagasse-char, a charcoal produced at the
plant from pyrolysis of sugarcane bagasse. The net carbon sequestration potential was
estimated as follows:
• Pyrolysis processes emit the highest levels of CO2, so it is important to reduce
emissions from the pyrolysis processes.
• Net carbon sequestration was positive when feedstock water content was less than
20%, so it is important to sufficiently dry bagasse before pyrolysis. 

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Biochar effects on nitrous oxide emissions from a
pasture soil

Leo Condron (1,2), Tim Clough (1), Jessica Ray (1), Rob Sherlock (1),
Maureen O’Callaghan (3)
1. Agriculture and Life Sciences, Lincoln University, New Zealand
2. Bio-Protection Research Centre, Lincoln University, New Zealand
3. AgResearch, New Zealand

Leo.Condron@lincoln.ac.nz

While the effect of adding chemo-physical constituents such as biochar is promoted as


a carbon sequestration option, the effects of biochar amendment on nitrous oxide (N2O)
emissions in grazed pastoral systems have not been examined. To determine the effects
of biochar and urine amendment on N2O emissions from soil, a laboratory incubation
experiment was carried out at 20ºC with the following treatments:
• control (soil + water)
• soil + urine
• soil + urine + biochar (10 t ha-1)
• soil + urine + biochar (20 t ha-1)
• soil + urine + biochar (30 t ha-1)
• soil + biochar + water (20 t ha-1).

Biochar material (0-10 mm) made from Pinus radiata wood waste was incorporated at
rates equivalent to 10, 20 and 30 t ha-1 in replicate samples of a silt loam pasture topsoil
contained in sealed glass jars with a large headspace. Urine was collected from grazing
cows and applied to the soil-biochar treatments at a rate equivalent to 750 kg N ha-1.
Nitrous oxide determinations were made after 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, 24, 27,
and 29 days. Gas samples were taken of ambient air and from the headspace of the jars
at 15 and 30 minute intervals and analysed using a gas chromatograph.

Results showed that N2O fluxes were the lowest in the absence of urine, while the
highest N2O fluxes occurred in the soil + urine treatment with a mean maximum flux
of 54,573 μg m-2 d-1 immediately following treatment application. In the other urine
treatments where biochar was applied, the maximum fluxes also ensued following
treatment application, although the maximum fluxes decreased with increasing rates of
biochar addition.

Cumulative N2O emissions reflected the daily fluxes with maximum emissions from
the soil + urine treatment, while significantly lower cumulative emissions occurred
at biochar amendment rates over 20 t ha-1. As a percentage of urine-N applied, the
cumulative N2O emissions equated to averages of 27% for the soil + urine treatment,
23% for the soil + urine + biochar (10 t ha-1), 13% for the soil + urine + biochar (20 t ha-1),
and 7% for the soil + urine + biochar (30 t ha-1).

continued >
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Biochar effects
on nitrous oxide
emissions from a
pasture soil
Leo Condron, The addition of biochar on its own did not contribute to any enhanced N2O flux
Tim Clough, indicating that the biochar on its own did not stimulate N2O-N fluxes. The reason for the
Jessica Ray, lower fluxes at the higher rates of biochar in the urine-amended soils may have been
Rob Sherlock, due to the biochar affecting the aerobic status of the soil and thus reducing anaerobic
Maureen O’Callaghan conditions and N2O fluxes. Evidence for biochar affecting soil moisture status is seen in
the soil gravimetric water data where values decreased with increasing biochar content.
This, in turn, would have reduced the potential for denitrification and may explain the
lower N2O fluxes that occurred with increasing rates of biochar addition.

Future work is urgently required to assess the impacts of biochar amendment on N2O
emissions when applied to pasture soils under field conditions, and its associated effects
on plant N uptake, and N leaching along with other N transformations. 

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Influence of biochars on nitrous oxide emission and
nutrient leaching from two contrasting soils

BJ Hatton (1), Bhupinderpal Singh (2), Balwant Singh (1), Annette L Cowie (2)
1. Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, The University of Sydney,
NSW 2006 Australia
2. Forest Science Centre, NSW Department of Primary Industries, PO Box 100,
Beecroft NSW 2119 Australia

bp.singh@sf.nsw.gov.au

Soil biochar application is promoted as a climate change mitigation tool due to its
potential to increase long term soil carbon pools and reduce greenhouse emissions.
Biochars are reputed to affect soil nitrogen (N) transformation processes, but only a
few studies have tested in detail the influence of biochars on soil nitrous oxide (N2O)
emissions and inorganic N leaching. In the present study, the influence of four biochars
on N2O emission and N leaching from the two contrasting soils (a Kurosol and a Vertosol)
was studied using repacked soil columns over three wetting–drying (W–D) cycles and
two leaching events spanning five months. A control (acid-washed sand) was also
included for each soil. The four different biochars used were:
• W400 – woodchip (eucalyptus saligna) biochar prepared at 400°C non-activated
• PM400 – poultry manure/rice hulls biochar prepared at 400°C non-activated
• W550 – woodchip (eucalyptus saligna) biochar prepared at 550°C, activated
• PM550 – poultry manure/rice hulls biochar prepared at 550°C, activated.

During the initial four months, application of PM400 resulted in increased soil N2O
emissions and NO3--N leaching in comparison with the control. The other biochars
(W400, W550, PM550) generally decreased soil N2O emissions, but did not influence the
leaching of NH4+-N and NO3--N. The greater N2O emissions and NO3--N leaching from the
PM400-amended soils (cf. control) initially can be ascribed to its high intrinsic N content,
which may be relatively labile and hence more readily mineralised than in the other
biochars.

The most important finding is that after four months, all biochars tested, including
the low-temperature poultry manure biochar, decreased both forms of soil N losses,
ie emissions of N2O and leaching of NH4+-N by up to 94%, relative to the control. We
hypothesise that the increased effectiveness of biochars in reducing N2O emissions
and NH4+-N leaching over successive W–D and leaching events is due to an increase in
sorptive properties as biochar ‘ages’ through oxidative reactions on the biochar surfaces
and subsequent interactions with soil constituents. We conclude that biochars can be
effective in reducing loss of N in soils, through reduction in N2O emissions and inorganic
N leaching, especially NH4+-N. Further studies are needed to:

• investigate the causes of the observed reductions in soil N2O emission and NH4+-N
leaching by biochars
• determine optimal application rate and ageing level for maximising these beneficial
effects of biochars.  71
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
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BEST pyrolysis of waste wood: Greenhouse gas balance
assessment

Adriana Downie (1,2), Dorothee Quade (3), Matthew Bennett (2),


Annette Cowie (4), Lukas van Zwieten (4), Peter Campbell (5)
1. Materials Science and Engineering, University of New South Wales
2. BEST Energies, Somersby NSW
3. Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
4. NSW Department of Primary Industries
5. Energy Transformed, CSIRO, Victoria

A case study of biochar and energy produced from wood waste separated at a waste
transfer station on landfill, was used to calculate lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions
compared to business-as-usual. An existing commercial application was used for the
case study, including an actually available waste wood stream which was characterised.
The study has been divided into two parts; for each a ’Base Case’, business-as-usual
scenario and proposed ’Project Case’ scenarios were designed. The project boundaries for
greenhouse accounting purposes can be seen in the figure provided on the next page.
The project case study, involving the construction of a BEST Slow Pyrolyser™, is designed
to divert part of a wood waste stream from landfill while generating green electricity for
wholesale to the grid and a stable, high-carbon, Agrichar™ soil amendment. The impact
of the Agrichar™ soil amendment when used on farms in the region is under assessment
and shows promise to improve crop yields, reduce fertiliser requirements, improve water
holding capacity and act as a long term carbon sink.
The greenhouse balance, developed using the methodology guidelines from the
Department of Climate Change’s Greenhouse Friendly™ program, has demonstrated that
the project will mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by three main pathways:
• reduced emissions from landfilled organics
• displacement of fossil fuel
• sequestration of biogenic carbon (removing it from the short term carbon cycle).

Combined with the mitigation benefits achieved through use of the biochar as a soil
amendment, the whole process is carbon-negative, and will remove carbon dioxide
from the atmosphere.
The results of Part 1 of the study show that the operation of the project will abate 95%
of the 115,269 tonnes of CO2-e Base Case emissions. As calculated in Part 2, the land
application of biochar will abate 27% of the 34,442 tonnes of CO2-e Base Case emissions.
The latter figure does not include the additional greenhouse gas savings associated with
agricultural use of the biochar, such as reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from soil,
reduced requirement for N fertilisers, enhanced cation exchange capacity and nutrient
retention, increased pH and reduced tensile strength which all result in an overall
increase of soil fertility and hence, agricultural productivity.
continued >

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BEST pyrolysis
of waste wood:
Greenhouse gas
balance assessment
The main barriers to engaging biochar in carbon trading, which discourage the use of Adriana Downie,
biochar as a soil amendment, will be discussed in detail in the paper.  Dorothee Quade,
Matthew Bennett,
Figure 1: Overview of project Boundaries A, B and C and respective associated
Annette Cowie,
Base Cases
Lukas van Zwieten,
Acknowledgement: We thank the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change for funding for Peter Campbell
this study under its Climate Action Grant program.

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Biochar holds potential for reducing soil emissions of
greenhouse gases

Lukas Van Zwieten (1), Bhupinderpal Singh (2), Stephen Joseph (3), Josh Rust (1) ,
Steve Kimber (1)
1. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar NSW Australia
2. Forest Science Centre, NSW Department of Primary Industries,
PO Box 100, Beecroft NSW 2119 Australia
3. School of Material Science and Engineering, University of NSW,
NSW 2052 Australia

lukas.van.zwieten@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Climate change caused by increases in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse


gases (GHGs) is predicted to cause catastrophic impacts on our planet (IPCC AR4, 2006).
This must therefore provide the impetus for action to reduce emissions and increase
removal of GHGs from the atmosphere. The soil is both a significant source and sink for
the greenhouse gases methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Biochar holds particular
promise in reducing atmospheric concentrations of these gases.

Biochar application has demonstrated potential to mitigate N2O and CH4 emissions
from soil. From the limited published data, it is clear that reductions up to 90% can
be achieved in some cases, but the mechanisms are not well understood. There are
a wide range of biotic and abiotic mechanisms which work to control the emissions
as well as sink capacity for these gases in soil. This poster will provide a diagrammatic
representation of mechanisms of the key processes, which are controlled by factors
including soil aeration/moisture, pH, microbial processes, soil structure, nutrient levels,
easily-mineralisable carbon pools and reactive surfaces.

The development of biochar as a tool for mitigation of GHG requires detailed


understanding of interactions between biochar and site-specific soil and climate
conditions, and management practices that alter the greenhouse source-sink capacity of
soils. This paper will provide a basis for future research to target key gaps in knowledge
of biochar interactions for reducing soil non-CO2-GHG emissions. 

74
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The reaction of soil with high and low mineral ash
content biochars

SD Joseph (1), P Munroe (1), K Privat (1), Y Lin (1), CH Chia (1), A Downie (1),
J Hook (7), A Shasha (7), L Van Zwieten (2), S Kimber (2), A Cowie (3), BP Singh (3),
J Lehmann (4), JE Amonette (5), E Carter (6), R Smernik (8)
1. School of Material Science and Engineering, University of NSW, NSW 2052 Australia
2. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar NSW 2477 Australia
3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
4. Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,
Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853 USA
5. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland WA 99354 USA
6. School of Chemistry, University of Sydney, NSW 2006
7. NMR Facility, Analytical Centre, UNSW, Sydney NSW 2052
8. Soil and Land Systems School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, DP 636,
The University of Adelaide

joey.stephen@gmail.com

When biochar produced from pyrolysis of biomass is applied to soils, research has
shown that, in most instances, it can increase soil health and crop yields, reduce leaching
of organic and inorganic fertilisers, and adsorb toxic compounds in the soil (Lehmann
and Joseph 2009). Reactions of the biochar with minerals can lead to the formation of
stable organo-mineral complexes.

Biochar reacts with mineral matter, microorganisms and plant roots to form organo-
mineral complexes (Binh et al 2008, Joseph et al 2008, Lehmann et al 2009). These
complexes can form on the surface and in the interior of the particles. Research has
shown that these complexes are heterogeneous and the morphology and composition
can vary between particles in the same soil profile (Lehmann and Joseph 2009). To
determine the mechanisms that may explain the formation of these complexes, detailed
analysis of biochars produced by BEST Energies Pty from paper sludge, chicken manure
and greenwaste was undertaken before and after they were used to grow corn in a
ferrosol soil. Examination of the biochars were carried out using SEM, TEM, Microprobe,
ATR-FTIR, Pye-GCMS, XPS, NMR and ESR. The results from a similar examination of four
different Terra Preta soils aged approximately 600 years were utilised to help determine
potential stable states that biochar may attain.

continued >

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The reaction of soil
with high and low
mineral ash content
biochars
SD Joseph, P Munroe, The results of this analysis indicate that the following mechanisms can explain the
K Privat, Y Lin, CH Chia, different structures in the aged biochar:
A Downie, J Hook, A
Shasha, L Van Zwieten, • Biotic and abiotic redox reactions. These redox reactions that lead to the formation
S Kimber, A Cowie, of gas could result in the formation of the micropores at the interface of the high
BP Singh, carbon and high mineral surfaces.
J Lehmann, • Polymerisation due to interaction of radicals on the char surface and soil organic
JE Amonette, E Carter, matter
R Smernik • Other solid-solution interactions including complexation, adsorption, desorption,
solid solution formation, heterogeneous and homogeneous nucleation,
recrystallistion, diffusion within and on the surface of the char.
• Conversion of SOM to humic and fulvic acids on mineral surfaces that act as catalysts.

Given that low temperature amorphous carbon is a semi-metal it is also possible that
there are solid state reactions in which there is a movement of ions, electrons and
vacancies. 

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The role for biochar in management of the agricultural
landscape: A farmer’s perspective

Robert Quirk (1), Lukas Van Zwieten (2), Stephen Kimber (2), Adriana Downie (3),
Josh Rust (2), Scott Petty (2)
1. Duranbah NSW 2487
2. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar NSW 2477
3. BEST Energies Australia, Somersby NSW 2250

rgquirk@bigpond.com

Modern management of the agricultural landscape provides challenges not seen in


previous generations. Farmers, regulators, environmental groups and the community
want to ensure farming does not contribute to environmental degradation or climate
change. I have been farming my 200ha sugarcane property at McLeods Creek, Tweed
Valley in northern NSW for over 30 years. The property is very low lying at 0.5m AHD
and contains drainage channels to export excess rainwater. The drainage channels
have allowed the sulfur present in these low lying soils to oxidise. It is estimated the
soils contain a potential 50t of sulfuric acid/ha, a significant environmental threat
if not carefully managed. I have implemented laser levelling, liming, planting into
mounds, tram tracking, oat and soy bean rotations, minimum tillage and green harvest
(no burning). This has resulted in a 25 per cent reduction in chemical use, an 80 per
cent decrease in heavy metal and acidity discharges, and a 38 per cent increase in
productivity.

However, there is more to be done. It has recently been shown that large emissions of
N2O (up to 45.9 kg N/ha), from acid sulfate soils used for cane production in the Tweed
Valley occur over a 12 month period following 160Kg N (350kg urea) addition to the
crop (Denmead et al 2008). This is equivalent to 43t CO2e emissions. This compares
poorly with other cane growing regions where an estimated 4.7 kg N/ha are released
following similar N application rates. Apart from the potential environmental harm from
the potent greenhouse gas N2O, the purchase price for urea is over $1100/t. There is an
obvious need to improve N use efficiency in this farming system, for both environmental
and economic reasons.

NSW DPI conducted a survey of soils on my property, and it appears that green harvest
(ie not burnt) may deplete soil C stocks (table below). A neighbouring property that was
managed and farmed similarly to mine until five years ago has higher soil C and higher
amounts of char (black carbon) as determined by MIR analysis. Cane burning is in the
last phases of being phased out in Australia, and no studies have been done on whether
this will affect soil health and soil C stocks long term.

continued >

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The role for biochar
in management
of the agricultural
landscape: A farmer’s
perspective Biochar may offer a solution! Application of biochar will enable rapid increases in soil C
Robert Quirk, (to levels commensurate with neighbouring properties still burning cane) and improve
Lukas Van Zwieten, soil health and possibly N use efficiency. A 15 plot trial was set up on my property to
Stephen Kimber, test biochars made by BEST Energies from papermill wastes and council green waste.
Adriana Downie, Controls included lime treatment. Each plot used three rows of cane and was 30m in
Josh Rust, Scott Petty length to enable commercial-scale harvesting. The scientifically verified benefits of
biochar to crop yield, leaching of nitrate, and volatilisation of N2O will be presented in
this paper.

Table 1: Carbon contents of green-harvest and burnt cane

Green harvest Burnt cane


Total soil C (%) 2.5 ±0.2 3.6 ±0.2
Char carbon MIR analysis (%) 0.39 ±0.07 0.66 ±0.11

Note: 0-5cm soil profile, 7 sampling sites.

All land managers are becoming very aware of the need not only to reduce their chemical
inputs but to reduce their impacts on the environment, if they are to be financially and
environmentally sustainable in the long term. We must take every opportunity to ensure
our long term viability and I see biochar as a way of achieving this.

The initial work has shown that we can reduce fertiliser inputs, N2O emissions and our
carbon footprint, and increase productivity at the same time. I am not sure we need
anything more positive than these outcomes to continue this exciting research work
with biochar. 

78
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Productivity and nutrient availability on a Ferrosol:
Biochar, lime and fertiliser

Katrina Sinclair (1), Peter Slavich (1), Lukas van Zwieten (1), Adriana Downie (2)
1. Wollongbar Agricultural Institute
2. BEST Energies Australia

katrina.sinclair@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Biochar produced from slow pyrolysis of organic materials has the potential to be used
as a soil amendment by increasing soil organic C and nutrient availability. Ferrosol soils
are naturally highly acidic with low CEC and, hence, lime is commonly applied. A plot
field study was conducted in a subtropical environment to determine the benefits of
incorporating biochar and lime on yield, nutrient uptake and soil health.

In a factorial design, three biochar types (0, 10 t/ha cattle feedlot, 10 t/ha greenwaste)
and two rates of lime (0, 5 t/ha) were applied in November 2006 and then sown
with Amarillo pinto peanut. In May 2007 and 2008 annual ryegrass was oversown
with two rates of N fertiliser (0, 50kg N/ha/month) applied throughout the ryegrass
growing season. Phosphorus and potassium (0, (28 P:50 K kg/ha)) were applied as split
applications annually.

In 2007 and 2008 highest yields (8507 and 8441 kg DM/ha, respectively) were achieved
from the N fertiliser + cattle feedlot biochar plots. The addition of cattle feedlot biochar
increased the yield response to N by 9% in 2007 and by 16% in 2008. The greenwaste
biochar did not enhance yield. Without fertiliser the cattle feedlot biochar increased
N and P uptake by 23% and 36%, respectively, in spring 2007 whereas the greenwaste
biochar had no effect on N and P uptake. With fertiliser the biochars increased N and,
more particularly, P uptake.

Changes in soil quality included increased soil extractable NO3, P, K, Mg and Na in the
cattle feedlot biochar plots and a 0.5% increase in soil C by both biochars. In the short
term statistically significant benefits to agronomic performance and soil health were
demonstrated by the use of cattle feedlot biochar. 

79
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Evidence for biochar saving fertiliser for dryland wheat
production in Western Australia

Paul Blackwell (1), Bill Bowden (1), Stewart Edgecombe (1), Zakariah Solaiman (2)
Reg Lunt (1)
1. Department of Agriculture and Food WA Geraldton Regional Office
2. University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Perth WA

pblackwell@agric.wa.gov.au

Initial field experiments reported here provide evidence of lower fertiliser requirements
for wheat production in sand and sandy loam soils treated with biochar in Western
Australia (WA).

In 2007, a sandy loam soil was used to grow wheat with different rates of deep-banded
(at 50-100mm depth) biochar made from two sources:
• oil mallee stem and leaf material manufactured at low temperature
• jarrah wood manufactured at high temperature.

Results indicate that at paddock rates of 1-2 t/ha the same yield could be obtained using
half the recommended rate of a biological fertiliser (a mixture of minerals inoculated
with beneficial soil microbes) when either the jarrah or oil mallee char was deep
banded. This result may be due to alteration of mycorrhizal colonisation or adsorption of
nutrients by the biochars.

In 2008, a poor sand soil (Colwell P 12 ppm) was used to grow wheat in a poor season
with and without deep-banded application of jarrah biochar manufactured at high
temperature. Crop nutrition was controlled to only vary the supply of phosphorus
(P) to the crop. Results indicate that a 13 kg/ha reduction in the rate of applied water
soluble P with biochar was able to produce the same crop yield (0.75 t/ha) as the
recommended rate of soluble P (20 kg/ha) without added biochar. However, in all other
treatments at high P rates and where water-insoluble rock phosphate or high rates of
biological fertiliser were used, the application of biochar did not improve grain yield.
Where differences were observed, mycorrhizal root colonisation and increased P uptake
explained much of the yield effects of biochar.

This one result is economically encouraging if the cost of biochar is low and the effects
are long term, but should be considered against other nutrient sources. These early
results encourage more extensive testing of biochar to determine the longevity and
scale of potential benefits resulting from a reduction in P fertiliser use on poor sands in
Western Australia. 

80
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Charcoal application for poultry farming

Takeo Takahashi (1), Tsuyoshi Hirowaka (2)


1. Poultry farmer, Masiko-cho, Tochigi, Japan
2. International Charcoal Cooperative Association, Tokyo, Japan

hrwk_arang@yahoo.co.jp

Mr Takeo Takahashi is a poultry farmer, breeding 3000 hens to produce eggs. He utilises
charcoal and wood vinegar (wood pyrolysis liquid) to breed chickens without chemicals,
antibiotics or vaccines. After 30 years’ experience, he is convinced that charcoal and
wood vinegar build the birds’ resistance to disease.

His established method is to let the chickens suffer the disease at first and then help
them recover with the charcoal and wood vinegar. At 30 days of age, the chickens are
fed in plain feeder boxes where the mixture of chicken manure and food propagates
Coccidium so that by 40 days of age, all chickens have coccidiosis. They are then fed
powdered charcoal mixed with wood vinegar for 12 hours; followed by half their regular
food supply mixed with 10% charcoal (by weight) soaked in wood vinegar. On the third
day, they are fed 70% of their normal food but if they are still unhealthy, are fed only
50%. On the fourth day, their food supply is back to normal; although their feeder box is
kept empty for 4-5 hours a day to make them feel hungry.

Mr Takahashi breeds the chickens on the ground where many kinds of virus,
mycoplasma, and pathogens such as staphylococcus propagate and increase the baby
chickens’ disease immunity.

The 3000 egg-producing hems are fed charcoal (1% by weight) soaked in wood vinegar,
around 1.1g per hen per day, equivalent to 1.2 tonnes of charcoal a year. The charcoal
is made from deciduous trees because bamboo charcoal overstimulates the chickens’
metabolism and keeps egg production high even in summer, when the chickens need to
rest. The hens produces eggs for 480 days from 21 weeks of age at a 75% production rate.

Chicken manure containing charcoal is fermented completely and utilised for paddy
cropping every year to grow rice without chemicals. 

81
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Effect of biochar application on soil amelioration and
growth of Acacia mangium (Willd.) and Michelia montana
Blume
Chairil A Siregar (1), Ulfah J Siregar (2)
1. Forestry Research and Development Agency, Ministry of Forestry, Indonesia
2. Faculty of Forestry, Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia

siregarca@yahoo.co.id ulfahjsiregar@yahoo.com

Information on the use of biochar in forest plantations is still scarce although its function
as a soil conditioner is already known. In addition, biochar is effective in carbon fixation
and environmental conservation. If the technique of biochar application as a means
of soil amelioration is developed, it may contribute greatly to the establishment of
plantations on marginal soils and carbon sequestration.

Glasshouse experiments were designed to examine the effectiveness of biochar


application in soil amelioration for four types of marginal soils:
• very fine, mixed, semi-active, isohyperthermic, Typic Paleudult
• ashy over sandy, siliceous, isohyperthermic, Typic Udivitrands
• fine, mixed, active, isohyperthermic Typic Hapludult
• very fine, kaolinitic, allic, isohyperthermic, Typic Hapludox.

Indicator plants used were A. mangium and M. montana. Charcoal treatments were 0, 5,
10 and 15% (v/v) for the first three soil types (for A. mangium) and 0, 5, 10, 15, and 20 %
(v/v) for the last soil type (for M. montana).

Each of the representative soil samples were collected from the B horizon. Soil samples
were ground, sieved (5 mm) and thoroughly mixed before potting 4000 g (air dried) into
individual pots in the case of A. mangium. In the case of M. montana, 1000 g air dried soil
was used.

A completely randomised design with four replications (A. mangium) and five
replications (M. montana) was employed to examine the effect of biochar application on
plant growth and on selected important soil chemical properties.

Char addition to Paleudult, Hapludult, and Hapludox soils significantly improved


most of the soil chemical properties examined (soil pH, soil organic C, N total, HCl 25
%-extractable P, HCl 25 % and Bray-extractable K, exchangeable bases (Ca, Mg, Na, and
K), percentage of base saturation, and significantly decreased, KCl 1 N-extractable Al3+
and H+) and significantly improved growth parameters of 6 month-old A. mangium and
M. montana. In contrast, in the Udivitrands (sandy soil), biochar application did not
improve soil conditions or A. mangium growth.

This study indicated that biochar application in Paleudult soils at a rate of 10% would be
adequate to improve soil nutrient availability, and hence significantly induce a better plant
growth response. Meanwhile charcoal application at a rate of 15% would be adequate to
improve soil nutrient availability in Hapludult, Udivitrands and Hapludox soils. 
82
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B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
The effect of biochars on maize (Zea mays) germination

Helen Free, Craig McGill, Jacqueline Rowarth, Mike Hedley


New Zealand Biochar Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North,
New Zealand

J.S.Rowarth@Massey.ac.nz

Biochars are being investigated as a method of carbon sequestration in agricultural


soils. They have been mooted as having beneficial effects on soil quality parameters
such as improved soil structure, enhanced CEC and soil water holding capacity (Krull
et al 2008). Nutrient supply has also been suggested, but is likely to depend both on
feedstock and on pyrolysis temperature (Aitkenhead et al 2009). In soils with low organic
matter content, an attractive option for increasing soil carbon would be incorporation of
large amounts of biochar, followed by a crop. This is particularly so where sand country
is being considered for dairy conversion. However, some biosolid biochar feedstocks
overseas have been reported to contain high concentrations of heavy metals and toxic
substances (eg dioxins (Jones & Sewart 1997)). These could have an impact on seed
germination and seedling growth with consequent effects on crop establishment and
yield. This experiment was established as the first step in measuring the impact of
biochars on germination.

Five feedstocks (biosolids, corn stover, eucalyptus, fresh pine and willow) were pyrolysed
at 550ºC at Massey University. Portions of Manawatu fine sandy loam and Waitarere
sand were incubated at field capacity at ambient temperature with four rates (0, 2.5,
5.0 or 10.0 t/ha) of individual biochars. After 21 days, thereby allowing equilibration
and mitigation of the liming effect of biochars (Laird 2008), 250 g of each of the soil-
biochar mixes were spread thinly and evenly on moist Anchor regular weight seed
germination paper. For each of the four replicates of each treatment, fifty maize seeds
(cultivar N48K2; high quality seed TSW = 347.7g; germination >90%) were distributed
regularly on the germination paper, which was then rolled, placed in a basket, sealed
in a plastic bag, and incubated at 25ºC for five days. Two replicates were held at 5ºC for
48 hours before processing due to time constraints. For all four replicates, germination
percentage and coleoptile length were assessed, and, after washing, seedlings were
separated in to coleoptile, root, and seed for drying at 65ºC for 48 hours before
recording dry weights.

There were no effects of biochar feedstock or rate of biochar application on germination


of maize; all germination was greater than 96%. This suggests that in ideal conditions
biochars from the feedstocks tested could be incorporated during ploughing with
impunity up to a rate of 10 t/ha in Manawatu fine sandy loam or Waitarere sand three
weeks before maize is to be sown. Seedling growth response to biochar is under
investigation. The next step will be to examine maize establishment in field conditions
and investigate the effect of biochars on pasture species such as ryegrass and white
clover which are likely to follow a maize crop during dairy conversion.  83
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Effect of bagasse charcoal and digested slurry on
sugarcane growth and physical properties of
Shimajiri-maji soil
Yan Chen (1), Yoshiyuki Shinogi (1), Masahiko Taira (2)
1. National Agricultural Research Organisation, Japan
2. Miyakgo Island Branch of Okinawa Prefectural Agricultural Research Centre (former)

yshinogi@affrc.go.jp

This study dealt with the influence of application of bagasse charcoal and digested
slurry on sugarcane growth and the physical and chemical properties of Shimajiri-maji
soil. In the percolation test, we mixed bagasse charcoal with Shimajiri-maji soil and
measured changes in nitrate nitrogen concentration in the percolating water. In the
sugarcane field test, we applied bagasse charcoal of two kinds of combination ratios and
digested slurry to the soil. Soil physical properties such as specific gravity and available
soil moisture, and indicators of sugarcane growth such as stem diameter and length,
yield, and Brix were measured.

The results indicated that application of bagasse charcoal to Shimajiri-maji-soil reduced


the concentration of nitrate nitrogen in percolating water, and increased available soil
moisture content. We surmised that the bagasse charcoal adsorbed part of the nitrate
nitrogen. In addition, application of bagasse charcoal and digested slurry increased
the number of sugarcane stems, stem diameter and length and therefore ultimately
increased the sugar produced. We concluded that the application of bagasse charcoal in
Shimajiri-maji soil is good for growing sugarcane and the environment. 

84
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B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Concepts of dryland farming systems incorporating
biochar and carbon-rich biological fertilisers

Paul Blackwell (1), Stephen Joseph (2), Mark McHenry (3), Dale Park (4),
Phil Bellamy (5)
1. Department of Agriculture and Food WA, Geraldton Regional Office
2. University of NSW
3. Murdoch University
4. WA Farmers Federation
5. Trees Midwest

paul.blackwell@agric.wa.gov.au

Future benefits to rural industry and communities from biochar and other
anthropogenic carbon capture, depend on robust concepts and economic models
which can provide confidence to those investing capital and time into new systems of
rural activity and income. Due to the inherent difficulties in measuring and validating
soil C pools, soil C is not currently considered within carbon pollution reduction
schemes. Therefore it is it is necessary to build farming systems and produce specific
biochar products whose viability does not depend on receiving income from carbon
credits. This in itself may limit the application rates that biochars can be added to
broadacre agriculture, as well as the present low price that is paid for renewable energy.

In this paper we explore the application of specific biochar products within different
farming systems to determine the likely return to the farmer and the biochar producer.
A systems and economic analysis for specific cases will indicate that:

1) Integration of groups of farms to support a local pyrolysis power station, and biochar
production, with biomass plantation grazing, crop and pasture improvement and
manufacture of biochar/mineral complex provides some possibilities of diverse
income streams and perhaps a more robust business model than a single use of
biochar from renewable energy; some scenarios are explored.
2) Fertiliser replacement by biochar/mineral/biological fertilisers may provide more
rapid financial benefits if rates of application are low and material is made from low
cost sources of biomass (eg thinning from plantations and waste), minerals and heat.
3) Energy generation through pyrolysis may become financially viable if the biochar/
mineral/biological fertiliser produced can be sold at a price greater than $500/t.
4) The use of biochar in potentially high return applications, such as de-tannification of
stockfeed, potting mix and turf applications, can also provide a strategy to increase
the rate of return on capital investment.
5) The effect of biochar on crop production depends on both the method and rate of
application.
5) Potential fertiliser savings achieved through the use of biochar may provide an
income stream to help support the production of low cost biochar sources. 
85
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Soil nutrient retention under biochar-amended broadacre
cropping soils in southern NSW

David Waters (1,2), Jason Condon (1), Lukas Van Zwieten (3), Yin Chan (4), Sergio
Moroni (1), Adriana Downie (5)
1. E.H. Graham Centre, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650
2. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650
3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar NSW 2477
4. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Richmond NSW 2753
5. Best Energies, Somersby NSW 2250

david.waters@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Biochar has been associated with the increased productivity of highly weathered and
acidic tropicaal Oxisols in the Amazon Basin. These Terra Preta soils have retained their
fertility over hundreds of years; enhanced characteristics include soil carbon, structure,
microbial activity, pH amelioration and nutrient availability resulting in improved
plant growth. While the increased retention of nutrients in biochar-amended soils has
previously been recorded, there has been little research on the mechanisms behind this.
Furthermore, reactivity of the biochar surface has been shown to vary with time and
with abiotic processes such as temperature, affecting its capacity for nutrient retention.

This research will be undertaken at Wagga Wagga Agricultural Research Institute in


southern NSW (mean 550 ml rainfall), and the field trial will operate in red Dermosols
grown to wheat and canola. This project will investigate the surface charge density of
biochar, and its interaction with soil nutrients and soil micro-organisms in a broadacre
dryland cropping context. Changes to char particle surface activity will be measured
over time and under varying temperatures. The leaching experiment will measure the
proportion of fertiliser N that is retained in soils amended with six rates of both green
waste and cow manure biochars. Influence of and interaction with different fertiliser
N forms and soil microorganisms will be measured in amended soils. It is anticipated
that preliminary results from this experiment will be presented at the conference. This
experiment will comprise a component of the total research of a PhD candidature. An
understanding of the mechanisms of nutrient retention, apart from improving N use
efficiency and associated crop increases, within biochar-amended soils is pivotal to
provide beneficial outcomes for agronomic production, environmental quality and
system sustainability. 

86
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Nitrogen use efficiency improves using greenwaste
biochar

Lukas Van Zwieten (1), Adriana Downie (2), K.Yin Chan (3), Stephen Kimber (1),
Steve Morris (1), Josh Rust (1), Adam Mitchell (1)
1. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar NSW 2477
2. BEST Energies Australia, Somersby NSW 2250
3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Richmond NSW 2753

lukas.van.zwieten@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Technologies to improve nitrogen use efficiency have significant benefits for both
farmers and the environment. Production of urea (the principal N fertiliser) has a
greenhouse footprint of (4.018 t CO2e per tonne of N), due to its use of fossil fuels for
production, and because nitrification and denitrification convert N into the greenhouse
gas nitrous oxide in soil. Urea fertilisers have recently become very expensive (ca
$1100/t), due to increasing costs of energy, and farmers are looking at ways to minimise
inputs. By reducing the inputs of N fertiliser through improving nitrogen use efficiency
multiple benefits could be achieved.

Evidence suggests that biochar porosity contributes to nutrient adsorption directly


through charge or covalent interaction on a large surface area (Major et al 2009).
The biochar surfaces adsorb both hydrophobic and hydrophilic molecules, including
nutrients. In addition, water retention increases because porous biochar particles retain
water and reduce its mobility.

To test the benefits of biochar for improving N utilisation, a pot trial was established
in a climate controlled glasshouse using five rates of N fertiliser (0, 20, 50, 100 and 200
kgN/ha) applied as solubilised urea, and four rates of biochar (0, 5, 10, 20, 50t/ha). Each
biochar/ N treatment was replicated six times, using two crop species, wheat and radish,
under a biometrical design. Trace minerals were supplied.

Biochar was obtained from BEST Energies Australia and also produced from council
green waste at 550ºC, using slow pyrolysis with a heating rate of 100C/min and
residence time of 45 minutes. Characteristics of the biochar are given in the table below.
The biochar did not contribute to any liming effect of the soil, nor did it contribute
significantly to nutrient addition to the soil. The trial used a sandy soil (Yellow Earth
(Great Soil Group); xanthic ferralsol (World Soil Group)) from a commercial vegetable
producing farm in Gosford, NSW.

Biometrically significant increases in N-use efficiency were recorded. Additions of


biochar at 10t/ha allowed similar plant biomass production using up to three times less
N fertiliser. Details of these important results will be supplied at the conference.

continued >

87
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Nitrogen use
efficiency improves
using greenwaste
biochar
Lukas Van Zwieten,
Unit Biochar Soil
Adriana Downie,
Colwell Phosphorus mg/kg 13 n/a
K.Yin Chan,
Bray 1 Phosphorus mg/kg n/a 430
Stephen Kimber,
Steve Morris, Josh Rust, Total Nitrogen % 0.14 0.93
Adam Mitchell Total Carbon (Dumas) % 78 2
KCl extractable Ammonium -N mg/kg <0.3 3.7
KCl extractable Nitrate-N mg/kg 1.2 69
CaCO3 equivalent % <0.5 <0.5
pH (CaCl2) 7.4 4.9

Major et al 2009. Biochar effects on nutrient leaching. In Biochar for environmental


management: Science and technology eds Lehmann J and Joseph S. Earthscan. 

88
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Effect of biochar on mycorrhizal colonisation in
subterranean clover and wheat growth

Zakaria Solaiman (1), Paul Blackwell (2), Lyn Abbott (1), Paul Storer (3),
Daniel Murphy (1)
1. School of Earth and Environment M087, The University of Western Australia,
Crawley WA 6009
2. Geraldton Regional Office, Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia
3. Western Mineral Fertilisers, Western Australia

solaiman@cyllene.uwa.edu.au

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) colonise more than 80% of terrestrial plants and
help plants by supplying nutrients (P, N, Zn) through extended hyphae beyond the root
zones in exchange for carbon from plants. But the ecology and function of mycorrhizal
fungi depend on soil and environmental factors and biochar has potential beneficial
effects on soil microorganisms, especially AMF. Biochar benefits include:
• habitat protection against microbial predators
• additional nutrient supply to plants in environments with poor capacity to retain soil
nutrients
• protection from plant pathogens
• provision of additional water supply to plants in low moisture environments
• improved capacity of very sandy soils to intercept leachable nutrients and reduce
eutrophication risk. Maintaining an appropriate level of soil organic carbon and
biological cycling of nutrients is crucial to the success of any soil management in this
environment by adding biochar and slow release mineral fertilisers.

The residual effect of biochar and mineral fertiliser application was evaluated by
mycorrhizal bioassay under glasshouse conditions. Soil samples were collected after a
year of drought from the site of a previous field trial at Pinder WA. The biochar had been
applied in the field trial 22 months earlier, and the bioassays occurred after one full
growing season in 2005 and one fallow drought year in 2006.

The presence of biochar from the 2005 incorporation encouraged microbial respiration
and microbial biomass; especially after use of mineral fertiliser inoculated with a mixture
of beneficial microbes. Soil from plots inoculated with beneficial microbes showed more
mycorrhizal colonisation in clover roots where biochar was applied. Shoot phosphorus
concentration and uptake were also higher in the biochar plot. This suggests that the
colonisation of mycorrhizal fungi and microbial activity through drought periods can be
enhanced by deep-banded biochar application even after a drought year.

continued >

89
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Effect of biochar
on mycorrhizal
colonisation in
subterranean clover
and wheat growth Another pot trial investigated the addition of microbial fertiliser (a mixture of rock
Zakaria Solaiman, minerals and beneficial microbes) and the effects of adding three types of biochar
Paul Blackwell, compared at a rate of 1.5 t/ha uniformly mixed. The plants were either well-watered
Lyn Abbott, Paul Storer, (80% of field capacity) or subject to drought stress (40% of field capacity) and grown
Daniel Murphy through to ear emergence. The results showed that the fresh biochar from wood
(Simcoa Ltd Bunbury WA) enabled most shoot growth in well-watered conditions,
and most root colonisation in drought stress. All biochars increased root colonisation
by AMF when added with the mineral and microbial fertilisers. Aged jarrah biochar
(ex Wundowie foundry and produced in an earlier decade by the same process as at
Simcoa Ltd) provided the most colonisation in well-watered conditions. Plant biomass
was not increased by wood biochars in drought conditions, possibly because there
was competition for carbon in the restricted pot environment. The results generally
encourage the use of fresh wood biochar for field trials in dry land conditions, especially
to encourage AMF colonisation in drought environments. 

90
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Preliminary assessment of the agronomic value of
synthetic Terra Preta (STP)

Paul Blackwell (1), Stewart Edgecombe (1), Stephen Joseph, Paul Munroe, Yun Lin,
CH Chia (2), Lukas van Zwieten, Steve Kimber (3) and Nikolaus Foidl (4)
1. Department of Agriculture and Food WA Geraldton Regional Office, WA 6530
2. School of Material Science and Engineering, University of NSW, NSW 2052 Australia
3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar NSW 2477 Australia
4. N Foidl Venearth LLC, San Francisco USA

pblackwell@agric.wa.gov.au

Dark Earth soils found in the Amazonian basin have probably been formed through the
interaction of biochar, minerals, clay, fired pottery, microorganisms and waste biomass
(Sombroek 1966, Lehmann et al 2001). Detailed examination of these soils indicated
that similar structures could be synthesised through thermal processing of a mixture
of biomass, minerals, clay, and crush fired clay at low temperatures in an oxidising
environment (Chia et al 2008). Details of the properties of these synthetic terra preta
(STP) are provided in another paper. To determine their agronomic potential trials field
and pot trials were undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and Food Western
Australia (DAFWA) and NSW Department of Primary Industries.

DAFWA used the following procedure. Wheat was grown in vertical buried tubes of 100
mm diameter in poor sandy soil near Geraldton in 2008. Yields from the STP (produced
at two temperatures, 220°C and 240°C) were compared with a control and a treatment
with wood biochar (SBC) produced at 600°C (SIMCOA Pty Ltd). Biochar and STP were
applied at 10t/ha air-dry wt. Each treatment was plus or minus fertiliser. Yields within the
fertilised treatments were corrected for variation in N uptake.

In this trial, grain yields reached up to 11 t/ha (fig 1). Caution is advised as to the
absolute values of these yields, as they may be elevated due to the artificial growing
environment. The proportional effects are a more useful comparison. The STP treatments
without added nutrients yielded similarly to the fertilised sand with no amendments,
while additional yield was gained with the further addition of nutrients. By comparison,
the wood biochar treatment provided no additional yield benefit over the control
treatments.

There seemed to be no difference in yield between the STPs manufactured at either high
or low temperature in either the unfertilised or fertilised treatments. Variability in grain
yields in the STP and wood biochar treatments without fertiliser was associated with
measured differences in N and K uptake. 

91
1 s t A s i a Pa c i f i c
B i o ch a r C o n f e r e n c e 2 0 0 9
Biochar research in sandy soils of central coastal Vietnam

Hoang Minh Tam (1), Nguyen Thai Thinh (1), Tran Tien Dung (1), Hoang Vinh (1),
Peter Slavich (2), Brad Keen (2), Lukas Van Zwieten (2)
1. Agricultural Science Institute of Central Coastal Vietnam
2. New South Wales Department of Primary Industries

brad.keen@dpi.nsw.gov.au

The central coastal provinces of Vietnam are home to many of the Vietnam’s poorest
farmers. The region is characterised by 500,000 ha of sandy soils developed from wind
blown coastal dunes and granite weathering. Agricultural production on these soils
is limited by their low water and nutrient holding capacity. Ninh Thuan is the driest
province in Vietnam with annual rainfall less than 700 mm in areas closest to the coast.
The dry season may be 6-8 months long so crops depend on irrigation. Tree crops such
as cashew and mango, intercropped with peanuts and cassava, are widely grown in the
region. Table grapes are also produced in Ninh Thuan province.

Many farmers depend on groundwater for irrigation and domestic use. Crops are
irrigated using hand-held hoses attached to pumps or by flooding. Tree crops usually
have a single 2-3 m radius earth bund that is built around each tree. Fertilisers and
irrigation are applied within this bund. Most farmers fertilise with animal manures;
inorganic fertilisers are applied to higher value crops. Farmers typically have little
understanding of crop requirements for nutrients and water so resource utilisation tends
to be either inadequate or excessive.

As part of a collaborative project managed by the NSW Department of Primary


Industries through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the
Agricultural Science Institute for Southern Central Coastal Vietnam has established
two field experiments using biochar. The first of these aims to examine the potential
production benefits of incorporating rice husk biochar into sandy low fertility soils
supporting tree crops, with cashew trees used as the experimental model. The rice husk
biochar used for field experiments was produced in the Philippines and has a carbon
content of 33%. Biochar was incorporated at a rate of 25t ha-1 into soil banded between
two circular earth bunds surrounding each tree. This double-bunded ring system was
introduced to contain irrigation water closer to the canopy perimeter than the existing
single ring bunds. Fertilisers are also applied within this biochar amended zone. The
treatments are:

1. single bund + fertiliser (common farmer practice)


2. double bund+ biochar + fertiliser
3. double bund + biochar + ½ rate fertiliser
4. single bund + ½ rate fertiliser.

continued>

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Biochar research in
sandy soils of central
coastal Vietnam
Hoang Minh Tam,
A second field experiment in Binh Dinh province is assessing the affect of rice husk Nguyen Thai Thinh,
biochar applied at 10t ha-1 on soil characteristics and peanut production. The treatment Tran Tien Dung,
comparisons include: Hoang Vinh,
Peter Slavich,
1. control - no inputs Brad Keen,
2. manure 5t ha-1 Lukas Van Zwieten
3. NPK (30:90:60)
4. manure (5t ha-1) + NPK (30:90:60)
5. biochar (10t ha-1)
6. biochar (10t ha-1) + NPK (30:90:60)
7. biochar (10t ha-1)+ manure 5t ha-1
8. biochar (10t ha-1)+ manure 5t ha-1 + NPK (30:90:60).

This poster session will outline the role of biochar in the soil and water management
strategies that are being tested in Binh Dinh province, and provide results to date. 

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Developing collaborative biochar research in Aceh,
Indonesia

Malem K McLeod (1), Peter Slavich (1), Achmad Rachman (2), Anischan Gani (3),
Edi Husen (2), Gavin Tinning (1), Rebecca Lines-Kelly (1)
1. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Tamworth, Australia
2. Indonesian Soil Research Institute, Bogor, Indonesia
3. Indonesian Rice Research Institute, Sukamandi, Indonesia

malem.mcleod@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Low soil organic matter and carbon levels are major constraints to agricultural
production in Australia and Indonesia because of their effects on soil structure, water
holding capacity, and chemical and biological fertility.

Ongoing collaborative research in improving agricultural production in tsunami-affected


areas in Aceh shows that in coastal sandy soils, crop yields responded positively to the
addition of soil organic amendments. In Australia, most efforts in soil management are
aimed at increasing or maintaining soil organic carbon levels. However, the addition
of organic amendments alone is unlikely to increase soil carbon content unless they
are applied in large quantities on a regular basis. Soil carbon added through organic
amendments or pasture phases is easily lost through cultivation.

In Australia, biochar has been used as a soil amendment and to increase the more
stable forms of soil carbon. Indonesian research institutions at national and provincial
levels have shown a strong interest in using biochar as a soil amendment. Some of
the national research institutes have attempted to produce biochar from various local
sources and have conducted preliminary studies on rice and other crops. The wider
farming and agribusiness communities have responded positively to the potential use of
biochar on high value horticultural and floricultural crops. Limited amounts and types
of biochar are currently available in the market for these industries.

A collaborative biochar project to improve the fertility of degraded soil in Aceh,


Indonesia and Tamworth NSW Australia will evaluate:
• the effect of biochar on soil properties and plant production
• the effect of biochar on nutrient and water use efficiency
• nutrient mineralisation from various soil organic amendments in the presence of
biochar.

In Aceh, the study will focus on coastal sandy soils where peanuts are grown. These soils
have low soil organic matter levels, low soil water holding capacity, and low chemical
fertility. After the tsunami, peanut crops were completely unproductive in these soils,
and applications of manure improved yields but not to pre-tsunami levels. In the long
term, manure applications may not be the most viable option for Aceh’s coastal soils
due to rapid decomposition and limited manure supplies. Biochar may provide longer
lasting benefits for soil improvement and crop yield.

94 continued >

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Developing
collaborative biochar
research in Aceh,
Indonesia
In northern NSW, the study will focus on red cropping soils with low soil organic matter Malem K McLeod,
content. Research suggests that efforts to build soil organic matter in these soils is not Peter Slavich,
successful unless a long pasture phase is included in the farming system. Furthermore, Achmad Rachman,
soil organic matter built up in the pasture phase is likely to be easily lost in the next Anischan Gani,
cropping phase. The application of biochar is a promising alternative to rebuild soil Edi Husen, Gavin
carbon levels in these soils. Tinning,
Rebecca Lines-Kelly
This research could be expanded to assess the potential carbon sequestration of
biochar and its effect on greenhouse gas emissions in Aceh’s coastal soils and NSW’s red
cropping soils. 

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Towards a faster and broader application of biochar:
Assessing and recommending appropriate marketing
mechanisms
Tek Narayan Maraseni, Roger Stone, Jerry Maroulis, Shahbaz Mushtaq
Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments, University of Southern Queensland,
Toowoomba QLD 4350 Australia

maraseni@usq.edu.au

Experience in Brazilian Terra Preta soils and research in other parts of the world
unanimously advocates that producing biochar from organic wastes and incorporating
it into soils offers multiple environmental and financial benefits. This approach to
biochar usage addresses several critical global issues including waste management,
renewable energy production, greenhouse gas mitigation, soil degradation prevention,
food security, reduced water pollution from agrochemicals, and water quality and
quantity enhancement. Despite these benefits, farm level production and use of biochar
is not yet viable, largely due to financial and technical constraints. Thus, an incentive
mechanism for farmers is crucial for its successful adoption.

This paper analyses both the current provisions and the marketing mechanisms of the
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), one of the three market-based mechanisms of
the Kyoto Protocol, which links developed and developing countries in achieving global
emission targets. Since its establishment, the CDM market is growing exponentially:
US$2.6 billion in 2005, U$6.2 billion in 2006 and U$12.8 billion in 2007 (World Bank,
2006, 2007 & 2008; Point Carbon, 2007 & 2008). However, due to the small-scale
nature of some CDM projects (such as biogas, solar heating, energy saving lighting,
transportation) and high transaction costs, traditional CDM could not reach into these
intended sectors (projects) and intended countries (the smallest, least developed
countries). Thus in 2007, the CDM Executive Board developed both the concept of
programmatic CDM (pCDM) and guidelines for its implementation, with a major goal of
registering an indefinite number of projects under a program of activities, distributed
over a wide geographical region and implemented over a long period of time,
something which was not possible under the traditional CDM.

Considering the number of projects (a large number of households need to be involved),


their spatial distribution (a wide geographical region needs to be covered) and the
temporal scales involved (needs to be implemented over a period of time), biochar
projects could fit very well under pCDM activities. However, some issues (methodological,
liability of project validation risks and financial risks) need to be resolved before full-scale
implementation of biochar projects can occur under the pCDM criteria.

Annex I countries could develop similar mechanisms to include in their domestic


emissions trading schemes. In addition, recognising biochar projects as gold standard
status, by which carbon credits generated by these projects attract higher prices
(incentives), would encourage faster and widespread global application of biochar
projects. 
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Prime Carbon presents a program that rewards farmers
with carbon credits for increasing the carbon in their soil

Debra Burden
Prime Carbon Pty Ltd, Townsville QLD

dburden@primecarbon.com.au www.primecarbon.com.au|

Prime Carbon has developed a soil enhancement and carbon sequestration program
that works with landholders (mainly farmers, local councils and Aboriginal groups)
to restore Australia’s soils by changing their land management practices to sequester
carbon. Our program aims to increase carbon levels by a minimum of 1% over a two year
period, enabling us to issue 55 carbon credits per hectare.

Prime Carbon is registered as:


• an aggregator of carbon credits with the National Environment Registry
• a broker with the National Stock Exchange. This means that we are able to trade
carbon credits that have been listed on the National Environment Registry.

Prime Carbon donates $0.05 from every carbon credit sold to a community-controlled
Sustainability R&D fund.

Our program, which operates under the voluntary carbon market, offers a unique and
simple solution to offset Australia’s carbon emissions. Our program:
• benefits farmers and landholders by improving their soil and providing a buffer
against drought, heat stress and uncontrolled erosion which are the key impacts of
climate change
• benefits companies by providing an economic option to voluntarily offset their
carbon emissions while supporting Australian farmers
• benefits communities by working together and developing initiatives to support a
sustainable future
• benefits the environment by facilitating processes that improve soil and water
quality and help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
• benefits the economy by providing an economically viable and politically acceptable
method to reduce Australia’s net carbon emissions.

The program requires landholders to:


• reduce the use of chemical fertilisers by at least 30%
• use products or processes that have been accredited by Prime Carbon and that have
been proven to increase soil carbon by 1% over a two year term
• adopt minimum tillage practices no more than once annually and then only to a
maximum depth of 200 mm
• allow independent measurement of changes in the allocated land to be undertaken
• allow independent auditing of the process.

Importantly, there is no restriction on continuing to farm or using the allocated land


during the five year agreement term.  97
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The New Zealand Biochar Research Centre:
Firmly walking on the ‘ground’

Marta Camps-Arbestain (1), Jacqueline Rowarth (1), Peter Bishop (1),


William Aitkenhead (1), Helen Free (1), Jason Hindmarsh (2), Craig McGill (1),
Fen Xia Yao (3.41), Mike Hedley (1)
1. New Zealand Biochar Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North,
New Zealand
2. Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, Massey University, Palmerston North,
New Zealand
3. NEIKER, Berreaga 1, Derio 48160 Spain
4. Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, East Beijing Street 71, Nanjing
210008 PR China

M.Camps@massey.ac.nz

Research on several aspects of biochar technologies has recently started at the New
Zealand Biochar Research Centre (NZBRC) (Massey University), in collaboration with
other New Zealand and overseas research institutes, local industry, regional government
and community groups. The research centre aims to advance the understanding of
biochar for mitigating global climate change and to enable its use in New Zealand,
particularly by agricultural and forestry sectors. The work at the NZBRC is organised into
three closely linked streams of R&D activities:
• soil science and biochar
• pyrolysis plant and biochar engineering
• biochar and greenhouse gas mitigation strategies.

Current and near future activities of the soil science and biochar stream are described
herein.

Soils differ widely so may respond differently to addition of biochar. Biochar


characteristics are not unique, and vary depending on type of feedstock and conditions
of the pyrolysis process. Therefore before applying biochar to the soil, both soil and
biochar characteristics must be well known, and their most probable interactions and
changes over time must be identified, if a specific environmental outcome is to be
achieved (Krull et al 2008). Research should thus be focused on the development of
tailor-made biochars to respond to specific crops and soils within safe environmental
constraints. This may require:
• a dditional pre- and/or post treatment of the biochars (eg to increase the surface
charge of the char to retain nutrients, to increase surface area and hydrophobicity to
retain organic pollutants)
• blending with uncharred materials (eg to balance the nutrient content).

continued >

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The New Zealand
Biochar Research
Centre: Firmly
walking on the
The creation of pyrolysis products with added value will contribute positively to
‘ground’
offsetting the cost of C mitigation with this technology. Nonetheless this research must Marta Camps-
be paralleled with lifecycle analysis, environmental impact assessments, and lifecycle Arbestain, Jacqueline
costing analysis to ensure that the main goals (eg C negative process, economically Rowarth, Peter Bishop,
feasible, environmentally-sound product), in addition to fertility attributes, are achieved. William Aitkenhead,
Helen Free,
The research currently undertaken at the NZBRC is focused on the detailed
Jason Hindmarsh,
characterisation of biochars from several types of New Zealand feedstocks (sewage
Craig McGill,
sludge, wood and crop residues) obtained at different temperatures (Aitkenhead et al,
Fen Xia Yao,
this issue) and in germination trials (Free et al, this issue). Prior to spring field trial work,
Mike Hedley
glasshouse and laboratory experimental studies are being conducted to optimise char
and nutrient application rates for crop and pasture establishment on key New Zealand
soils; soils selected to achieve C sequestration and a positive agronomic outcome.
Detailed studies on biochar weathering with a modified Soxhlet reactor are currently
under way (Yao et al this issue) and are aimed at simulating the long term behavior of
the biochar. Finally, particular attention will be paid to the development of rapid and
accessible technologies for the characterisation and accounting of the biochar added to
soils, and on the development of powerful new analytical and conceptual tools to help
determine the black C chemical structure and its role in the C cycle, specifically in the
New Zealand landscape.

References
Krull E, Sjemstad J, Baldock J, Smernik R, Kookana R, Sohi S, Lopez-Capel E. Biochar: Is it
all (chemically) the same? 2nd Annual International Meeting of the International Biochar
Initiative. September 8-10, Newcastle, UK 

99
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Opportunities and challenges for biochar/bioenergy
systems in the compliance and voluntary carbon markets

Attilio Pigneri (1,2), Ruy Anaya De La Rosa (2)


1. Centre for Energy Research, Massey University, New Zealand
2. New Zealand Biochar Research Centre, Massey University

A.Pigneri@massey.ac.nz

The Kyoto Protocol, the ongoing climate treaty ending in 2012, was designed to mitigate
global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote sustainable development. It
marked the launch of the compliance carbon market, to allow trading of emission
credits and allowances within the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol
(2008-2012), within the scope of the three Kyoto co-operative mechanisms (emission
trading, clean development mechanism (CDM), and joint implementation (JI)). Despite
the market having reached a record trading volume of 2.7 Gt CO2-e in 2007 (Røine et
al 2008), the figure remains too low when compared to the reduction targets required
to stabilise atmospheric GHG concentration to 450 ppm or less. The market is currently
undergoing a phase of ‘capability building’. A large number of GHG mitigation
projects have been submitted through the CDM/JI evaluation pipeline, a number of
carbon accounting methodologies have been approved, and some have evolved into
established guidelines for project-based GHG accounting.

The voluntary carbon market, developed in parallel with the compliance carbon
market, has sought to simplify the evaluation, approval and verification procedures
and ultimately reduce the high compliance costs under the Kyoto mechanisms. Despite
relying ultimately on the methodological framework established within the scope of the
compliance market, the voluntary market has offered a more positive environment for
experimentation and innovation within the carbon-trading world, being, for instance,
the only source of carbon finance for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation projects.

Greenhouse gas mitigation through biochar/bioenergy projects


The implementation of biochar and bioenergy systems offers several opportunities for
mitigating greenhouse emissions by avoiding emissions of methane from the decay of
biomass; offsetting emissions associated with the generation; transmission and end-use
of electricity, gas and other fuels; and, more importantly, sequestering carbon in biochar
and storing it in soils; reducing emissions from fertiliser production, transport and
end-use; and reducing emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) from nitrification/denitrification
processes in soils.

continued >

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Opportunities and
challenges for
biochar/bioenergy
systems in the
Detailed experimental work is required to establish the scientific basis for accounting,
compliance and
monitoring and verifying the extent of GHG mitigation achievable from the three latter voluntary carbon
categories in different soil/climate/land-use contexts. Results of particular interest are markets
the fraction of carbon captured in chars produced at different operating conditions and
Attilio Pigneri,
from different biomass feedstocks; the turnover of different charcoals with different
Ruy Anaya De La Rosa
soil/climate/land-use combinations; reductions in fertiliser use, and reduction in N2O
emissions from soils.

In addition to this, recognition of these categories of emission reductions within the


scope of the carbon markets as advocated by, among others, the UN Convention to
Combat Desertification (UNCCD 2009), will require design and development of adequate
accounting methodologies, and monitoring and verification procedures.

Working back from the current framework and GHG accounting guidelines established
within both the compliance and voluntary carbon markets, we explore a number
of issues specific to the recognition of the range of GHG mitigation opportunities
associated with the implementation of biochar/bioenergy systems.

The aims are to inform the research community of RD&D priorities for biochar/
bioenergy systems as seen through the lens of the carbon marketplace, to identify early
opportunities for biochar/bioenergy projects within either the compliance or voluntary
carbon markets, and to establish biochar as a mainstream greenhouse gas mitigation
option.

References
Røine K, Tvinnereim E & Hasselknippe H (eds.) 2008. Carbon 2008: Post-2012 is now.
Point Carbon technical report, March 2008.

UNCCD 2009. Required policy actions to include carbon contained in soils including
the use of biochar (charcoal) to replenish soil carbon pools, and restore soil fertility and
sequester CO2. Submission by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
5th Session of the ad hoc working group on long term cooperative action under the
Convention (AWG-LCA 5), Bonn, Germany, 29 March – 8 April 2009. 

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Cadmium removal efficiency of sugarcane biochar:
A comparative study*

Roselyn Lata, Rajendra Prasad, Surendra Prasad


School of Chemical Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology,
The University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji

prasad_re@usp.ac.fj

Delignified bagasse has been modified in four different ways to obtain new
absorbent materials:
• loaded with diethyldithiocarbamate (Et2Dtc)
• xanthated in aqueous medium
• xanthated in DMF
• charred.

The Cd2+ removal efficiencies of all these materials were evaluated from artificial
samples and natural waters in stirred solutions. The effects of solution pH,
temperature, time, Cd2+ concentration and absorbency on total uptake were
evaluated. A comparison of the material efficiency and cost effectiveness of different
methods shows that non-aqueous xanthated bagasse could be the best absorbent.
The advantage of the use of these materials is that they are ignitable and leave metal
oxide ash that has the dual advantage of tackling the waste disposal problem and
concentrating metal ions in a form that can be recovered economically. 

* No oral delivered

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Index of abstracts
First Author Paper Page
Aitkenhead W Detailed characterisation of biochars obtained from New 36
Zealand feedstocks at different pyrolysis temperatures
Ascough P Black carbon characterisation: Implications for understanding 40
biochar behavior in depositional environments
Blackwell P Concepts of dryland farming systems incorporating biochar and 85
carbon-rich biological fertilisers
Blackwell P Evidence for biochar saving fertiliser for dryland wheat 80
production in Western Australia
Blackwell P Preliminary assessment of the agronomic value of synthetic Terra 91
Preta (STP)
Burden D Prime Carbon presents a program that rewards farmers with 97
carbon credits for increasing the carbon in their soil
Camps-Arbestain M The New Zealand Biochar Research Centre: Firmly walking on 98
the ‘ground’
Chen Y Effect of bagasse charcoal and digested slurry on sugarcane 84
growth and physical properties of Shimajiri-maji soil
Chia C Development of a synthetic Terra Preta (STP): Characterisation 35
and initial research findings
Condron L Biochar effects on nitrous oxide emissions from a pasture soil 69
Cowie A Greenhouse gas mitigation benefits of biochar as a soil 66
amendment
Downie A BEST pyrolysis of waste wood: Greenhouse gas balance 72
assessment
Downie A Discovering Terra Preta Australis: Rethinking the capacity of 64
Australian soils to sequester carbon
Foidl N Detailed analyses of 20 year old biochar recovered from Bolivian 32
lowland agricultural soils
Free H The effect of biochars on maize (Zea mays) germination 83
Fuertes A Characterisation of chars produced from different carbonisation 44
processes
Hatton B Influence of biochars on nitrous oxide emission and nutrient 71
leaching from two contrasting soils
Herbertson J The carbon abatement potential and sustainability credentials of 57
Project Rainbow Bee Eater
Joseph S The reaction of soil with high and low mineral ash content 75
biochars
Kameyama K Estimation of net carbon sequestration potential with farmland 68
application of bagasse-char: Lifecycle CO2 analysis through a
pilot pyrolysis plant
Kisiki N Carbonisation of empty palm oil fruit bunches using the 46
hydrothermal method
Kookana R Biochar addition to soils: Implications for pesticide persistence 31
and efficacy
Krull E Biochar: How stable is it? And how accurately do we need to 27
know?
Lata R Cadmium removal efficiency of sugarcane biochar: A 102
comparative study
Lehmann J Biochar: Science and policy 24
Macdonald L A fundamental understanding of biochar: Implications and 45
opportunities for the grains industry
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First Author Paper Page
McLeod M Developing collaborative biochar research in Aceh, Indonesia 94
Manderson R Maximising char yield from pyrolysis of low cost biomass 51
Maraseni T Towards a faster and broader application of biochar: Assessing 96
and recommending appropriate marketing mechanisms
Moxham G Project 540: Low-emission, low cost biochar kilns for small farms 53
and villages
Murphy A OpenChar: Open-sourced biochar production technology 52
Namgay T Influence of biochar on the availability of As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn 30
to maize (Zea mays L.)
Nguyen B Temperature sensitivity of black carbon decomposition and 39
oxidation
Ogawa M Charcoal use in agriculture in Japan 61
Pari G Production of charcoal compost from organic solid waste 47
Pigneri A Opportunities and challenges for biochar/bioenergy systems in 100
the compliance and voluntary carbon markets
Quirk R The role for biochar in management of the agricultural 77
landscape: A farmers perspective
Sinclair K Productivity and nutrient availability on a Ferrosol: Biochar, lime 79
and fertiliser
Singh B Evaluation of laboratory procedures for the characterisation of 38
biochars
Singh BP Turnover of biochars in soil: Preliminary estimates based on two 29
years of observation
Siregar C Effect of biochar application on soil amelioration and growth of 82
Acacia mangium (Willd.) and Michelia montana Blume
Smernik R A simple method for determining biochar condensation 33
Solaiman Z Effect of biochar on mycorrhizal colonisation in subterranean 89
clover and wheat growth
Somerville M Development of sustainable fuels and reductants for the iron 60
and steel industry
Somerville M Preparation of low volatile charcoal for liquid steel 50
recarburisation plant trials
Srinivasan P Retention capacity of three types of biochar for estrogenic 41
steroid hormones in dairy farm soil
Takahashi T Charcoal application for poultry farming 81
Tam H Biochar research in sandy soils of central coastal Vietnam 92
Van Zwieten L Agro-economic valuation of biochar using field-derived data 58
Van Zwieten L Biochar holds potential for reducing soil emissions of 74
greenhouse gases
Van Zwieten L Nitrogen use efficiency improves using greenwaste biochar 87
Vencat K Biochar: A people initiative 59
Waters D Soil nutrient retention under biochar-amended broadacre 86
cropping soils in southern NSW
Williams CM Assessment of yield, salt tolerance and energy conversion of 48
Arundo donax, a potential biochar and biofuel crop.
Yao F Simulating the weathering of biochar with a Soxhlet reactor 42
Yamamoto G A simple method for production of porous bamboo charcoal 49
Zhang D Maximising environmental and economic benefits of biochar 55
104 production using an innovative indirectly fired kiln technology

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