PROJECT - AN EVALUATION OF THE BENEFITS OF USING BIOCHAR TO REDUCE THE IMPACTS FROM SOIL CONTAMINANTS FOUND IN SUBURBAN VEGETABLE GARDENS DUNEDIN NZ 1st MARCH 2018
Some suburban home garden soils have toxic levels of contaminants that will potentially be taken up by vegetables and consumed by the home owner. The range of contaminants can be quite varied but usually include; pesticides from previous land use or grower practice such as; DDT insecticide, lead from various sources but particularly from old paint that has flaked or been scraped off buildings, and zinc from galvanised iron.
Biochar has been shown to have potential to mitigate the impact of such soil contaminants and so a small field experiment is planned where various rates of biochar will be applied to garden soils and the leaf material from vegetables grown on these test plots tested to assess any affects. This project is supported by Mercy Garden South Dunedin (Mercy Parish, Catholic Social Services and Nga Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa Sisters of Mercy New Zealand)
WORKSHOP - MAKING AND USING BIOCHAR MOSGIEL, NZ April 2018
This workshop is held annually and participants will get an overview of what biochar is and how to use it, followed by demonstrations of different ways to make biochar that can be carried out at home. There will also be an opportunity to discuss and make a biochar mix for seed raising and we will explore ways to use the heat generated from making biochar.
NZ SERIES OF WORKSHOPS FOCUSED ON VINEYARDS AND ORCHARDS. MAY/JUNE 2018
NZ Biochar Ltd in collaboration with the NZ Biochar Interest Group AllBlackEarth are planning to hold 5 workshops throughout NZ; Cromwell, Nelson, Gisbourne, Auckland and Waihi.
THAILAND VISIT JAN/FEB 2018
Visiting Thailand to promote biochar and work on biochar projects is important to NZ Biochar Ltd. Small scale subtropical and tropical farmers, who in many cases are working with nutrient deficient soils, are well placed to benefit from using biochar. If large numbers of small scale farmers around the world use biochar, then we all benefit as a consequence of carbon sequestration.
As mentioned in previous posts NZ Biochar is fortunate to have the support and collaboration of the Green Net Cooperative, a social enterprise organisation committed to organic production and Fair Trade in Thailand. We now have two projects; the first, an ongoing experimental site at Mae Tha, with the MaeTha Organic Vegetable Producer Group and Green Net, and second, I have now started a project with the Ban Krut Organic Coconut Producer Group and Green Net, at Ban Krut in the south of Thailand.
There are no crops growing (simulating farmer practice) on the dryland experimental site at Maetha at this time of the year because it is the dry season. Last season some plots were sown with baby corn while others were sown with soybeans. Vegetables other than baby corn are likely to be planted in these plots in the coming season.
While I was at MaeTha I also demonstrated to Green Net staff there how to make biochar in a small pit in the ground as well as in a 200 l barrel split in half long-ways, as examples of low tech, low cost techniques to make biochar.
The organic coconut farmers at Ban Krut have two ‘waste’ materials that are a problem to deal with. They are the butt end of coconut tree fronds and the cap and stem removed from the coconut during processing. We found that these could be biocharred in either a pit in the ground or in a concrete tub (tubs are readily found around Thailand). Having demonstrated these methods to Green Net staff at Ban Krut we then set up a small garden plot experiment to compare some biochar treatments. The experiment focused on using biochar in vegetable growing for farmers own consumption.
Warm Heart, Phrao whose primary objective is supporting under privileged children and developing local micro-entrepreneurship, continue to promote and work with biochar. During this visit, I undertook a small project to create and evaluate a biochar based potting mix that was simple to make and had potential as a commercial product. The New Mix is now being compared with two other potting mixes in a pot experiment growing kale and set up in a randomised block design, so that any treatment differences can be tested for statistical significance. Early assessments suggest that the New Mix is performing well.
I always enjoy visiting Pang Ma O village - Chiang Mai/Chiang Dhao at about 12oom elevation ('top of the hill') where the Ton Ping Organic Coffee Producer Group is based. In July last year we made compost at Pang Ma O from rice husks, harvested green material, dry pig poo and biochar (15% finished product). We also cut Lichee tree branches and stored them under cover to dry in preparation for making biochar. This visit we charred that wood and, along with the compost, stored it ready for use in an experiment that will focus on how to manage coffee tree nutrition more effectively.
I also spent time with various people, like Nita and Luka at Mae Taeng north of Chiang Mai. We made biochar and now they have primed it with nutrients and used it in their garden. They are pleased with how their garden grows.
AUSTRALIAN BIOCHAR CONFERENCE 10 - 12 AUGUST 2017
The Australia New Zealand Biochar Conference was held on August 10-12, 2017 at Murwillumbah Civic Centre and Showgrounds, NSW, Australia. Dennis joined the ANZBC17 organising committee on April 2nd 2017 where committee members located in NZ, Australia and Indonesia meet on Skype to plan this event.
During the conference Dennis presented a paper on Understanding the Role of Biochar in Vineyards, that reported on research results from experimental work conducted at Mt Difficulty Vineyard located at Bannockburn, Central Otago.
And on behalf of The WarmHeart Foundation he also demonstrated making biochar using a T500 trough.
WARMHEART, PRAO, THAILAND MAY 2017
May 29th: Went to Warmheart Foundation in Phrao, Thailand, to continue my support for their extensive applied and experimental biochar program, particularly their experimental rice paddy farm where they are comparing various biochar treatments. Understanding where rice roots are growing is helpful to interpretation of treatment effects.
GREEN NET ORGANIC CENTRE,MAE THA, THAILAND MAY 2017
May 22nd: Went to Green Net Organic Centre, Mae Tha, Thailand,to make biochar using a simple trough.
GREEN NET ORGANIC CENTRE, MAE THA, THAILAND MAY 2017
May 22nd: Went to Green Net Organic Centre, Mae Tha Thailand, to supervise making biochar and reapplying treatments to our collaborative long-term field experiment where we are assessing the benefits of using biochar to improve growth of organically grown baby corn. Photos show field plot experiment.
MT DIFFICULTY, OTAGO, NZ MAY 2017
May 12th: Visited Mt Difficulty Wines in Central Otago, NZ to see progress on their Big Roo biochar machine. They are building it themselves based on the concept and plans of Biochar Energy Systems - Russell Burnett Australia. See a Youtube clip of Big Roo in action below.
MOSGIEL, OTAGO, NZ MARCH 2017
Conducted a Biochar Workshop in Mosgiel NZ.
VARIOUS COFFEE GROWERS IN THAILAND JAN - FEB 2017
January 18th – February 6th: Visited Thailand to assess soil conditions and the viability of making and using biochar on a Robusta coffee plantation in the South, and Arabica coffee plantations in the North.
WARMHEART, PRAO, THAILAND 2016 & 2017
The Warmheart Foundation in Phrao, Thailand has been developing practical biochar ovens that are effective and inexpensive to build.
MOSGIEL, OTAGO, NZ OCTOBER 2016
October 2016: Just at the initial stages of making biochar in a pit at Mosgiel. Biomass can be continually added until the biochar has built up to near the top of the pit.
PANG MA O VILLAGE - CHIANG MAI/CHIANG DHAO, THAILAND AUGUST 2016
NZ Biochar Ltd worked with the Tonping Coffee Producers group to coordinate a program of applying fertilisers, and to develop a biochar program, to improve the health and productivity of their Arabica coffee trees.
BANNOCKBURN, CENTRAL OTAGO NZ. NOV 2012
We began a 2 year study on - Understanding the role of Biochar in Vineyards in collaboration with Ahika Consulting, Grape Vision Ltd and MT Difficulty Wines, with funding from The Sustainable Farming Fund, Ministry for Primary Industries, NZ
PUKEKOHE, AUCKLAND NZ. FEB 2012
NZ Biochar collaborated in a project with Fiona Curran-Cournane Land and Soil Scientist at Auckland City Council, including supplying the biochar, that focused on Soil quality responses to biochar application under intensive market gardening.
MOSGIEL, OTAGO, NZ JUNE 2010
The initial work on a prototype mobile farm-scale continuous feed pyrolysis machine was completed in our Mosgiel workshop.