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Biochar Compost 2021

indaswamp

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If you have never heard of it, it's basically charcoal that has been made and prepared for use as a soil amendment. Char is already in some of the most productive soils on the planet...the grasslands. And fire was a natural part of that landscape. Through the eons, char has been incorporated into the milosols of the midwest creating the black fluffy rich loam that is very fertile. It has been discovered that 45-50% of the carbon in those soils IS char.

I have been making biochar for the last 6 years for incorporation into my garden soil. The absolute BEST way to {charge/inoculate/age/neutralize pH/increase reactive sites on the surface} is to Co-compost Biochar with your yard compost heap. The pile will heat up to 150-158*F and will stay that hot for up to a month. The surface of the char will transform becoming covered in organic molecules that will hold onto nutrients in a plant available form that WILL NOT WASH OUT of the soil. The Cation Exchange Capacity of the Biochar after transformation will increase around 500%.

Here is this years char after running it through my 5 gallon bucket charcoal chain mill...1/4" to ultra fine dust.
IMG_20210407_082955.jpg

Here's one wheel barrel of this years batch...
IMG_20210407_092825.jpg

I have each wheel barrel of char distributed on a 4'X4' X4' high leaf/grass/household waste compost pile in one of my raised beds. It'll cook all summer as I add grass clippings and household waste to the pile. The pile will stay above 140*F for until about the end of October.
 
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jcam222

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I am fascinated and totally lost haha. How do you make the charcoal portion of the char compost??
 

indaswamp

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I use a charcoal retort made with a 30 gallon and a 55 gallon barrel. Fill the 30 gallon with wood less than 3" dia. (and bones). Pack it tight and put the lid on (rubber seal removed) then I put the retainer ring on and tighten it with bailing wire twisting with pliers. The lid has 5-6 1/2" holes in it. This is where the wood gases and smoke escape. The barrel excludes oxygen for pyrolysis. I slide the full 30 gal. barrel UPSIDE DOWN into the 55 gal. barrel. The 55 has primary air holes ringing the bottom and secondary air holes around the top. air distribution is roughly 2/3 bottom, 1/3 top.

I pack the annular space between the barrels with wood and light the top. You want a ring of fire around the 30 gal. barrel....this will heat the wood inside the 30 and start the pyrolysis by driving off the wood gasses and smoke. These gasses come out the holes at the bottom of the 55 gal. barrel (out the holes drilled in the top of the 30) and mix with the primary air and ignite when it hits the flame. I put the top on the 55 gal. barrel. It has a 6" flew stack 6' high. The draw from it pulls the wood gasses and primary air to the flame and it heats the metal cherry red....about 650*C. The gasses burn before the wood in the annular space so it is self regulating. You can watch the flame slowly travel down until all the wood in the 30 has been pyrolyzed into charcoal.

Since the smoke created in the 30 gal. barrel is forced through the flame, it burns. The wood gasses contain a lot of methane and it burns real hot. there is very very little smoke out of the 6" stack...It is a very clean, very hot burn.
 
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indaswamp

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The bones make bone char which is 37% phosphorus, 33% calcium, and the rest carbon. It is a slow release fertilizer in a plant accessible form.
 

Fueling Around

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i've heard of it, but ignored as I live in high ph soils

Any wood ash added to the soil will raise the ph.
 

indaswamp

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i've heard of it, but ignored as I live in high ph soils

Any wood ash added to the soil will raise the ph.
There are some acidic chars, but most are slightly basic depending on the ash content. But that is the beauty of running it through the composting process...i.e composting WITH the compost material. The Char grabs onto Ammonia and bonds with it and this lowers the pH of the char. The organic acids created in the composting process also attach to the char, lowering the pH. The Char is neutral upon completion of the composting process.
 

indaswamp

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Best use for a pine cone I have ever found! LOL!! Make Biochar with 'em! Easy to crush and makes a fine powder...
I save all the small limbs that fall from the trees in the yard over the course of the year. Usually have enough to do 4-5 burns. That yields 100-120# of milled fine char dust for the garden.
 

indaswamp

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I was taught growing up that the Amazon was an untouched virgin landscape. Science has discovered that this is not the case. NASA discovered geometric shapes of greener growth in the forest of the Amazon in the 1960's that they could not explain but knew had to be man made. Terra Preta-the man made super soils of the Amazon. That is the reason...estimated that the black earth covers the size of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi combined and supported upwards of 6 million people living there.

Good video...about an hour long.
 

GaryHibbert

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Interesting, Inda. Roughly how long does the burn take?
Gary
 

ddufore

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Inda
I also make charcoal to cook with and biochar for my garden. I keep composting worms and use their castings(manure) and finished compost with other ingredients to inoculate the biochar prior to using it. Great stuff!!
 

WaterRat

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Cool stuff. I'm in the middle of getting organized to get my container garden planted (got over a month to go yet up here) so it's a timely read.
 

indaswamp

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The smallest particles of char....10-1000 atoms in size...are small enough to lodge themselves between clay plates, thus flocculating the clay and changing the soil structure.
 

zwiller

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I can't believe I can say this but learned of biochar from watching Joe Rogan :emoji_laughing: His guest (forget) tells the ElDorado story. VERY interesting. That said, totally with Fueling Around Fueling Around . Serious clay here and not for me.
 

indaswamp

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My tomato plants have grown from 8" to 18" tall in the last week...growing like crazy!
 

indaswamp

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Found the paper I was looking for...The biochar in milosol soil.

Relationships Between Biochar and Soil Humic Substances

Biochar, or the charred material from the pyrolysis of biomass, has a high resistance to microbial degradation. Soil microorganisms will, however, slowly give rise to oxidations of peripheral components of the biochar structure resulting in a material with operationally defined properties similar to soil humic acids. Conditions are described for the preparation of a ‘mature’ biochar (composed of fused aromatic structures and lacking incompletely transformed plant residues). The most biologically oxidised humic acids (isolated at pH 7) from the IHSS soil standard (a Mollisol) have the NMR aromatic resonances characteristic of biochars, but the significant carboxylic acid functionalities indicate that peripheral structures in the fused aromatic core were biologically oxidised over time in the soil environment.

When biochar is properly oxidised biologically, it is basically the same as humic acids in the soil. Best way to do this is to run biochar thru the composting process with the high volume of biological activity.....the biochar will pick up random organic molecules on it's surface...
 

indaswamp

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Soil Science has taken leaps and bounds forward over the last decade....

Soil biology and symbiosis of plants and microbes:

Phosphorase microbes: (they love bone char)

Free ranging Nitrogen fixing (Nitrogenase) Microbes (they love biochar)
 

indaswamp

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Root exudates form the liquid carbon pathway to building soil humus through microbes:

 
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ddufore

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All this seems super technical to me. Bottom line is that biochar when inoculated is a super fertilizer that will also hold water and is a very long term amendment.
 

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