Biochar trials food for thought

Biochar researcher Dr Lukas Van Zwieten (right) and senior technical officer Josh Rust with a handful of the black gold.
Biochar researcher Dr Lukas Van Zwieten (right) and senior technical officer Josh Rust with a handful of the black gold.

Biochar researchers have expanded their research to around 350 sites on the North Coast, including coffee, macadamia and sugar cane farms.

Principal research scientist Lukas Van Zwieten said trials at the Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute had shown a 100% increase in the production of corn and faba beans and significant increases in nitrogen in the soil, whereas other trials had shown no significant influence from the biochar.

Biochar is a charcoal-like substance made from organic waste that can enhance soil productivity and store carbon.

“Different biochar have different properties depending on the material they are made from and the processing conditions,” he said.

Biochar is made from a process called pyrolysis, which is the decomposition of organic matter at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. The biochar used in the field studies has come from Sydney, or in some cases has been imported from the Philippines, which makes it very expensive.

“It limits the size of the trials we can do,” Dr Van Zwieten said. “We’d love to do large field trials, but we’re limited to scientific rather than farm demonstration trials.”

Dr Van Zwieten said many of the practices and principles they are developing here will be applicable across Australia and on a global scale to boost food and fibre production, and they have a joint project with the Australian Centre for International Agriculture, where they are trialling the technology in Vietnam.

Dr Van Zwieten has also been involved in researching 34 sites along the Murray River near the Victorian and NSW border, where they have discovered terra preta soils, similar to those created by the ancient Aztecs in the Amazon basin.

“These sites date back 1600 years when Aboriginal people were cooking in earthen ovens and the charcoal would build up over years. We found that the carbon concentration in the soils there is five to six times higher than in the soils next to it, which adds to the evidence that biochar or charcoal can be used to store carbon in temperate soils,” he said.

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Three bandicoot joeys survive mum's death

Bandicoot joeys found by WIRES.

Baby bandicoots found in mother's pouch

Jenny Dowell's Doctor appointment

Former Mayor Jenny Dowell shares Lismore's 70th birthday cake with the public in 2016.

Former Lismore Mayor will receive an SCU honorary doctorate tomorrow

The future's bright for British whites

Cattle thrive in Australian conditions

Local Partners

‘I feel sh*t’: Agonising Married At First Sight split

IT’S the Married At First Sight break-up we knew would eventually happen. And when it did it was miserable and excruciating.

Splendour tickets on sale this weekend for locals

Crowd at Splendour in the Grass 2016.  Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Are you in the area allowed to purchase them?

Married at First Sight's controversial groom laying low

MAFS’ Anthony chooses to stay with wife Nadia at their vow renewal.

Anthony in hiding after backlash over his MAFS appearance

Seven, Nine’s crazy cyclone battle

Ruth Western ain't got time for Cyclone Debbie.

Reporters are battling fierce winds, and locals who won’t play ball.

MAFS bride shops around new love story

Nadia Stamp has put a price tag on her new man.

Nadia is shopping her $4000 new man ... and it’s not Anthony.

Kyle Sandilands declares war after dodgy editing

Shock jock Kyle Sandilands has issued a grim on-air warning

HEARTBREAK: M'boro farmer misses out on love on reality show

Susan Rawlings and Sean Hollands in a scene from Married At First Sight. Supplied by Channel 9.

Hearts were broken during Sunday's Married at First Sight episode.

Luxury hotel expands $400m water park development

Developer to push on with second stage of massive new water park

Dalwood waterfall up for sale

Two people have died at Dalwood Falls, Ballina.

How would you like to own your very own waterfall?

Couple ditch Springfield for $350 million rural lifestyle

Sales consultant Rachel Hargreaves (left) of Oliver Hume Waterlea at Wallon with new land owner Rebecca Mallett.

“To purchase a block the same size would be double the price here"

It's official: Byron Bay unaffordable

MILLIONAIRES ROW: The Housing Commission house in Keats St, Byron Bay which sold at auction on Saturday for $1.65 million.

Buying a home in Bay Bay is a dream too far for some

Coast home luring interstate buyers sold

PRIZED POSITION: Blue clip location, peaceful surroundings, spacious living with swimming pool, tennis court on 4562sq

The property was described as a 'Queenslander with Hamptons style'

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!