News

Minister praises biochar trials

Agriculture Minister Tony Burke and research scientist Lukas Van Zwieten checking a corn crop that is part of the biochar trial.
Agriculture Minister Tony Burke and research scientist Lukas Van Zwieten checking a corn crop that is part of the biochar trial.

Professor Tim Flannery has described biochar as “(possibly) the single most important initiative for humanity’s environmental future... It allows us to address food security, the fuel crisis, and the climate problem and all in an immensely practical manner.”

Biochar is the material produced by heating carbon-rich material at a very high temperature in limited oxygen. The charcoal-like product is then added to soil to improve soil fertility and increase carbon sequestration.

A similar process known as ‘terra preta’ was used by South American tribes on the Amazon River for thousands of years and there has been some low-level research into the use of biochar in developing countries, but it has only been in the past few years that the scientific community has started to get very excited about the process and confirmed there are real benefits for soils.

A biochar project being run by NSW Industry and Investment (formerly the Department of Primary Industries) is amongst the first in the world to be able to quantify the benefits it can have on agricultural crops and in carbon storage.

The federal Minister for Agriculture Tony Burke was at the Wollongbar Agricultural Institute on Monday checking out some of their trials.

“People have been talking about ways of improving productivity and reducing greenhouse gasses but asking how do you measure it?” he said.

He praised the efforts of Dr Lukas Van Zwieten and his team who, for the past four years, have been trialling biochar on a range of crops on the North Coast including avocadoes, sugar cane, rice, macadamias and coffee.

“This work allows us to start doing that... the challenge is that different types of biochar will give different results with different soil types and different crops,” Mr Burke said.

Biochar can be produced from any organic material such as household green waste, paper waste or agricultural waste. The gas that is produced in the process, known as syn gas, can also be used to generate electricity.

The trials being conducted in the Northern Rivers are largely funded through a Caring For Our Country grant to Richmond Landcare.

Tony Walker from Richmond Landcare said one of the biggest problems they faced was actually getting the biochar because there is no commercial production of biochar in Australia at the moment. There is a reactor (also known as a pyrolisis machine) at Gosford, but it is only for small scale trials, so they have had to import it from Indonesia and The Philippines.

“There is definitely an opportunity for a biochar plant to be established in the Northern Rivers. We are hoping that a local council in our area will build a plant – not only to avoid burying green waste, but also to make locally produced biochar for trials and for farmers to utilise,” Mr Walker said.

He said they had been in discussion with Ballina Shire Council and estimated the cost of building a pyrolysis machine would be around $12 million and that it should pay for itself in four to five years.


Stay Connected

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

Felix Riebl wants to be in your arms

TOURING NOW: Australian musician Felix Riebl is coming to the Northern Rivers in June.

Cat Empire frontman brings out his romantic side in solo show

Council ski jump vote 'small victory' for residents

CONTROVERSIAL: A digital image of the proposed Lake Ainsworth Olympic ski jump facility provided by the NSW Office of Sport.

Councillors vote 8-0 not to support development application

LGBQTI* community takes part in marriage equality action

VOTING FOR CHANGE: Maude Boate will be at the the marriage equality action at Lismore City Hall.

Lismore calls for awareness on marriage equality

Local Partners

Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor split after 17 years

BEN Stiller and his wife Christine Taylor have called it a day in a joint announcement.

Why The Voice hasn't produced a star

Boy George responds to Brittania Clifford-Pugh's heart-warming message.

It's the industry, not the show, says Boy George

These actors hated their movies and didn’t mind admitting it

Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans in a scene from GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Every year, Hollywood blesses us with plenty of God awful movies.

Miranda Kerr and fiance hang up backyard tent for wedding

The decorators and caterers are arriving for the final preparations for the wedding of Miranda Kerr and Evan Spiegel. Pictures: Splash

Evan Spiegel and Miranda Kerr are set to marry today

Book review: Mia Freedman's book meets her critics head on

I appreciated Freedman's blunt honesty in the book

Comedy production hits Rochdale stage

Thoroughly relishing their roles as the three crotchety old veterans (performed by Co Gray Wilson, Jason Smith and John Taylor), they provide fascinating individual insights into three proud men who despite their frailties are determined be adventurous and joyful to the end.

Heroes is a comedy play by Gerald Sibleyras.

Man's amazing comeback from monster crisis

Pat O'Driscoll agents Penny Keating and Doug Webber sold 56 Agnes St, The Range at auction over the weekend.

NOT long ago, he sold his possessions to pay staff. Now he's back.

How Toowoomba house prices compare in Australia

For sale sign in front of home.

Here's what $700,000 will buy you in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Sydney

One of Maryborough's most historic homes is still for sale

FULL OF HISTORY: Trisha Moulds is owner of the historic Tinana state known as Rosehill. The beautiful home is currently for sale.

It has been the scene of both joy and tragedies over the years.

The face of the Sunshine Coast's overpriced rental crisis

Alyx Wilson had to rent a $385 unit in Currimundi because the market was too competitive for cheaper rental housing. She is now renting a room from friends who own a house in Currimundi, and says its much more affordable.

Young people feel the strain in competitive, expensive rental market

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!