Feb 27, 2010

Back to The Land

Patrick Holden, Soil Association director, presents Week In | Week Out for BBC Wales examining the implications of a carbon constrained world on agriculture. (2007)
Back to The Land (Parts 1-4 - play automatically)

Biochar Technology: VenEarth Group LLC

Biochar is a charcoal-like substance produced by heating biomass in the absence of oxygen. Biochar is distinguished from charcoal in that it is intended not for use as fuel but for use as a soil amendment, where its high surface area and active carbon surface can create durable soil fertility improvements. Biochar is typically over 70% carbon, and this carbon in properly produced biochar is stable for hundreds to thousands of years in the soil. Deposits of biochar have been found in high-temperature, high-rainfall Amazonian soils dating back over 5000 years, providing direct evidence of long-term stability.
Biochar in soils has been demonstrated to retain water and nutrients, encourage beneficial soil microorganisms, and enhance soil fertility while reducing inputs of conventional fertilizers.These improvements have been shown to be persistent.
Biochar can be produced from agricultural and forest wastes sustainably, worldwide. Large-scale deployment of biochar in agriculture can deliver gigatons of annual carbon sequestration while improving farm productivity, making us all healthier and wealthier.
Portfolio Companies:

Watch The Promise of Biochar

VenEarth is a major supporter of the International Biochar Initiative. This video was produced by IBI for the Poznan round of climate discussions, during which biochar was placed on the agenda for Copenhagen.

Soil Carbon, Science, Policy and Politics

Watch VenEarth Managing Partner John Moussouris January, 09 presentation on Biochar, Agriculture and Climate.

Small crop size associated with naturally occurring exisol
Robust crop size and yield associated with Terra Preta

Feb 25, 2010

High Tunnel Production and Low Cost Tunnel Construction Webinar from eOrganic - eXtension


This Webinar, presented by Tim Coolong of the University of Kentucky, will be an introduction to season extension using high tunnels. It will cover common issues associated with tunnel production, and will also provide a short overview of how to construct a low cost pvc tunnel. The Webinar is for growers who are interested in season extension, but who may not want to invest a large amount of money right away.
About Tim CoolongTim Coolong is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Coolong works primarily with small mixed vegetable farms around Kentucky. His research has focused on sustainable management for mixed vegetable production including irrigation management, new crops, and season extension.
About eOrganicThe eOrganic eXtension website at http:www.extension.org/organic_production is for farmers, ranchers, agricultural professionals, certifiers, researchers and educators seeking reliable information on organic agriculture, published research results, farmer experiences, and certification. Our current content is focused on general organic agriculture, dairy production, and vegetable production. The content is collaboratively authored and reviewed by our community of University researchers and Extension personnel, agricultural professionals, farmers, and certifiers with experience and expertise in organic agriculture.
Title: High Tunnel Production and Low Cost Tunnel Construction Webinar from eOrganic Date: Tuesday, March 2, 2010 Time: 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM EST
System Requirements:
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows(R) 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista
Macintosh(R)-based attendees
Required: Mac OS(R) X 10.4 (Tiger(R)) or newer
This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.
eOrganic 4814

Story of Stuff! - How Things Work - Full Version

Detailed explanation of how things work in our culture.  What do you think of explanation?
Website: http://www.storyofstuff.com/


After the failure of world leaders at Copenhagen, it’s time for burnt offerings and some negative thinking to keep us positive.
Move over, carbon-neutral – yesterday’s watchword – and enter carbon-negative biochar, the great black hope that may allow us to breathe another day.
Charcoal power is warming the imaginations of scientists from the U.S. to Germany, Japan and the EU, and many projects are already functional. But though we have the Canadian Biochar Initiative and industry association Biochar Ontario nearby, our charboiled revolution is stalled on simmer.
What is this well-grounded tech all about? According to technologist and Biochar Ontario head Lloyd Helferty, we should think of the process as a “form of reverse mining’’ – taking carbon from the atmosphere and putting it in the earth.
It starts with waste from logging (twigs, bark, sawdust) and agriculture (straw, cornstalks, etc), which is subjected to low-temperature, low oxygen smouldering (pyrolysis). The charred remains are then put into the ground.
When these plant materials rot in the open air, they offer back to the atmosphere the carbon they absorbed in photosynthesis. But burial of carbon, which doesn’t break down for thousands of years, both keeps carbon from tampering with our climate any time soon and dramatically increases the yield of plants that feed people.
Imagine what a province-wide system of smouldering operations could mean for farmers, or for our emission tally. Some scientists estimate that the method could safely store 250 tonnes of carbon per hectare. And if every city had a facility to process yard waste and then redistribute the “black gold’’ to urban gardeners, we’d have a string of urban edens.
Over the last two decades, biochar has won the hearts and minds of a group of biologists, soil scientists and anthropologists fascinated by the soil-building practices of the first human inhabitants of the Amazon.
It’s believed that the Amazon’s “black earth,” as its soil is called, was produced thousands of years ago by early inhabitants who understood a process that modern scientists didn’t start to figure out until the 90s.
Early work on its rediscovery was done by Wim Sombroek, who was 10 years old during the Dutch famine of 1944, when his family survived on food from an exceptionally fertile backyard strewn with fireplace ash and cinders. When he saw black earth on a trip to the Amazon in the 50s, according to Emma Marris’s report in Nature in 2006, Sombroek recognized the magic of his childhood and devoted his scientific career to studying it.
Sombroek also worked with the young Johannes Lehmann, now a distinguished crop scientist at Cornell University. Lehmann and his co-workers deconstructed the wonders of carbon.
Carbon is very stable but it is also full of nooks and crannies and has high cation exchange capacity (CEC), in case you’re at a cocktail party with soil nerds. All these openings allow biochar to bind to water and other soil elements and keep them in place as well as providing hiding places for bacteria that break down nutrients in the soil.
Consequently, char keeps fertilizing nitrogen and phosphorous in the earth instead of letting them drain away and pollute rivers, and helps retains soil moisture. Food crops bloom – yields shoot up from 60 to 189 per cent at the sites Lehmann studied, while lakes and rivers remain stocked with fish.
On top of all this, the heat from the initial smouldering is capable of burning off half the carbon in the plant waste, converting it into bio-fuel and replacing fossil fuels.
Less carbon in the sky is not pie in the sky. Science policy advisers, including the European Union’s Frank Raes, support active biochar experimentation. Germany, the fast starter of green economics, already has a firm, the Juwi Group, which began manufacturing biochar from crop waste late in 2009.
The U.S. ag department spent over a million dollars to study the option. Japan already uses a third of its charcoal on farms. In Ontario, a commercial greenhouse in Kingston is handing over its scorched remains for farmers and experimenters.
But, says Helferty, who also serves on the leadership team of the Canadian Biochar Initiative, “Canada is quite far behind. There are no announcements of any funding, as far as I know,” he says. Wanted: a smouldering movement and politicians ready to bankroll it.

Feb 24, 2010

The Complexity of a Tree Even In Art Is To Be Appreciated: Counsel Oak

Aren't Trees Amazing Part Of Nature?
These art representations display, in a simplistic way how truly complex they are!

China's push for renewable energy | Video | Reuters.com

China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is often blamed for its role in world pollution, but the giant nation has a strong appetite for alternative energy.

How to grow more renewable energy | Video | Reuters.com

Researchers are trying to breed plants that could be better sources of renewable energy. A team at Aberystwyth University in Wales is looking improving yields of fast growing plants without increasing inputs such as fertilizers.

Is Permaculture The Answer? | Sustainable Food | Change.org

As an advocate for sustainable food, it's easy to wag a finger at Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or even just "Big Ag." But focusing on the negative is kind of a bummer. So here's something positive: permaculture. It's an exciting and refreshing take on how we use our resources, and you don't need to be a brain surgeon to understand its basic principles. 
Graham Bell, author of The Permaculture Way, defines permaculture as "the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way." The term comes from the combining of the wordspermanent and agriculture and essentially aims to echo in cultivated land what happens naturally in an ecosystem free of human intervention.

Think of it this way: when leaves fall in a forest, they are naturally composted with the help of the sun, soil and excrement of forest animals. Permaculture asks how humans can re-create this closed loop in our own developed environments. For example, permaculture encourages the planting of complimentary crops in place of the single crop fields used in traditional farming, and investigates how these crops can also attract beneficial insects to the land or provide grazing fodder for animals that could be raised there.

Because it's so holistic in scope, permaculture can be initially intimidating. Much of permaculture focuses on waste reduction, or reuse of what is traditionally considered waste. Advanced systems might incorporate composting toilets or gray water systems, but even placing some aquatic plants in a rain-collecting bucket with a little tube for drainage is a step in the right direction.

Hip Chick Digs, a Portland-based DIY gardener, has a great overview of how she incorporated permaculture principles into her own backyard last year. Appropedia, on online sustainable wiki, breaks down the basics into easy to understand categories, such as irrigation and water, pest control, and plot design. These resources can help you get started with a raised bed on the roof or a simple swale in your backyard. To understand more of the sustainable theory, check out Spiral Seed's Beginners' Guide to Permaculture.

Above all, permaculture focuses on three ethics: care for the earth, care for the people, and fair share. In today's terms, they could loosely be translated as a convergence of environmentalism, cooperative living and economic justice. Any system that's founded on such high-minded ideals while also giving practical advice on planting to increase both crop-yields and nutrient-retention is worth checking out.

Bloom Energy reveals new 'Bloom Box' fuel cell technology | Technology | Los Angeles Times

February 24, 2010 | 11:49 am
Silicon Valley company Bloom Energy revealed its heavily hyped and closely guarded solid oxide fuel cell on Wednesday, heralding the technology as a likely clean-tech game-changer.
Years in the making, the Bloom Energy Server can generate electricity using air and a wide range of renewable or traditional fuels through an electro-chemical process, rather than combustion.
Even more than solar and wind power – which Sunnyvale-based Bloom said can be intermittent – the new fuel cell could revolutionize fuel sources by offering clean, affordable and reliable energy, the company said. The technology can run all day, and customers can earn back the $700,000 to $800,000 cost within five years through utility bill savings.
Several major companies, including FedEx, Google, Staples and Wal-Mart, have already begun testing the technology. The trial runs have so far produced more than 11 million kilowatt-hours of energy while cutting 14 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, Bloom said.
At Coca-Cola’s Odwalla plant in Dinuba, Calif., a 500-kilowatt fuel cell installation is expected to use biogas to supply 30% of the facility’s power needs while reducing its carbon footprint by 35%.
Last year, EBay set up a 500-kilowatt system powered by biogas outside its San Jose headquarters, taking 15% of the campus' energy needs off the grid and generating 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in its first six months. The fuel cells, which EBay called "skinny batteries," were officially introduced at the company's site Wednesday in the company of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Former NASA scientist and Bloom Chief Executive K.R. Sridhar described the technology in a statement as potentially having “the same kind of impact on energy that the mobile phone had on communications.”
Fuel cell technology has been researched for decades, and was typically associated with hydrogen as the main fuel source. But Bloom’s flat ceramic squares, the size of a Polaroid photo and made with baked beach sand, are supposed to be more versatile, the company said.
Each server represents a 40% to 100% carbon footprint reduction, depending on the type of fuel used through the thousands of fuel cells. Even with fossil fuels, the electricity produced will be 67% cleaner than the power produced from a coal-fired plant, according to Bloom.
About 100 average U.S. homes or a small office building can be powered using one 100-kilowatt unit the size of a large refrigerator or an SUV.
Bloom was founded in 2001 after Sridhar and his team conducted research for the NASA Mars space program to use solar energy and water to produce air and fuel. The company raised $400 million from investors, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Morgan Stanley.
The product was shrouded in secrecy in the years leading up to its unveiling.

Feb 23, 2010

"Herbie", The Champion Elm Tree

  • Herbie The Elm Tree Cut Down: Yarmouth, Maine's Champion Elm Had Dutch Elm Disease
  • Herbie, The Elm Tree, May Have Climate Data In Trunk

  1. Herbie, The Elm Tree, May Have Climate Data In Trunk
    Jan 31, 2010 ... YARMOUTH, Maine — Herbie, the giant American elm tree, is giving his trunk over to science. Since the tree was felled two weeks ago, ...
  2. Herbie The Elm Tree Cut Down: Yarmouth, Maine's Champion Elm Had ... 
    Jan 19, 2010 ... YARMOUTH, Maine — Herbie, a massive tree that stretched 110 feet into the sky, captured the imagination of a town's residents and earned the ...

How Organic is Organic? Do You Know Who Codex Alimentarius Is?

We need to be aware of what is going on, as it relates to our food and our health. Future generations depend on us being knowledgeable and proactive. This is a short documentary on codex alimentarius and genetically modified foods.


Video: Ski champ has high tunnels | Cornell High Tunnels

Who knew Olympic skiing star Bode Miller was and organic farmer on the side? This is not a how-to video by any stretch. But you will note that he has a couple high tunnels on his New Hampshire farm.

Feb 22, 2010

Alcohol and Driving DO Mix

Helping America Become a Nation of Alcoholics (not in a MADD way)
SEE ALSO: Exclusive Audio of Feb 3, 2010 Conference Call U.S. Energy Bio-fuel Task Force
SEE ALSO: Princeton BioEthanol Tutorial
SEE ALSO: Ed Begley, Jr, Converts Prius to use Ethanol and Ethanol Booster (Road Trip VIDEO)
By Bob Gordon
President and Co-publisher
The Auto Channel

AUTO CENTRAL - October 4, 2009: Last week Marc Rauch, my friend, business partner and co-founder of The Auto Channel, traveled down to LA from his home in Northern California to interview and visit with Ed Begley Jr., an actor who is VERY involved with the future of our world, and David Blume author of a book titled Alcohol can be Gas. ...

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Katey's Blog: "A Forest Returns"

This is a great blog about a historic look back at what government has and can do to improve human lives and our environment. Sometimes all it takes is for government stop what is being done and let nature do its work! Let the 93 old narrator, Oral Anderson, tell you the wonderful story he lived! Early pictures of charcoal making for industrial furnaces was intriguing for me. (Embedded 28 minute video)

"A Forest Returns"

Recently I watched the Film, “A Forest Returns”. In this post, I would like to start out by explaining what this film was about, and conclude by exploring some of the interesting as well as informative aspects of this film.

I would like to start off by explaining the film “A Forest Returns”. This is film is about the Wayne National Forest located right in the Athens area. It provides insight in the government’s plan to employ many people during the great depression. The plan was to have many of the unemployed at the time plant trees where the land was left virtually useless due to farming and the removal of topsoil. Gradually people we given jobs planting trees, and as the trees grew they formed what is now known as the Wayne National Forest.

For me I found this film extremely interesting because it pertains to the area I am currently living in. I really don’t know too much about the Athens area and its’ surroundings, but I always enjoy when I can find some information about it. I have driven past the Wayne National Forest, but I have never actually explored the area or gone hiking in it, but I always figured that this was a natural forest that had always been in the area. So when I watched the film “A Forest Returns”, I found it really fascinating and informative to know that this forest was not always there and that it was actually manmade. I also found it interesting that the government would come up with this type of job for the unemployed since we are currently going through the same situation with high unemployment rates.

In closing, I found this to be extremely interesting, eye opening, and informative film. I would defiantly recommend that students who are living in the Athens area and want to gain more information about their surrounding watch this film. Posted by Katey Mueller