Jul 30, 2010

What is Biochar? Eric Knight, Iowa 2010

Eric Knight talkes about the value of biochar as soil amendement and as a way of moving carbon back to the soil. From the Biochar Conference in Iowa June 2010.

Eric Knight ... I SHARE YOUR ENTHUSIASM! ...Monte

Grow Your Own Soil: Compost Crops - One Straw: Be The Change

Readers will note that I am HUGE on living soils. We moved into a dead, denuded landscape and have spent the past 5 years dutifully rebuilding them. The single most important thing in healing soils is to add organic matter – essentially getting carbon back into the soil. Why? Carbon is the primary building block of all life and it is the fuel of the soil food web -from the zillions of bacteria and miles of fungal hyphae to the worms that feed on them. We’ve been trucking in organic matter for years now – mostly wood chips, but also straw and manures; by the ton. In fact, over the past five years I would estimate that we’ve surpassed 20 tons of raw material that we’ve either added directly to our soils (manures), or mulched (wood chips and straw). That may sound like alot, but at least half of the carbon is lost to the air as part of the decomposition process (no fears for global warming as the carbon in wood chips and manure was atmospheric carbon just a year or so ago before it was sequestered by the plants), plus to add an inch to a 1/4 acre (11,000 sq ft) which is my yard (minus house and driveway) you need to have about 9 tons of compost. That’s 34 yards of finished compost, or over 100 cu yards of raw material. Helping others get to this point is why I own a dump truck.
The result is that our soil is teeming with life and the gardens are really starting to “pop” this year with trees adding multiple feet of growth, 5+ cuttings of the Russian Comfrey, and sunflowers over 8′ tall. We will continue to “uppen” our soils with compost and mulches for decades to come. But I am trying to do this on as low of inputs as possible. In the last 5 years we have built our garden soils up and the lawn is getting healthier every year. It is time to try to see how sustainable I can make this system. It is time to start growing my own soil.
To grow your own soil you need plants that pull carbon out of the atmosphere, which of course all plants do, but some do it really damn well. I must tip my hat strongly to John Jeavons and his work on sustainable gardening here, but for annuals the choices are not too hard – what gets really damn big, with a thick stalk? Think sunflowers, sorghum, corn, quinoa, amaranth, etc. Add in all the small grains if left to dry out into straw and you get the idea. Perennial crops are also money as well. There are a wealth of BIG plants in the tall grass prairie – my favorites are cupplant, giant Joe Pye weed, sunchokes, and the myriad perennial sunflowers like maximillian and ox eye. The true Big Guns in this area are rapid growth trees, often referred to as weeds, harvested as coppice such as willows, box elder, black locust, and even chestnut and ash. Other “weeds” like lambsquarter, ragweed, and buttonweed get 6′+ tall , and even invasives like buckthorn coppice well.
Today I spent an hour touring the back yard with my Big Az 10 cu ft mulch wheel barrow, my sickle, and my new brush axe pulling weeds, hacking down old raspberry canes from last year, cutting back insurgent sunchokes, and taking the 4th cutting off the 60 or so russian comfrey I have around the gardens. That produced an immense amount of green material – piling it into my utility trailer I easily had 80 cu ft. That is far too much nitrogen for a pile so then I got out my loppers and a pruning saw and took some prunings from the buckthorn out back and two of our willow shrubs. It wasn’t enough, but in a few years the 2 dozen box elders and willows I have planted will be on line. Here are the results.

about 100#'s of material, but dang is it bulky. Brush Axe is leaning on the trailer.
That is from one lap of the backyard – I can do this about 3-4 times a year at present. In years past I just threw all the weeds into the compost bins, but it doesn’t work too well as the stalky stuff takes too long and the full size leaves mat up. Now with the Bio-80 shredder it makes marvelous weed puree.

Entropy ala weeds. At least half that pile is/was comfrey so the compost will be awesome. The recycling bin is the chipped tree prunings - not enough to offset the greens, but its a start..
Now the Bio-80 is powered by gasoline, and I am likely to catch flak in the comments for burning dead dinosaurs to save the world. I agree- its not ideal. But I am building a transitional system and am not afraid to break some eggs to make an omelet. The chipper is only 5hp and ran for about 20 minutes using less than a cup of fuel. In future years I hope to find a way to power the chipper on methane from the ‘Midden or ethanol from a local co-op. But for now I’m in bed with BP on this one. One very cool option would be to use a chicken “shredder” to break down the green material – 4 layers in a confined pen would make short work of this over a week or so of adding an inch or two a day for the girls to scratch in. Of course that is illegal here. Working on that too…

This bin is 40" cubed and is about 66% full. This will settle almost 30% in the coming days. Making soil takes ALOT of plant material. Plant more trees!
Finally, it takes ALOT of plants to make a yard of compost. A yard of finished compost weighs about 550#’s. So the 100-150#’s of material that I put in, most of which was water that will evaporate out, is just a start. But every journey begins with a step.
I am very proud that this bin. When I add another weed lap in September, plus all the corn, cupplant, sunchokes, and sorghum stalks form the yard this fall, this cu yard of finished compost will be 100% homegrown. As the gardens mature, I will begin getting leaf litter from the trees and willow and box elder coppice to add to it. My gardens, minus paths, are about 3000 sq ft – that means that 4-5 cu yards could cover it all with .5″ of compost annually, which is alot if you are only maintaining fertility. I can do that in about 5 years if I add more coppice trees; I am convinced that I can sustain the fertility of my gardens without additional inputs.
We can do this.
Be the change!

Another coalition of groups--this time agricultural--has just come out in favor of adding a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) to the energy bill

The National Farmers Union, National Association of Wheat Growers, American Farmland Trust, and International Biochar Initiative signed onto the letter to Senate Democratic and Republican leaders. Notes the letter, "Inclusion of [the RES] will help America’s drive toward energy independence, re-invigorate rural communities through job growth and income generation for agriculture, and significantly improve the environment and the air we breathe," adding, "American agriculture stands ready to help meet the country’s clean energy needs." NFU President Roger Johnson commented, “We are very disappointed with ... Majority Leader [Harry Reid's] omission of an RES from the recently introduced energy legislation. America’s farmers and ranchers support the opportunity to increase energy production under an RES, and the Senate should have an opportunity to vote for it.” The agricultural groups' initiative follows a similar one a few days ago by a coalition of labor unions, utilities, environmental groups, and renewable energy organizations and adds to the growing drumbeat in support of the RES. Urge Senators NOW to put the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) back in the energy bill! Majority Leader Reid has announced that the Senate will take up a slimmed-down energy bill without a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). Tell your Senators NOW that the wind industry urgently needs an RES in the energy bill in order to thrive. E-mail your elected officials and tell them that, without an RES, the Senate is endangering at least 360,000 jobs: 85,000 currently employed in the wind energy industry and the potential 274,000 additional jobs created by an RES. AWEA CEO Denise Bode says, "A refusal to pass an RES is an attack on every American worker and consumer…Workers, families, and our country demand a new energy future. That future must emphasize new strategies that embrace clean, renewable sources of energy that reduce costs, create jobs, and enhance our national security." www.powerofwind.com/ By Tom Gray, www.awea.org/blog/

First Industrial Biochar Unit in Europe

The PYREG - Reactor is used for decentralized production of high quality biochar for agriculture. For more information see: www.ithaka-journal.net or www.swiss-biochar.com

Bacteria Bring Leaves Back From the Dead - ScienceNOW

When the leaves they depend on turn a deathly yellow in the fall, leaf miner moths (Phyllonorycter blancardella) perform CPR. Even as the rest of the leaf wilts, the patch surrounding a leaf miner larva stays a bright and photosynthetically active green. Now, a new study shows that these green islands spark to life thanks to bacteria living within the grubs themselves.

Like mammals, many insects host internal microbes called endosymbionts that help them digest meals, often passing these friends from generation to generation. Insect endosymbionts have also proven themselves keen inventors, developing new defenses for their hosts. "The more we look at endosymbionts in insects, the more people find interesting and new functions," says ecologist David Giron of the Université François Rabelais in Tours, France.

It seemed possible to Giron that bacteria like those in the genus Wolbachia, which dwell in leaf miners, could also rewire plant metabolism. Many microbes, including Wolbachia, carry a gene also found in plants that spurs some plant cells to make hormones called cytokinins, he says. Cytokinins, which delay death in plant cells, can spur green islands on their own and are plentiful in leaf-miner islands.

To determine whether the bacteria nurtured the green islands, Giron and colleagues gave some female leaf miners oral doses of insect-safe antibiotics to kill their microbial partners. The researchers allowed the insects to lay eggs as usual on apple-tree leaves. Larvae from untreated mothers were able to form green islands, but larvae from dosed moms were not. Without bacteria "you don't have green islands, and if you don't have green islands, you die," Giron says. The team reported the results online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The researchers don't yet know if Wolbachia bacteria are making cytokinins on their own or if they're triggering plant life support through other means. In a previous study, scientists discovered that birch tree–infecting leaf miners could churn out cytokinins, but they didn't investigate whether these hormones came from the insects or their endosymbionts. Regardless of how they work, the bacteria are valuable compatriots. In dying leaves, green islands buy the moths as much as an extra month to reproduce and grow, the researchers suspect. With that additional time, leaf miners may be able to sneak in an extra generation of grubs before winter.

"It's a beautiful example of how an organism can solve a major problem by getting into a [mutually beneficial] relationship with a microbe," says chemical ecologist Ian Baldwin of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany. He says there are a lot of unanswered questions, such as whether Wolbachia living outside of insect bodies can still manage this breath of life. But the study shows just how much an insect's success is the work of its inner bugs, he says. "One can safely say that most insects ... are just Trojan horses."

Jul 29, 2010

How To Care For A Miscanthus Giganteus - www.WindDancerGarden.com

Chapters from The Post Carbon Reader are available now for download!

FOUNDATION CONCEPTS: Beyond the Limits to Growth
By Richard Heinberg • July 27, 2010

The underlying premise of the book (The Post Carbon Reader) is irrefutable: At some point in time, humanity's ever-increasing resource consumption will meet the very real limits of a planet with finite natural resources. We believe that time has come.

SMART DECLINE: The Buffalo Commons Meets Buffalo, New York
By Frank and Deborah Popper • July 19, 2010

In 2002, after decades of trying to restart economic development like most other Rust Belt cities, Youngstown made a radical change in approach. The city began devising a transformative plan to encourage some neighborhoods to keep emptying and their vegetation to return. The plan, still early in its implementation as we write would raze...

RESILIENCE: Personal Preparation
By Chris Martenson • July 6, 2010

My "standard of living" is a fraction of what it formerly was, but my quality of life has never been higher. We live in a house less than half the size of our former house, my beloved boat is gone, and we have a garden and chickens in the backyard...

CITIES: The Death of Sprawl
By Warren Karlenzig • June 23, 2010

In April 2009—just when people thought things couldn’t get worse in San Bernardino County, California—bulldozers demolished four perfectly good new houses and a dozen others still under construction in Victorville, 100 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles...

WATER: Adapting to a New Normal
By Sandra Postel • June 22, 2010

Water, like energy, is essential to virtually every human endeavor. It is needed to grow food and fiber, to make clothes and computers, and, of course, to drink. The growing number of water shortages around the world and the possibility of these shortages leading to economic disruption, food crises, social tensions, and even war suggest that the challenges posed by water in the coming decades will rival those posed by declining oil supplies...

Jul 28, 2010

Jul 27, 2010

eGenesis Industries : Suppliers of continuous BIOCHAR & Bio-Energy Units

pyrolysis graphFeatures of these units:

1. Clean and simple continuous feed operation.

2. Energy negative operation.

3. 2-Stage Reactor chamber to separate heavy condensable gaseous compounds (which can be used for organic herbicides & pesticides etc) from the valuable pyrolysis (syngas) energy gases.

4. Low grade waste exhaust gases are utilized to pre-dry feed stock material to increase overall efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.

5. Variable speed drive.

6. Variable operating temperatures.

7. Rugged design for durability.

8. Very few wearing parts

9. Low cost replacement parts.

10. Designed to handle a variety of feedstock material from cereal straw to feedlot waste and timber based wastes.

Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service: Quad Cities: Mississippi River at Illinois City

Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service: Quad Cities: Mississippi River at Illinois City
Mississippi River at Illinois City

Jul 25, 2010

DOE - Fossil Energy Techline: DOE Launches "Gasifipedia" Website

Online Collection of Introductory and In-Depth Resources Promotes Understanding of Gasification Technology Washington, DC — The Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has launched a new public website called "Gasifipedia," a comprehensive online collection of resources to promote better understanding of gasification technology. Gasification offers an alternative to more established ways of converting feedstocks such as coal and biomass into useful products such as electricity or fuels. It is anticipated to be the technology of choice for future near zero-emissions, coal-based plants that produce power, fuels, and/or chemicals. Gasification is a technological process that uses heat, pressure, and steam to convert any carbon-based raw material into synthesis gas, or syngas. Composed primarily of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, syngas has a variety of uses; for example, it can be refined into pure hydrogen, transformed into liquid transportation fuels, or used to create electricity. The advantages of gasification, particularly in the generation of electricity from coal, may make it an increasingly important part of the world’s energy and industrial markets. The use of gasification in more than 20 industrialized countries, and the diversity of its products, illustrate the enormous potential for the continued growth of the gasification industry. The Gasifipedia website contains both introductory and in-depth information about gasification fundamentals, supporting technologies, gasification applications, environmental benefits, and the status of the latest research and development. Accessible from the NETL website, Gasifipedia features the following sections: Introduction to Gasification provides an overview of the gasification process, how the technology has been used in the past, and what forces have caused recent interest in the technology. Gasification in Detail delves into the chemical reactions taking place during the gasification process, and provides an introduction to the various types of gasifiers. Supporting Technologies details the other supporting technologies used in a typical gasification plant that are integrated with the gasification island. These technologies include coal storage and feed preparation, air separation, syngas cooling and heat recovery, syngas cleanup and conditioning, power train, and syngas conversion processes. Applications of Gasification Technology describes the numerous types of gasification facilities: integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) for electrical power, coal to liquid fuels, coal to synthetic natural gas, coal to hydrogen, coal to chemicals, and co-generation plants. Main Advantages of Gasification discusses the main reasons why gasification is considered the best clean-coal technology option for future near-zero-emissions power, fuel, and chemical plants. Gasification Research and Development details the wide range of research, development, and demonstration activities being conducted to improve the efficiency, feedstock and product versatility, and economics of gasification processes. As part of the Energy Department’s efforts to tap the full potential of the America’s abundant fossil energy resources in an affordable and environmentally acceptable manner, FE’s Advanced Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle program supports development of advanced gasification-based technologies that will reduce the cost of coal-based IGCC plants, improve thermal efficiency, and achieve near-zero atmospheric emissions of all pollutants.

Mississippi River Basin Forecast - River Watch

LINK - Mississippi River Basin Forecast - River Watch

MISSISSIPPI RIVER and Major Tributaries