Turn that manure, household bio-waste, crop residue and sawdust into biochar or compost, and expect turning livestock manure into one or the other to be mandatory.
Biochar can be created by heating, not burning, waste input. It is basically heating the material in the absence of oxygen and converting it to charcoal. Biochar is a product mainly containing carbon, and its use as a fertilizer is being promoted extensively by several companies.
Companies are manufacturing biochar converters for individual farmers to install, and large-scale biochar facilities are being built. It is an industry in its infancy, but one gaining supporters.
Johannes Lehmann, a Cornell University soil scientist, has written extensively about biochar. Lehmann has used the example of a poultry producer converting chicken manure to biochar. The heat from the charring process can be used to heat the poultry facilities, and the resulting biochar enriches the producer’s farm ground for growing grain for chicken feed.
Lehmann notes that biochar stores slow-release carbon in the soil and emits carbon dioxide into the air much slower than if biomass is allowed to decompose. This is why there are claims that biochar is carbon negative, or stores more carbon than it releases, but this only appears logical in situations of using waste, not harvesting growing plants strictly to turn into biochar.
Biochar from biomass that would otherwise decompose rapidly or be burned makes sense in these days of concern about carbon emissions into the air. Much less run-off pollution potential from spreading biochar instead of spreading manure is being touted, too.
The wetter the input material the more energy needed to char it. Different methods for drying wet manure such as solar power are being investigated. There are a lot of solutions yet to be developed.
Another manure solution using less energy than biochar production is composting manure, but composting is probably more labor and time consuming than biochar production. Composting for use in growing mushrooms is typical, and some manure compost is sold as yard and garden soil amendments.
Composting manure or turning it into biochar to spread over thousands of farm ground acres is not going to happen over night, but it is going to increase in coming years. A choice of composting or biochar production, because of environmental concerns, are eventually going to be forced onto livestock producers, it is just a matter of time.
Source: Richard Keller, AgProfessional Editor