Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Soils Offer New Hope As Carbon Sink

Date:
June 2, 2007
Source:
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries
Summary:
The huge potential of agricultural soils to reduce greenhouse gases and increase production at the same time has been reinforced by new research findings. Trials of agrichar -- a product hailed as a savior of Australia's carbon-depleted soils and the environment -- have doubled and, in one case, tripled crop growth when applied at the rate of 10 tons per hectare. Agrichar is a black carbon byproduct of a process called pyrolysis.

NSW DPI environmental scientist Steve Kimber shows one of the chambers used to monitor greenhouse gases emitted from the Wollongbar trial plot.
Credit: Image courtesy of New South Wales Department of Primary Industries

The huge potential of agricultural soils to reduce greenhouse gases and increase production at the same time has been reinforced by new research findings at NSW Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) Wollongbar Agricultural Institute in Australia.

Trials of agrichar - a product hailed as a saviour of Australia’s carbon-depleted soils and the environment - have doubled and, in one case, tripled crop growth when applied at the rate of 10 tonnes per hectare.

Agrichar is a black carbon byproduct of a process called pyrolysis, which involves heating green waste or other biomass without oxygen to generate renewable energy.

Tim Flannery is a major advocate of agrichar and pyrolysis. In The Bulletin magazine, Flannery recently ranked “fostering pyrolysis-based technologies” fourth among his five steps for saving the planet, because they convert crop waste into fuel and agrichar which can be used to enhance soil fertility and store carbon long-term.

NSW DPI senior research scientist Dr Lukas Van Zwieten said soils naturallyturn overabout 10 times more greenhouse gas on a global scale than the burning of fossil fuels. “So it is not surprising there is so much interest in a technology to create clean energy that also locks up carbon in the soil for the long term and lifts agricultural production,” he said.

The trials at Wollongbar have focused on the benefits of agrichar to agricultural productivity. “When applied at 10t/ha, the biomass of wheat was tripled and of soybeans was more than doubled,” said Dr Van Zwieten.

“This percentage increase remained the same when applications of nitrogen fertiliser were added to both the agrichar and the control plots.

“For the wheat, agrichar alone was about as beneficial for yields as using nitrogen fertiliser only. And that is without considering the other benefits of agrichar.”

Regarding soil chemistry, Dr Van Zwieten said agrichar raised soil pH at about one-third the rate of lime, lifted calcium levels and reduced aluminium toxicity on the red ferrosol soils of the trial.

“Soil biology improved, the need for added fertiliser reduced and water holding capacity was raised,” he said.

The trials also measured gases given off from the soils and found significantly lower emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas more than 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide).

NSW DPI environmental scientist Steve Kimber said an added benefit for both the farmer who applies agrichar and the environment is that the carbon in agrichar remains locked up in the soil for many years longer than, for example, carbon applied as compost, mulch or crop residue.

“We broadly categorise carbon in the soil as being labile (liable to change quickly) or stable – depending on how quickly they break down and convert into carbon dioxide,” he said.

“Labile carbon like crop residue, mulch and compost is likely to last two or three years, while stable carbon like agrichar will last up to hundreds of years.

“This is significant for farmer costs because one application of agrichar may be the equivalent of compost applications of the same weight every year for decades.

“For the environment, it means soil carbon emissions can be reduced because rapidly decomposing carbon forms are being replaced by stable ones in the form of agrichar.”

Unfortunately, agrichar is not widely available. BEST Energies Australia, a company involved with NSW DPI in the trials, has a pilot plant at Gosford which is producing minimal amounts for research purposes.

“We are hoping the technology will take hold and pyrolysis plants will be built where there is a steady stream of green or other biomass waste providing clean energy that is carbon negative,” Dr Van Zwieten said.

“But until pyrolysis plants are up and running, the availability of agrichar for farmers will be scarce.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. "Soils Offer New Hope As Carbon Sink." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070601095052.htm>.
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. (2007, June 2). Soils Offer New Hope As Carbon Sink. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070601095052.htm
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. "Soils Offer New Hope As Carbon Sink." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070601095052.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins