New: October 2010 Hangzhou Conference write up and presentations

china field map

Following up on the successful Beijing Biochar International Workshop held last October, the China-CAU Biochar group has continued its work at a rapid pace. In laboratory, we have made a series of biochar samples with different biomasses, including the stem of Eupatorium adenophorum, an invasive plant in southwest China. Basic properties of these biochars were compared and two vegetable pot experiments were set up. A 6-treatment field experiment has been carried out since June 2009, which picture could be found in google-earth (see photo to the right). Two treatments with biochar made from winter wheat straw and maize straw were involved in this experiment. The total amount of biochar used was about 6500 kg/ha, made by wheat stem with simple oven on site (see the photo below).

biochar from straw

In 2010, several experiments will be carried out in China-CAU, including a new biochar-making oven design and experiment, biochar’s effect on yield and quality of greenhouse vegetables, biochar’s effect on soil chemical processes in calcareous soil, and the improvement of soil fertility of urban garden soils. Meanwhile, the network of biochar field experiments is under discussion and will be built over all of China, to focus on improving cropland fertility and crop production.

As the first IBI regional group in China, China-CAU introduced biochar experimental sites to other IBI members, such as the Biochar Yunnan Project of FAO. We had a useful discussion on biochar experiments in Africa with Ms. Christelle Braun from Ingenieur des Mines de Nancy, Paris, France. We are also in contact with Chinagreenzone, Sigma Innova LLC, and the Blue Moon Fund. We have also paid some attention to biochar demonstrations, for example, making simple biochar experiments together with the teachers of the Canadian International School of Beijing to show the children the effect of biochar on vegetables. Last week, we had a successful discussion with Mr. Chai Y. from Hebei School of Tourism, Chengde, and agreed to work together on producing biochar from civil wastes and to use biochar for tree planting.

October 2009: Joint International Workshop between China and United Kingdom on the Influence of Biochar on Soil Processes and Fertility

conference participants

Conference Participants

Visits to field trial sites

Visits to field trial sites

Beijing 18 -21 October, 2009: eleven scientists from the United Kingdom (Rothamsted Research, RR, and Edinburgh University, EU), Denmark (University of Copenhagen and Barritskov Company), Australia (University of New South Wales), Canada (University of Guelph), Japan (National Agricultural Organization, NAO), and Mongolia (Mongolian Biochar Initiative), and more than 20 scientists from Institute of Soil Science Research of China Academy of Science (CAS), Shenyang Institute of Applied Ecology of CAS, Changsha Institute of Sub-tropical Agricultural Science of CAS, Botany Institute of CAS, Zhejiang University, Huazhong Agricultural University, China Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS), and Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Science (BAAFS) participated the conference. Four keynote presentations from Dr. Saran Sohi (EU, UK), Prof. Qimei Lin (CAU, China), Yoshiyuki Shinogi (NAO, Japan), and Prof. Minggang Xu (CAAS, China), lead the conference, with the addition of 16 volunteer presentations and 6 posters. These focused on the topics of biochar characterization, production, effects on soil physical and chemical properties, soil microbial functioning, plant nutrient cycling and crop growth responses, carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emission and global climate change. There were also field experiments of biochar’s effects on soil processes and fertility at CAU lead by the Shengchang Bio-energy Company on straw pre-treatment for biochar production and village of Lijiachang for demonstrating biochar and biogas production and application.

The workshop was organized by the soil microbiology group of the Department of Soil and Water Science, College of Resources and Environment, CAU, and co-chaired by Dr. Guitong Li of CAU, China and Prof. Phil Brookes of RR, UK, and funded by CAU and CAAS. For more information on the conference or on CAU-Biochar, please contact Guitong Li.

October 2010 Hangzhou Conference

An international symposium focusing on the environmental behavior and effects of biochar was held in Hangzhou, China, from October 9–11, 2010. Approximately 80 people attended this conference, coming from China, Japan, North America, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. IBI Board Vice Chairman Stephen Joseph and IBI Executive Director Debbie Reed both attended, and made presentations at the symposium.

Click here for Presentations

Group photo

The main objective of this symposium was to provide a platform for people involved in biochar research and development and commercialization to exchange information and ideas in areas relating to environmental science, geochemistry, biology, soil science, policies related to utilization of biochar to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, and biochar technology development. An equally important objective was to promote further worldwide research collaboration and enhance communication among those in the  biochar community, and to develop sustainable carbonization technology for biochar production.

The host organizations were the College of Environment and Resources, Zhejiang University; China National Research Center of Bamboo; China Key Laboratory of Non-point Source Pollution Control, Ministry of Agriculture, the People’s Republic of China; and the State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Republic of China. The conference was sponsored by the China National Science Foundation and the Blue Moon Fund.

Topics covered during the conference included:

  • Biochar production and new products: biomass sources, residues and co-products recycling; efficient and low-consumption carbonization technology for biochar;
  • Biotic and geochemical behavior of biochar: physico-chemical characterization (structural recalcitrance and functionalities); biological properties; biotic and abiotic oxidation of biochar in soil; biochar quantification in the environment;
  • Carbon trading and convention on climate change: carbon sequestration; greenhouse gas accounting and emissions trading; commercialization and related policy issues; and
  • Environmental effect of biochar on soil ecosystems: agronomic evaluations and effects on soil C dynamics; biochar effects on soil nutrient transformations and leaching; sorption of organic compounds.

All of the papers and posters were of a very high standard (see presentations list below for author submitted presentations). A very interesting talk was given by Professor Weixiang Wu of Zhejiang University on the discovery of a Chinese Terra Preta site. Professor Akira Shibata of Ritsumeikan University in Japan presented the results of a marketing campaign in Kyoto of  “Cool” vegetables produced using bamboo biochar. Other talks focused on the changes in microbial population observed when biochar was applied to soil (Professor Janice Thies of Cornell University, and Mr Yu Luo of Rothamsted Research Center, UK). Dr Jim Amonette of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA, Dr Christoph Steiner of Austria, and Dr  Saran Sohi of the University of Edinburgh, UK presented work on the potential of biochar to sequester carbon and improve soils. Professor Yunhan Xiao of the Power and Energy Research Center, Chinese Academy of Science, presented a novel design of a circulating fluid bed gasifier that could produce biochar as well as oils and syngas. Dr Stephen Joseph discussed how surfaces of biochars could be altered to make them more effective in promoting plant growth at lower application rates. Other presentations focused on the agronomic benefits and adsorption of toxic substances.

IBI Executive Director Debbie Reed presented on US federal support of biochar research and development, as well as some results from a global survey of government support for biochar projects, conducted by IBI in the September-October, 2010 timeframe.

As part of the symposium, participants visited a field site in Hangzhou established by Professor Weixiang Wu of Zhejian University. This site had a batch pyrolysis kiln for making biochar from rice residues. There was also a field trial underway where different biochars and biochar-organo-mineral complexes had been incorporated into rice paddies, and the participants were able to view results to date.

Participants also visited a new facility in Hangzhou that is producing a biochar-based organic fertilizer. This plant was developed as a collaboration between Mr Lu of the Hangzhou Qianjiang Drying Equipment Co., Ltd, and Mr Robert Flanagan and Professor Zhong of the China National Research Center of Bamboo. The plant consists of a pyrolysis unit that provides heat for a rotary agglomerator. The biochar is fed into the agglomerator and a liquid containing minerals and amino acids is sprayed onto the biochar. The material is then dried as it tumbles around the drum to form a small granular product that will be applied to soils with seed-drill equipment already being utilized by farmers. During the site visit, Robert Flanagan also demonstrated several stoves that he was developing with Mr Lu at his factory, including two small cookstoves and a larger unit intended to heat a room in rural areas for up to 8 hours, while also providing cooking heat and a biochar product.