Sunday, 19 April 2009

New Column for Mediacat (Turkey)

Food, It’s the New Energy

Food is back at the top of the global political agenda. The new G8 meeting communiqué tells us that we are failing against their agreement (called the Millennium Goals) to halve global hunger. Over one billion are hungry today. And the world’s food stocks are roughly identical to the amount of food currently in transit. In other words we have none. So when there are droughts, floods and storms the result is a price spike. Last year the price of rice doubled within a few months, leading to hoarding, queues and guards with machine guns on warehouses. And droughts, floods and storms will be an increasing feature as climate change continues. The UK chief scientist (Beddington) called this ‘the perfect storm’; a crisis in food, energy, climate that will hit by 2030 if we don’t act now.

Food is also, some say, ‘the new energy’. Agriculture, soil degradation, deforestation (due to clearing land for agriculture because of soil degradation) and the energy it takes to drive a global supply chain– according to environmentalist James Lovelock these account for 50% of global warming. As well as wind farms we must also pay attention to the farms. And 30 year studies of soil show that if we stop blitzing farms with chemicals, the soil can become a massive carbon sink, possibly the biggest carbon solution we have. Innovations such as biochar (the Aztec ‘black gold’) using carbon as a natural fertiliser are gripping people today with as much excitement as solar power did five years ago. Entrepreneur Craig Sams for one, the founder of ‘Green & Blacks’ and regarded by many as the ‘Richard Branson of wholefoods’, has now put everything behind biochar.

Meanwhile in the supermarkets, all is not well. The average person in America eats over 1kg of sugar per week. Over 1kg!!! (statistics from the US Department of Agriculture). Most of it is hidden in Coca-Cola, bread, sauces and cereals. And the food industry is sick too. The demand has been saturated. People literally cannot eat any more of this junk. And now the recession and price war are biting. The industry is in desperate idea of a new idea, or it faces bankruptcy sooner than its farmers who are also struggling.

What can get us out of this mess? Simple. Innovation. Make food the new cleantech. Start putting the new ideas (many of them old ideas) into practice at scale. Don’t believe the propaganda from the agrichemical business by the way. Hundreds of independent studies show that yields from organic agriculture are actually higher than conventional agriculture. And it also takes 1/3 less energy. Because the land is growing the food (rather than petrol and petrochemicals). But organic is just one small part of this.

Why am I telling you this? Because none of this will get anywhere unless we tackle the consumer’s hunger to learn. We need them to reconnect with how our food is grown and what it means, for us and for the earth. We need them to demand better. And brand campaigns and marketing can help. Not just the old ‘eco labels’ (don’t worry city boy, leave it us to us). But substantial education programmes using tools like documentaries, wikipedia style information. Several producers in the USA (one for bananas, another for wheat) allow you to use the internet to ‘visit’ the farm where your food was grown.

I know the food in Turkey is amazing, wholesome, fresh. And there is some justice in the fact you eat a thousand times better than America. (Maybe you don’t exactly eat a bag of sugar a week anyway). But you are one of the world’s great food producing nations and we need you to lead regenerative farming, and end the destructive cycle of killing the soil and the land. To achieve this we need to create an audience who is more literate and demanding about food than they are about computers, films or gadgets. And that dear marketer is our job. If we can save the farm, we can save the world.


Erich J. Knight said...

Biochar Soil Technology.....Husbandry of whole new orders of life

Biotic Carbon, the carbon transformed by life, should never be combusted, oxidized and destroyed. It deserves more respect, reverence even, and understanding to use it back to the soil where 2/3 of excess atmospheric carbon originally came from.

We all know we are carbon-centered life, we seldom think about the complex web of recycled bio-carbon which is the true center of life. A cradle to cradle, mutually co-evolved biosphere reaching into every crack and crevice on Earth.

It's hard for most to revere microbes and fungus, but from our toes to our gums (onward), their balanced ecology is our health. The greater earth and soils are just as dependent, at much longer time scales. Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, Methane & Nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel.

Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,

Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth, TP), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!
Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration,10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration, Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw, "Feed the Soil Not the Plants" becomes "Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !". Free Carbon Condominiums, build it and they will come.
As one microbologist said on the TP list; "Microbes like to sit down when they eat". By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders of life.

Senator / Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has done the most to nurse this biofuels system in his Biochar provisions in the 07 & 08 farm bill,

Charles Mann ("1491") in the Sept. National Geographic has a wonderful soils article which places Terra Preta / Biochar soils center stage.

Biochar data base; TP-REPP

NASA's Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper and letter to the G-8 conference, placing Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.

The many new university programs & field studies, in temperate soils; Cornell, ISU, U of H, U of GA, Virginia Tech, JMU, New Zealand and Australia.

Glomalin's role in soil tilth, fertility & basis for the soil food web in Terra Preta soils.

UNCCD Submission to Climate Change/UNFCCC AWG-LCA 5
"Account carbon contained in soils and the importance of biochar (charcoal) in replenishing soil carbon pools, restoring soil fertility and enhancing the sequestration of CO2."

This new Congressional Research Service report (by analyst Kelsi Bracmort) is the best short summary I have seen so far - both technical and policy oriented. .

Given the current "Crisis" atmosphere concerning energy, soil sustainability, food vs. Biofuels, and Climate Change what other subject addresses them all?

This is a Nano technology for the soil that represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.

Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.
Erich J. Knight
Shenandoah Gardens
540 289 9750

Biochar Studies at ACS Huston meeting;

Most all this work corroborates char soil dynamics we have seen so far . The soil GHG emissions work showing increased CO2 , also speculates that this CO2 has to get through the hungry plants above before becoming a GHG.
The SOM, MYC& Microbes, N2O (soil structure), CH4 , nutrient holding , Nitrogen shock, humic compound conditioning, absorbing of herbicides all pretty much what we expected to hear.



665 - III.


Company News & EU Certification

Below is an important hurtle that 3R AGROCARBON has overcome in certification in the EU. Given that their standards are set much higher than even organic certification in the US, this work should smooth any bureaucratic hurtles we may face.

EU Permit Authority - 4 years tests
Subject: Fwd: [biochar] Re: GOOD NEWS: EU Permit Authority - 4 years tests successfully completed

Doses: 400 kg / ha – 1000 kg / ha at different horticultural cultivars

Plant height Increase 141 % versus control
Picking yield Increase 630 % versus control
Picking fruit Increase 650 % versus control
Total yield Increase 202 % versus control
Total piece of fruit Increase 171 % versus control
Fruit weight Increase 118 % versus control



EcoTechnologies is planning for many collaborations ; NC State, U. of Leeds, Cardiff U. Rice U. ,JMU, U.of H. and at USDA with Dr.Jeffrey Novak who is coordinating ARS Biochar research. This Coordinated effort will speed implementation by avoiding unneeded repetition and building established work in a wide variety of soils and climates.

Hopefully all the Biochar companies will coordinate with Dr. Jeff Novak's soils work at ARS;

I spoke with Jon Nilsson of the CarbonChar Group, in their third year of field trials ;
An idea whose time has come | Carbon Char Group
He said the 2008 trials at Virginia Tech showed a 46% increase in yield of tomato transplants grown with just 2 - 5 cups (2 - 5%) "Biochar+" per cubic foot of growing medium.

Low Tech Clean Biochar;

green said... launched their website today (Earth Day)...and they're offering free eco-friendly business cards for a limited time:

Anonymous said...


We have just added your latest post "New Column for Mediacat (Turkey)" to our Directory of Grant Programs . You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory for getting a huge base of visitors to your website and gaining a valuable backlink to your site.

Warm Regards

Project Grant Team