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Author Topic: Terra preta or what i do with branches  (Read 577 times)

SeaWalnut

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Terra preta or what i do with branches
« on: April 16, 2019, 01:11:07 PM »
Inspired by a documentary film about the amazonian black soil called Terra preta ,this year ive started making charcoal from the bushes and branches i get from cleaning my trees.I do it verry easy by igniting a pile of wood and carfully rack the charcoal underneath the pile by moving the top branches asside ,then water it to stop it burn to ashes.After i collect the charcoal,i mix it with a fertiliser high in N ( i use urine 1/8 parts water) and somme people let it sit to ,,charge,, with microbial life for 2 weeks before using it,but i use it straight away.Ive put a bucket of biochar mixed with 3 buckets of soil around my almonds.I dig a circular trench for each tree and then i bury the tera preta mix at the botom and on top i put somme normal soil.
The secret of Eldorado-the documentary film that inspired me to try this technique of soil improvement.https://youtu.be/0Os-ujelkgw
« Last Edit: April 16, 2019, 01:29:29 PM by SeaWalnut »

SeaWalnut

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2019, 02:51:31 PM »
I measured the ph of the charcoal plus urine mix and its almost 9.I expected to be high because the charcoal does contain somme ash ,but not this high.Finally i found that the high ph source was the water i used to estinguish the char wich has a ph of 10.I toght my ph meter its wrong but its not and that water really has 10.Im using this batch of charcoal for almond trees that like high ph but for acid loving plants like blueberryes ,this could raise the ph.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2019, 02:57:22 PM by SeaWalnut »

Finca La Isla

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2019, 03:18:22 PM »
Some people make biochar here in a pit and extinguish it with water like you are talking about.  We use an adapted steel drum with a chimney and the fire gets to about 850c thus burning off all the volatiles so no smoke.
We spread on the surface after soaking in microorganisms, about 1kg per square meter.
Peter

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SeaWalnut

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2019, 04:44:09 PM »
Those are nice kilns.

sahai1

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2019, 05:10:53 PM »
I make lots of biochar with Banyan wood and roots which "harvest" annually.  Now I dig pits near trees about 8' deep and pack with reeds and other hard to burn stuff like banana trees, then burn on top with the wood and ignite with palm fronds.  The ash falls into the pit and doesn't blow away, the reeds and hard to burn stuff smolders on the bottom.  After all his burned into coals, I mix into the bottom of the pit with bamboo or rebar poles.   The bottom of the pit then can turn into biochar as well as help extinguish the fire.  Then water it heavily, mix manure in, and then cover with the dirt from digging the pit.

In the pic below not add manure yet, but you can see the manure helps fill the hole.  This pit was 8' deep, alot of biochar in there.  Huge fire burned slowly over 2 days.




Finca La Isla

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2019, 05:28:18 PM »
But does that pit, when it smolders, make a lot of smoke.  It sounds like it would.

sahai1

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2019, 05:40:05 PM »
The smokiest part is when the fire is getting started or going out, which I try to keep very good hardwood cut offs from my mill to maintain high temperatures.  Hotter the fire the less smoke.  After burn is complete and I start mixing the coals into the bottom of the pit it is not that smoky, but there is a constant 'steam/smoke' that comes out that smells pretty bad. 

Also have to pick days with little wind, and burn at peak sunny days with high temperatures.  In any case, I only have fuel to to do a few pits per year, so I'm not constantly burning.

pineislander

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2019, 07:35:22 PM »
Last year I removed several clumps of timber bamboo, loaded it on a trailer and offered it to give away but got no takers. Eventually it dried well and I dug a trench wider at the top than the bottom with my tractor front-end loader and as long as the longest pieces.
I started some on fire at the bottom and then began piling the bamboo on as fast as possible. It did expode frequently but within an hour it had all turned to coals and I quenched it with a large fire hose. The next day I removed then crushed the charcoal by driving over it on a concrete slab until it was fine grains or powder. The result was 300 gallons of fine biochar, enough for about 100 trees.
I did soak the char in fish emulsion with micronutrients then added it to a large compost pile for a month.

The key to making charcoal in an open pit is to get the fuel hot enough to create combustible vapors but keep the fire up above the pit which limits oxygen near the bottom of the pit. Without oxygen the fuel down low is less liable to burn into ashes.

Here is a video showing how it can be done using log wood.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1jAo7qd_Q8

Photos:















Finca La Isla

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2019, 09:18:14 PM »
Very nice, biochar is the way to go and there are many approaches, especially depending on the material you are working with.  Itís great for soaking up microorganisms, emulsions, teas of humic  acid, lombricompost, etc.
Peter

sahai1

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2019, 02:04:45 AM »
pure bamboo biochar, gold.  As a potting mix for starting off new grafts or seeds it really is the best. 

SeaWalnut

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2019, 05:29:56 PM »
Interesting method with the pits ,and is probably what ancient people did ,looks traditional.I made another batch of biochar and got like 100 buckets of char ( 1000 litters).Last week ive seened charcoal for sale at supermarket in the gardening section and a 16 litters bucket was 15 dollars wich i toght its quite expensive.They also had for sale from the same brand a product called wood vinnegar wich its the condensate from smoke when you make charcoal if you have a kiln.I bought a bottle ,smells like smoke and i add just 1 ml per litter to spray the plants against pests and its also a fertiliser.

pineislander

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2019, 08:40:38 PM »
The wood vineagar has been analyzed and found to be:
Quote
The principal components of pyroligneous acid are acetic acid, acetone and methanol.

Minor but not inconsequential are levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAH) mainly in the heavy tars which could be a health concern.

I think open burning might release the PAH to atmosphere compared to retorts.

SeaWalnut

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2019, 07:43:09 AM »
Its first time i use pyroligneous acid and i am skeptical thats a cure for everything but if it works then its great for me because its a bio product.When i buyed it i had in mind that there are somme seeds that will not germinate until they are exposed to smoke and ive read somewhere that most plant seeds bennefit from the chemicals found in smoke so it made sence to buy it ( it was also cheap unlike the charcoal).Somme seeds i had buyed in the past were smoked to improove germination.
 The big pile has a cubic meter of charcoal and the small one just 300 litters volume.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2019, 07:45:47 AM by SeaWalnut »

SeaWalnut

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Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2019, 02:38:58 PM »
Today ive added 2 buckets of biochar wich i mixed with 6 buckets of soil ,to this lazy tree.Its an apricot tree( Hargrand) that didnt growed at all in the past 3 years. In the picture with white sticks there are half of my wild almond seedlings ( cold hardy to zone 5)  and each got a bucket of biochar at theyr roots just like the apricot.They started growing fast.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2019, 02:49:20 PM by SeaWalnut »

 

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