Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Planting Season With BioChar...

Dan Barber, who is the chef and co-owner of Blue Hill restaurant at Stone Barns, was lecturing to a group of Harvard University students about the correlation between flavor of foods and good soil.  What intrigued me about this was his attention to detail in explaining a series of topics related to farming and cooking.  One of the topics of his lecture was BioChar. 

BioChar?  Yes I’d heard of it.  I’d read an article or two on it.  I was intrigued.  However, he was using it at Stone Barns farm.   He said “it’s like adding a vitamin pack to the soil”. Now that's exciting to a geek like me! Not only was he using it in the soil, but cooking with it too!  (It's around the 45 min mark on the video above)

Well, my curiosity grew.  I wanted this stuff.  In fact, I tried to make it.  Big fat fail!  Didn’t get the temperature right and the ph was crazy high (very alkaline).  Killed the plants in the test pots we put it in.  Needless to say, I was very frustrated, so I put this project on the back burner.

In February at the Georgia Organics Conference, Nicole and I discovered a new company that actually makes Biochar, BioChar Central.  I was rejuvenated with hope.  I got my first order from them in May, so we decided to do a test plot of corn, using the IBI Biochar Standards and Testing Guidelines.  To my frustration, we had seed failure.  Maybe half of the corn planted actually germinated.  But all was not lost.

I decided to do a non-standard test using BioChar in crates with Black Eyed peas vs  Black Eyed peas in the field with no char, using the same soil for both.   

These are the crates with Biochar.  These plants already have pods and are extremely green and healthy.


BioChar mix in with the soil.

Field with no BioChar.  Although still healthy, these plants are behind those in the crates.
  The result thus far; much faster growth and healthier plants in the crates vs field.  The plants in the crates have numerous pods while the field plants are just now producing flowers.  Although this test was not part of the IBI Biochar Standards and Testing Guidelines, it's still relevant and demonstrates the benefits of using BioChar for better plant and soil productivity. 

1 comment:

  1. Very nice article. Would have loved your germination rates to have been better, but there is nothing your can do about failed germination. Still, encouraging results none the less. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us on this exciting new renewable resource. BTW, tried to look up the BioChar Central website and I can't find it. Do you know what it is?