ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
It sounds odd to say it, but the smaller the particles, the more habitable surface area the char will contain. The International Biochar Institute (IBI) has found that particle sizes less than 2 mm are best. These tiny bits are made up of many tubes which are the vitrified plant cells. Turns out, heating coals 'til they glow is like firing pottery. Not only does the material turn into something like glass, the particles lose half of their size as well. (The charring process shrinks parent material by half as the hydrogen and oxygen, tied up as carbohydrates, are driven off.) When the carbon is heated to between 450 and 500 degrees F (230-260C) in the absence of air, it is transformed forever. See the entry: "Making". This small particle size also allows earthworms the ability to consume the char and have it come out the other end enriched with worm castings! This is what the structure of a particle of char looks like once turned to powder. This image is a scale model of what a 0.1mm (0.004 inches) piece of char would look like. This is still massive compared to most soil microbes. Many refer to char as being like condominiums for microbes. The moisture, nutrients and minerals we add to char are akin to stocking the refrigerators, mini bars and pantries of this massive complex for life. Try as I might, some people just cannot comprehend this living zone under our feet. I understand that it will forever remain invisible, but we can understand what goes on there if we know how to look. I have developed soils that were over 8% organics and when organics in soil get high, many weeds do not grow optimally, especially peculiar is quackgrass, which gets large underground systems that can't even put up a single leaf. It is almost like it is trying to grow toward poorer soil before it even tries to grow anything above ground. Remember though, 90% of the carbon added to the soil as compost is lost in one way or another, within four years. Fully half of what we call soil is either air or water. Soil air, or soil atmosphere as some call it, has slightly less oxygen and nitrogen than above ground air and many times more carbon dioxide in it than air we breathe, again, a result of soil microbe metabolism. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is 0.04%. in soil it can be 0.25% In any case, depending on the water holding capacity of soil, saturation levels, and compaction, soils can range up to ten percent more air, or water, at intervals, it swings back and forth around 25% of each. Most of the remainder is mineral. Up to half of the material is just "dirt", a mineral complex waiting to become habitable. One might imagine parent rock as pure mineral without organic material added in yet. Often it is referred to as bedrock. Fertile soil, on the other hand has this once living carbon component that is residue of life. Soil tilth comes, in part, from this. Fungal hyphae exploit it and turn it into structural elements within the soil complex. The microbes who feed in, on and around these stored reserves flourish and give rise to other trophic levels. Looking at just the tiniest section of the pie chart, the 5-8% which represents the organic carbon, dead plant roots, dead plant residue, dung, dead microbes and other life, etc. we see a community made up of billions of organisms per tablespoon. healthy soil is completely different than dirt. Just considering the tiny fraction of the soil we can control, component by component, further investigation reveals this: Soil microbiome in healthy soil is diverse and contains all these interactive elements. So many epiphitic and filial relations exist between members of the soil community, it is difficult to diagram them all. Each trophic level can concentrate minerals, nutrients and, sadly toxins, to tenfold increase above background levels in their tissues. All parts of this system provide vital resources for other trophic levels. Unlike above ground life, every creature or plant can feed on the others, making them top predators. I was challenged by a friend to create a diagram of the carbon cycle and this is just my first stab at it. Soil carbon as I have diagrammed here, is mostly living or recently living. The tiny bit of carbon biochar adds is less than a single percentage. The rest of the life that goes on, the biome, the active living tissue of billions of microscopic organisms per tablespoon of soil, once consumed or used as resources for sustaining amoebae, ciliates and/or flagellates, however these same soil organisms can feed on the tissues of any of the representatives from any and all other trophic levels.