Fire creates wonderstuff

Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke (right) with NSW Primary Industries Department environmental scientist Stephen Kimber at the Wollongbar Agriculture Institute to inspect the biochar made from organic waste.
Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke (right) with NSW Primary Industries Department environmental scientist Stephen Kimber at the Wollongbar Agriculture Institute to inspect the biochar made from organic waste. Jay Cronan

TONY WALKER doesn’t know how biochar turned his sickly avocado trees into super-performers and he doesn’t much care – that’s a question for science boffins.

What the local farmer, Richmond Landcare secretary-manager and biochar project co-ordinator does know is that when he put the product on to sick avocado trees as part of a trial through the Wollongbar Agricultural Institute, they outperformed his healthy trees.

Yesterday, with Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke in town to take a look at the biochar project, Mr Walker and other members of Richmond Landcare were out in force to spruik the benefits of the wonder-product, which works as a fertiliser, a way of disposing of organic waste, creating electricity and reducing carbon emissions.

Biochar can be created from any organic material – from food waste to paper to lawn clippings – and is created by ‘burning’ it in an oxygen-free chamber. Without the oxygen, there are no flames and no carbon dioxide is created. A gas that is produced during the process can be used to create power to run the chamber and feed into the electricity grid. It is also believed the soil biochar is put in produces less nitrous oxide – another powerful greenhouse gas.

The problem, Mr Burke later pointed out, was different types of biochar varied in their performance depending on the soils they were in and the crops that were on them, and scientists needed to work out what worked with what before use of the product became widespread.

“There is no doubt good work is being done here and you can see very easily the difference in productivity between,” Mr Burke said.

The other thing that had to be worked out was the volume of greenhouse gas biochar cut from the atmosphere.

For the farmers involved in the project, such as Mr Walker, the question was not whether or how biochar worked – it was how they could get more of the stuff.

Mr Walker said the Richmond Landcare group had been forced to import biochar from Indonesia and the Philippines because Australia did not produce enough.

The group is now trying to convince Ballina Shire Council to invest $12 million in a unit to create biochar from green waste collected by the council.

Mr Walker estimated the unit would pay for itself after about five years.

Ballina Shire Council general manager Paul Hickey confirmed the council was looking at turning organic waste into biochar, in consultation with Primary Industries, as part of a broader look at managing waste.

Greyhound reform recommendations to be adopted

Race 8, winner was No 3, Nangar Thunder at the Grafton Greyhound track on Saturday, 21st January, 2017.

All but one of the 122 recommendations of the panel to be adopted

Five artists we want to see at Splendour 2017

Punters at Splendour in the Grass 2016 at Byron Bay. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Is it too much to ask? What do you think?

Local Partners

Five artists we want to see at Splendour 2017

It's a good thing that three out of five music acts in our wish list are Australian, so maybe we are not asking for too much?

Splendour tickets on sale this weekend for locals

Crowd at Splendour in the Grass 2016.  Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Are you in the area allowed to purchase them?

The Lyrical, beyond the 'F' word

Roots, Hip-Hop and Reggae artist Karl Smith, also known as The Lyrical.

Hiphop artist brings his latest music to the area

Paul Capsis to reopen Brunswick Picture House

Cabaret performer Paul Capsis will perform at Lismore City Hall on December 29.

Cabaret star brings back his latest solo show

Married at First Sight's controversial groom laying low

MAFS’ Anthony chooses to stay with wife Nadia at their vow renewal.

Anthony in hiding after backlash over his MAFS appearance

Seven, Nine’s crazy cyclone battle

Ruth Western ain't got time for Cyclone Debbie.

Reporters are battling fierce winds, and locals who won’t play ball.

MAFS bride shops around new love story

Nadia Stamp has put a price tag on her new man.

Nadia is shopping her $4000 new man ... and it’s not Anthony.

Luxury hotel expands $400m water park development

Developer to push on with second stage of massive new water park

Dalwood waterfall up for sale

Two people have died at Dalwood Falls, Ballina.

How would you like to own your very own waterfall?

Northern Rivers homes are hot property

SCENIC: Byron Bay was one of the suburbs that recorded a median house sale price in excess of $1 million.

Low stock levels and high demand keeps market buoyant.

Plenty of properties to thumb through in tomorrow's paper

Find your dream home in our property guide in tomorrow's Weekend Star.

Grab a cuppa, get the Weekend Star and check out the property pages

Five Northern Rivers homes under $250k

These Northern Rivers properties are under $250,000.

To quell the depressing news of Byron Bay's 'average' $1m homes

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!