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Northern Rivers benefits from growing interest in biochar

BLACK IS THE NEW GREEN: Wollongbar DPI principal research scientist Lukas Van Zwieten with PhD student Zhe Weng at the Wollongbar DPI biochar research plot.
BLACK IS THE NEW GREEN: Wollongbar DPI principal research scientist Lukas Van Zwieten with PhD student Zhe Weng at the Wollongbar DPI biochar research plot. Marc Stapelberg

NORTHERN Rivers scientists' ongoing contribution to biochar research is paying dividends as awareness surrounding the multi-purpose charcoal grows internationally.

Biochar, created by decomposing organic material at high temperatures, can be used to improve soil quality and farm yields, to produce energy, as a carbon emissions sink and even as a building material.

NSW Department of Primary Industries in Wollongbar has been conducting a field trial on biochar's effect on soil since 2001, which is believed to be the world's longest running biochar trial.

DPI chief research scientist Dr Lukas Van Zwieten, who has been working on the trial for years will be one of many industry experts on biochar appearing at Bio-Charfest 2014 being held at Mullumbimby from today until Sunday.

He was conducting a guided tour with other researchers through DPI's field trial yesterday.

"Back in 2001 biochar was really a fringe science and it was hard to get the work published and accepted," Dr Van Zwieten said.

"Now, you'll find the majority of publications in the field are accepting manuscripts on biochar - it's being recognised by the international scientific community.

"Biochar is a recognised soil amendment and it's recognised as being able to sequester carbon in soil as well as providing a lot of other potential benefits - especially to crop growth."

Bio-Charfest co-ordinator and DPI technical field assistant Don Coyne became "hooked" on the versatile material after attending a biochar bootcamp at Byron Eco Park about three and a half years ago.

He believes biochar offers a timely solution to growing concerns about climate change.

"It's just got so many uses and it's so positive for the future of the environment," Mr Coyne said.

"The carbon sequestration side of it got me. The books I've read, research I'd done showed if we don't resolve the carbon dioxide parts per million issue we've got, scientists say global warming will happen.

"This is one solution. We've disrupted the natural carbon cycle by digging it up as fossil fuels and pumping it into the atmosphere.

"This is growing carbon to be captured, stored and utilised for human benefit."

Bio-Charfest

What: Presentations, demonstrations and displays.

When: Today, tomorrow and Sunday.

Where: Mullumbimby Civic Hall, Dalley St.

Why: To teach landholders and others about biochar.

Bookings: http://www.bio-charfest.org.

Topics:  biochar



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