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The International Biochar Initiative 2010 Conference

Conference LogoIBI held the 3rd International Biochar Conference: IBI 2010, in Rio de Janeiro, September 12 - 15, 2010. We hosted this conference in Brazil, together with our parters and colleagues at EMBRAPA--a leading light in studies of biochar and Terra Preta. The conference ran over the course of four days and included both oral and poster presentations, ample networking opportunities, side meetings, discussion groups, display booths, and a field trip opportunity to see the famous Terra Preta sites in the Amazon (September 16 - 18, 2010).

Session topics included: IBI logo

  1. Biochar production and new products. Biomass sources, residues and co-products recycling. Management of emissions, wastes, and byproducts from biochar production.
  2. Integrated biochar systems. Design and evaluation of small and large scale systems.
  3. Characterization of fresh and aged biochars. Physico-chemical characterization of structural recalcitrance and functionalities. IBI's biochar characterization effort. 
  4. Biochar quantification in the environment. 
  5. Biochar amendments to soils. Agronomic evaluations and effects on soil carbon dynamics.
  6. Terra Preta de Índios: state of the art.
  7. Climate change mitigation value and potential. embrapa logo
  8. Sustainability, certification and legislation.
  9. Commercializing biochar and large scale dissemination - economic, commercial, and industrial issues.
  10. Emissions trading and climate change policy.

Program Agenda and Presentations

IBI 2010 took place over 4 days with numerous oral and poster presentations. The final conference agenda with selected presentations. Poster presentations can be found at the bottom of this page.

SUNDAY, September 12

17:00 – 19:00 Welcome reception and registration

MONDAY, September 13

8:00 – 9:30: Opening

Session Chair: Etelvino Novotny, Embrapa Soils

9:30 – 11:00 Session 1: Plenary: Characterization of Biochars
Session Chair: Saran Sohi, University of Edinburgh

11:00 – 11:30 Break

11:30 – 13:00 Session 2: Plenary: Biochar Application to Soil
Session Chair: Claudia Maia, Embrapa Forest

13:00 – 14:00  Lunch

14:00 – 16:00 Session 3: Parallel sessions
Parallel A: Characterization of Biochars

Session Chair: Annette Cowie, University of New England

  • Chee Hung Chia, University of New South Wales: Nanoscale characterization of Biochar Mineral Complex (co-authors: Paul Munroe, Stephen Joseph, Yun Lin)
  • Etelvino Novotny, Embrapa Soils: Selective extraction of the characteristic humic fraction from Terras Pretas de Índios (co-authors: Marcia H.R. Velloso, Eduardo R. de Azevedo, Tito J. Bonagamba, Guixue Song, Michael H.B. Hayes)
  • Stephen Joseph, AnthroTerra: Characterization for commercialization: What the consumer needs to know (co-authors: M Camps, R Blackwell, A Zwioloski, J Major)
  • Kasiviswanathan Muthukumarappan, South Dakota State University: Production and characterization of biochar from different feedstocks (co-authors: Arulprakash Sivasastri and Chinnadurai Karunanithy)
  • David Waters, Charles Stuart University: Biochar-ion interactions: An investigation of biochar charge (co-authors: Jason Condon, Lukas Van Zwieten, Sergio Moroni)

Parallel B: Biochar Production
Session Chair: Michael Hayes, University of Limerick

Parallel C: Terra preta de Indio
Session Chair: Beata Madari, Embrapa Rice and Beans

  • William I. Woods, University of Kansas: Amazonian Dark Earth Research: The Beginnings (co-author: W.M. Denevan)
  • Gaspar Morcote-Ríos, Universidad Nacional de Colombia: Las Terras Pretas de la Pedrera (Amazonia Colombiana) (co-authors: Tomas Leon-Sicard, Carlos Franky, Diego Giraldo-Cañas, Lauren Raz, Juan Carlos Berrio, Clara Peña)
  • Rodrigo Santana Macedo, USP: Physical, chemical and mineralogical characteristics of soils with anthropics horizons (Terra Preta de Índio) in the floodplains of Solimões river in the Central Amazon – Brazil (co-authors: Wenceslau Geraldes Teixeira, Hedinaldo Narciso Lima, Eduardo Góes Neves)

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee break

16:30 – 18:30 Session 4: Parallel sessions
Parallel A: Climate Change Mitigation

Session Chair: Saran Sohi, University of Edinburgh

Parallel B: Biochar Application to Soil
Session Chair: Johannes Lehmann, Cornell University

Parallel C: Integrated Biochar Systems
Session Chair: Beata Madari, Embrapa Rice and Beans

18:30 – 20:30 Poster Session I

18:30 – 20:30 Biochar Protocol Discussion
John Gaunt (Carbon Consulting) and Keith Driver (Leading Carbon Ltd): Building a Robust GHG Emission Reduction Quantification Protocol for Biochar: The objective of this discussion is to consolidate current activity and move towards a coordinated initiative to build a robust GHG emission reduction quantification protocol for biochar projects. Information on the protocol can be found at

TUESDAY, September 14, 2010

8:00 – 10:00 Session 5: Parallel Sessions
Parallel A: Biochar Application to Soil

Session Chair: Claudia Maia, Embrapa Forest

Parallel B: Biochar Production
Session Chair: Christoph Steiner, University of Georgia

  • Carolina Linhares, Instituto de Química – Universidade Federal Fluminense: Chemical functionalization of activated charcoal? Reproducing the Terra Preta de Índios organic matter model (co-authors: Jasmin Lemke, Nathalia Amaral, Etelvino H. Novotny)
  • Stephen Joseph, The University of New South Wales: Formation, structure, and stability of biochar-mineral complexes (co-authors: Yun Lin, Paul Munroe, James Hook, Rita Henderson, Paul Thomas, Chee Chia, Paul Blackwell)
  • Jan Mumme, Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering Potsdam-Bornim: Hydrothermal carbonization of residues from anaerobic digestion (co-authors: Jürgen Kern, Fabian Rupp, Lion Eckervogt, Judith Pielert)
  • Marcela Guiotoku, Embrapa Forest: Saccharides as raw material for biochar-like material production (co-authors: Fabrício Augusto Hansel, Etelvino Henrique Novotny, Claudia Maria Branco de Freitas Maia)
  • Jane Lynch, AnthroTerra Ltd: IBI’s pyrolysis sustainability guidelines (co-author: Stephen Joseph)

Parallel C: Commercialization and Dissemination
Session Chair: Julie Major, International Biochar Initiative

10:00 – 10:30: Break

10:30 – 12:30 Session 6: Parallel Sessions
Parallel A: Agronomic and Environmental Behavior of Biochars

Session Chair: Antônio Salvio Mangrich, Federal University of Paraná

Parallel B: Climate Change Effects of Biochar
Session Chair: Janice Thies, Cornell University

Parallel C: Biochar Soil Fertility and Systems Analysis
Session Chair: Johannes Lehmann, Cornell University

  • Mellissa Ananias Soler da Silva, Embrapa Rice and Beans: The effect of charcoal amendment on soil physical properties related to water retention in the Brazilian savanna (Cerrado) (co-authors: Beata Emoke Madari, Heliton Fernandes do Carmo, Fabiano André Petter, Orlai Moreira da Silva, Diogo Milhomem Machado, Márcia Thaís de Melo Carvalho, Rafael Faria de Otoni, Fernando Cunha Freitas, Raphael Oliveira de Souza)
  • David Friese-Greene, Soil Fertility Project: Soil fertility project in Southern India – banana farmers can’t be wrong! (co-author: James Bruges)
  • Dorisel Torres Rojas, Cornell University: Biomass availability, energy consumption and biochar production in rural households of Western Kenya (co-authors: Johannes Lehmann, Stephen Joseph, Johannes Dietz)
  • Paul Taylor/Paul Anderson, Chip Energy Inc: CHAB micro-gasification for 1Gt CO2/yr mitigation-sequestration: A quantitative analysis for practical decentralized low-cost results before 2020 (co-authors: Paul O. Taylor, Paul W. Wever)

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 15:00 Session 7: Plenary: Biochar Production
Session Chair: Stephen Joseph

15:00 – 16:30 Session 8: Plenary: Commercialization
Session Chair: Julie Major, International Biochar Initiative

16:30 – 17:00 Coffee break

16:30 – 19:00 Poster session II

WEDNESDAY, September 15

8:00 – 9:30 Session 9: Plenary: Quantification and Ecology of Biochar in Soil
Session Chair: Michael Hayes

9:30 – 10:40 Session 10: Plenary: Terra Preta de Indio
Session Chair: Beata Madari, Embrapa Rice and Beans

10:40 – 11:00: Break

11:00 – 12:30 Session 11: Plenary: Climate Change and Biochar
Session Chair: John Gaunt, Carbon Consulting LLC and Cornell University

12:30 – 13:00: Closing Ceremony

Poster Presentations

Listed alphabetically by primary author

A History of Terra Preta de Indios in Brazil

The Terra Preta de Índios soils, found in the Amazon basin, differ markedly from adjacent soils with their higher fertility and greater carbon content. This high fertility of Terra Preta de Índios, and in particular the capacity of these soils to maintain high fertility despite their intensive and degradative use (resilience), is attributed to its high levels of soil organic matter of strong pyrogenic character. These special soils were formed by pre-Columbian Indigenous peoples, although it is unclear whether their formation was an intentional process for soil improvement, or a consequence of their agricultural and household activities. Such human activity in pre-Columbian past resulted in the accumulation of plant and animal residues as well as large amounts of ash and charcoal. The slow natural oxidation of these charred residues in the soil generated a recalcitrant (polycondensed aromatic structure) and reactive (rich in functionalities able to adsorb nutrients) material, giving rise to soils able to retain plant nutrients in an efficient form and thus reduce their leaching with the heavy rainfall of the Amazon environment.

All this knowledge allowed us to define a model to pursue the goal of improving soil fertility and promoting soil carbon sequestration. For this, biochar can be used, in its raw or improved form, as a soil amendment inspired by traditional indigenous pre-Columbian practices.

Reconciling food and energy production with of soil fertility and carbon sequestration.

It is important to highlight that the scientific approach is not to compete for energetic resources such as charcoal and sugarcane bagasse, but to optimize energy generation by using modern pyrolysis methods and recycling waste and by-products which often represent environmental liabilities. Biochar research and development was included in the 2008 United States Farm Bill and could be considered as official climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy, such as a voluntary C markets strategy, in the post-Kyoto climate agreement under the UNFCCC, representing an important advance, since it is the first proposal that does not penalise agricultural production.

As for Brazil, the agricultural use of biochar is included in Embrapa’s (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) strategic research agenda because:

  1. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of plant charcoal (38.5% of the production).
  2. Renewable energy accounts for 50% of its total energetic matrix, contrasting with the world average of 14%;
  3. Alcohol from sugarcane, the main feedstock in Brazil’s renewable energy matrix, generates a fantastic quantity of pyrolyzable residues.  Additionally, emergent biofuels (biodiesel) industries potentially will produce tons of pyrolyzable residues;
  4. Our tradition in Terra Preta de Índios research has given us a distinct starting point regarding agricultural uses of biochar and modified charcoal as a soil amendment.