An international symposium focusing on the environmental behavior and effects of biochar was held in Hangzhou, China, from October 9–11, 2010. Approximately 80 people attended this conference, coming from China, Japan, North America, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. IBI Board Vice Chairman Stephen Joseph and IBI Executive Director Debbie Reed both attended, and made presentations at the symposium.
The main objective of this symposium was to provide a platform for people involved in biochar research and development and commercialization to exchange information and ideas in areas relating to environmental science, geochemistry, biology, soil science, policies related to utilization of biochar to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, and biochar technology development. An equally important objective was to promote further worldwide research collaboration and enhance communication among those in the biochar community, and to develop sustainable carbonization technology for biochar production.
The host organizations were the College of Environment and Resources, Zhejiang University; China National Research Center of Bamboo; China Key Laboratory of Non-point Source Pollution Control, Ministry of Agriculture, the People’s Republic of China; and the State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Republic of China. The conference was sponsored by the China National Science Foundation and the Blue Moon Fund.
Topics covered during the conference included:
All of the papers and posters were of a very high standard (see presentations list below for author submitted presentations). A very interesting talk was given by Professor Weixiang Wu of Zhejiang University on the discovery of a Chinese Terra Preta site. Professor Akira Shibata of Ritsumeikan University in Japan presented the results of a marketing campaign in Kyoto of “Cool” vegetables produced using bamboo biochar. Other talks focused on the changes in microbial population observed when biochar was applied to soil (Professor Janice Thies of Cornell University, and Mr Yu Luo of Rothamsted Research Center, UK). Dr Jim Amonette of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA, Dr Christoph Steiner of Austria, and Dr Saran Sohi of the University of Edinburgh, UK presented work on the potential of biochar to sequester carbon and improve soils. Professor Yunhan Xiao of the Power and Energy Research Center, Chinese Academy of Science, presented a novel design of a circulating fluid bed gasifier that could produce biochar as well as oils and syngas. Dr Stephen Joseph discussed how surfaces of biochars could be altered to make them more effective in promoting plant growth at lower application rates. Other presentations focused on the agronomic benefits and adsorption of toxic substances.
IBI Executive Director Debbie Reed presented on US federal support of biochar research and development, as well as some results from a global survey of government support for biochar projects, conducted by IBI in the September-October, 2010 timeframe.
As part of the symposium, participants visited a field site in Hangzhou established by Professor Weixiang Wu of Zhejian University. This site had a batch pyrolysis kiln for making biochar from rice residues. There was also a field trial underway where different biochars and biochar-organo-mineral complexes had been incorporated into rice paddies, and the participants were able to view results to date.
Participants also visited a new facility in Hangzhou that is producing a biochar-based organic fertilizer. This plant was developed as a collaboration between Mr Lu of the Hangzhou Qianjiang Drying Equipment Co., Ltd, and Mr Robert Flanagan and Professor Zhong of the China National Research Center of Bamboo. The plant consists of a pyrolysis unit that provides heat for a rotary agglomerator. The biochar is fed into the agglomerator and a liquid containing minerals and amino acids is sprayed onto the biochar. The material is then dried as it tumbles around the drum to form a small granular product that will be applied to soils with seed-drill equipment already being utilized by farmers. During the site visit, Robert Flanagan also demonstrated several stoves that he was developing with Mr Lu at his factory, including two small cookstoves and a larger unit intended to heat a room in rural areas for up to 8 hours, while also providing cooking heat and a biochar product.