My last couple posts about ‘tree avalanching‘ and ‘ecological forestry‘ are concerned with what goes on above the ground. Today’s blog post is about soil conservation and regeneration. And not just that but also about one of my other favourite topics, ancient knowledge. Our ancestors invented and used Biochar, charcoal created by heating biomass (plants) under low oxygen conditions, to enrich their agricultural land by carbon sequestering. Biochar enhanced soil, called Terra Preta (dark Earth), has been found in vast areas of the Amazon basin, Ecuador, Peru, parts of West Africa, the South African savanna and late Roman Britain. And after 2500 years, it is still regenerating the soil it has been added to! Slash and burn policies so prevalent and destructive in topical rainforests around the globe could be easily converted to sustainable practices that end deforestation and create rich pockets of fertile land. This land will not only produce abundant crops, but will create “sinks” that draw carbon from the atmosphere to clean the air and minimize methane and nitrous oxide emissions from the soil. The article and the video on RTR09 website explain the production and working of Biochar (or Agrichar as it is called in modern day soil scientists). If you are a farmer or just anyone trying to neutralise their carbon footprint in Australia, the video gives some pointers to Agrichar productions plants and people who have successfully used them here.
There is also a 45 minute BBC documentary from the series Horizon, called ‘the secret of El Dorado’, the video of which is embedded on the Eco Preservation Society’s blog. It tackles the much-asked question, was El Dorado real?, from a different perspective. Based on the current research, scientists have deemed the central Amazonian soil to be inappropriate for serious agriculture. Without intensive agriculture how would there be a large civilisation? However, the video unfolds the story of Clark Erickson, who found unnatural criss-cross lines and isolated mounds of forests with signs of large, permanent human habitation in the Bolivian savanna. These were agricultural lands of the ancients, boosted by use of Biochar, to support civilisations of thousands of indigenous Amerindians. There have been conferences on the usefulness of Biochar lately and people have started taking notice. However, a lot needs to be done before politicians would start taking notice of this wonderful, ancient, carbon-negative (not just neutral) technique as one of the steps towards countering global warming.