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Terra Preta Soil Technology

Please look at this low cost alternative CO2 Sequestration system.The integrated energy strategy offered by Terra Preta Soil technology may
provide the only path to sustain our agricultural and fossil fueled power
structure without climate degradation, other than nuclear power.

I feel we should push for this Terra Preta Soils CO2 sequestration strategy as not only a global warming remedy for the first world, but to solve fertilization and transport issues for the third world. This information needs to be shared with all the state programs.
The economics look good, and truly great if we had CO2 cap & trade in place: 
These are processes where you can have your Bio-fuel and fertility too.Terra Preta' soils I feel has great possibilities to revolutionize sustainable agriculture into a major CO2 sequestration strategy.
I thought, I first read about these soils in " Botany of Desire " or "Guns,Germs,&Steel" but I could not find reference to them. I finely found the reference in "1491", but I did not realize their potential .
Nature article:
This Earth Science Forum thread on these soil contains further links ( I post everything I find on Amazon Dark Soils, ADS here):
There is an ecology going on in these soils that is not completely understood, and if replicated and applied at scale would have multiple benefits for farmers and environmentalist. Terra Preta creates a terrestrial carbon reef at a microscopic level. These nanoscale structures provide safe haven to the microbes and fungus that facilitate fertile soil creation, while sequestering carbon for many hundred if not thousands of years. The combination of these two forms of sequestration would also increase the growth rate and natural sequestration effort of growing plants.If pre Columbian Indians could produce these soils up to 6 feet deep over 20% of the Amazon basin it seems that our energy and agricultural industries could also product them at scale. Harnessing the work of this vast number of microbes and fungi changes the whole equation of EROEI for food and Bio fuels. I see this as the only sustainable agricultural strategy if we no longer have cheap fossil fuels for fertilizer.We need this super community of wee beasties to work in concert with us by populating them into their proper Soil horizon Carbon Condos.


This new soil technology speaks to so many different interests and disciplines that it has not been embraced fully by any.  I'm sure you will see both the potential of this system and the convergence needed for it's implementation.
The integrated energy strategy offered by Charcoal based Terra Preta Soil technology may
provide the only path to sustain our agricultural and fossil fueled power
structure without climate degradation, other than nuclear power.
 These are processes where you can have your Bio-fuels, Carbon sequestration and fertility too.
I spoke with the author of a Terra Preta (TP) story in Solar Today, Ron Larson ,
 I have heard that National Geographic is preparing a big Terra Preta (TP) article.  Here's the Cornell page for an over view of TP:
This Earth Science Forum thread on these soils contains further links, and has been viewed by 13,000 folks. ( I post everything I find on Amazon Dark Soils, ADS here):
 The Georgia Inst. of Technology page: 
Here is a great article that high lights this pyrolysis process , ( ) which could use existing infrastructure to provide Charcoal sustainable Agriculture , Syn-Fuels, and a variation of this process would also work as well for H2 , Charcoal-Fertilizer, while sequestering CO2 from Coal fired plants to build soils at large scales , be sure to read the  "See an initial analysis NEW"  link of this technology to clean up Coal fired power plants.
Soil erosion, energy scarcity, excess greenhouse gas all answered through regenerative carbon management
This is the first I've seen of a pyrolysis process like Dr. Danny Day's on the market:
 Lehmann at Cornell points out, "systems such as Day's are the only way to make a fuel that is actually carbon negative". and that " a strategy combining biochar with biofuels could ultimately offset 9.5 billion tons of carbon per year-an amount equal to the total current fossil fuel emissions! "
 The upcoming International Agrichar Initiative (IAI) conference to be held at Terrigal, NSW, Australia in 2007. (  )
 I feel Terra Preta soil technology is the greatest of Ironies.
That is: an invention of pre-Columbian American culture, destroyed by western disease, may well be the savior of industrial western society.

RE: Nature Article — the link given on the previous page,will not allow access without being a subscriber to Nature.

I posted it Before Nature started requiring a subscribing membership, here is a link to the original pdf version. The pdf version is still accessible without a membership.

I can't tell you how frustrating this link has been. At first Nature would allow you past it's paywall then blocked it . Then for awhile they allowed the pdf, but then blocked that. Now at least on the bestenergy site we won't have to re-do it.

Terra Preta Page & Mail List

My latest activities include being drafted by these guys at REPP Crest to coordinate a central data base for all things Terra Preta: .

the TerraPreta mail list: ,

The whole REPP thing started just a few days ago , so we will see who comes to the party.

Erich J. Knight

 Time to Master the Carbon Cycle

Man has been controlling the carbon cycle , and there for the weather, since the invention of agriculture, all be it was as unintentional, as our current airliner contrails are in affecting global dimming. This unintentional warm stability in climate has over 10,000 years, allowed us to develop to the point that now we know what we did,............ and that now......... we are over doing it.

The prehistoric and historic records gives a logical thrust for soil carbon sequestration.
I wonder what the soil biome carbon concentration was REALLY like before the cutting and burning  of the world's virgin  forest, my guess is that now we see a severely diminished community, and that only very recent Ag practices like no-till and reforestation have started to help rebuild it.  It makes implementing Terra Preta soil technology like an act of penitence, a returning of the misplaced carbon.

 Energy, the carbon cycle and greenhouse gas management
On the Scale of CO2 remediation:

It is my understanding that atmospheric CO2 stands at 379 PPM, to stabilize the climate we need to reduce it to 350 PPM by the removal of 230 Billion tons.
The best estimates I've found are that the total loss of forest and soil carbon (combined
pre-industrial and industrial) has been about 200-240 billion tons.  Of
that, the soils are estimated to account for about 1/3, and the vegetation
the other 2/3. 

Since man controls 24 billion tons in his agriculture then it seems we have plenty to work with in sequestering our fossil fuel co2 emissions as charcoal.

As Dr. Lehmann at Cornell points out, "Closed-Loop Pyrolysis systems such as Dr. Danny Day's are the only way to make a fuel that is actually carbon negative". and that " a strategy combining biochar with biofuels could ultimately offset 9.5 billion tons of carbon per year-an amount equal to the total current fossil fuel emissions! "
I feel this is the most Important application of Dr. Day's work: "The Biomass Advisory Council to the U.S. DOE and USDA recommended in July 2004 that a biomass-based hydrogen strategy be elevated due to its "unique carbon sequestration capabilities".[7] Extraction of energy from biomass (in the form of hydrogen) and production of a solid carbon matrix for agricultural use can offer a primary storage system for billions of tons of biologically-produced carbon as well as CO2 derived from fossil fuel combustion. The returned carbon provides inherent trace minerals and has been proven to restore degraded topsoil.

Recent developments have taught us how to produce charcoal plus a hydrogen-rich "syngas" for ammonia synthesis and fuel production. The charcoal is used as a modified selective catalytic reactor (SCR) scrubbing media for cleaning up power plant exhaust. While removing CO2, SOx and NOx from coal power plant exhaust, the charcoal is enriched with nitrogen creating a soil amendment fertilizer. This compound has very long-lasting sequestration capabilities[8],[9], [10], [11]. An economic analysis performed by the University of Kentucky and in press for The International Journal of Energy shows that this method of energy production and carbon sequestration can be a profitable method of reducing atmospheric carbon levels. This approach offers a long-term solution to our global climate change dilemma. [12]

[][12] Day, D., Evans, B., Lee, J., Reicosky, D. "Economical CO2, SOx ,and NOx capture from fossil-fuel utilization with combined renewable hydrogen production and large-scale carbon sequestration" in press for Energy: The International Journal; (pre-press copy)


Erich J. Knight

Sorry...................I hope this links works better:

About the Terra Preta Discussion List and Website at | Terr

Here are the current news and links on Terra Preta soils and closed-loop pyrolysis , I hope would interest you. 

SCIAM Article May 15 07;

After many years of reviewing solutions to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) I believe this technology can manage Carbon for the greatest collective benefit at the lowest economic price, on vast scales. It just needs to be seen by ethical globally minded companies.

Could you please consider looking for a champion for this orphaned Terra Preta Carbon Soil Technology.

The main hurtle now is to change the current perspective held by the IPCC that the soil carbon cycle is a wash, to one in which soil can be used as a massive and ubiquitous Carbon sink via Charcoal. Below are the first concrete steps in that direction;

 S.1884 – The Salazar Harvesting Energy Act of 2007

A Summary of Biochar Provisions in S.1884: Carbon-Negative Biomass Energy and Soil Quality Initiativefor the 2007 Farm Bill


Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.

Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions from Biomass by 2030by Ralph P. Overend, Ph.D. and Anelia Milbrandt
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The organization 25x25 (see 25x'25 - Home) released it's (first-ever, 55-page )"Action Plan" ; see;
On page 29 , as one of four foci for recommended RD&D, the plan lists: "The development of biochar, animal agriculture residues and other non-fossil fuel based fertilizers, toward the end of integrating energy production with enhanced soil quality and carbon sequestration."
and on p 32, recommended as part of an expanded database aspect of infrastructure: "Information on the application of carbon as fertilizer and existing carbon credit trading systems."

 I feel 25x25 is now the premier US advocacy organization for all forms of renewable energy, but way out in front on biomass topics.


There are 24 billion tons of carbon controlled by man in his agriculture , I forgot the % that is waste, but when you add all the other cellulose waste which is now dumped to rot or digested or combusted and ultimately returned to the atmosphere as GHG, the balanced number is around 24 Billion tons. So we have plenty of bio-mass.

Even with all the big corporations coming to the GHG negotiation table, like Exxon, Alcoa, .etc, we still need to keep watch as they try to influence how carbon management is legislated in the USA. Carbon must have a fair price, that fair price and the changes in the view of how the soil carbon cycle now can be used as a massive sink verses it now being viewed as a wash, will be of particular value to farmers and a global cool breath of fresh air for us all.

If you have any other questions please feel free to call me or visit the TP web site I've been drafted to co-administer.

It has been immensely gratifying to see all the major players join the mail list , Cornell folks, T. Beer of Kings Ford Charcoal (Clorox), Novozyne the M-Roots guys(fungus),  chemical engineers, Dr. Danny Day of EPRIDA , Dr. Antal of U. of H., Virginia Tech folks  and probably many others who's back round I don't know have joined.


Also Here is the Latest BIG Terra Preta Soil news;

  The Honolulu Advertiser: "The nation's leading manufacturer of charcoal has licensed a University of Hawai'i process for turning green waste into barbecue briquets."


Dynamotive to build fully commercial fast-pyrolysis biofuel plant in Missouri


ConocoPhillips Establishes $22.5 Million Pyrolysis Program at Iowa State 


Glomalin, the recently discovered soil protien, may be the secret to to TP soils productivity;


All the Bio-Char Companies and equipment manufactures  I've found:
 Carbon Diversion

Eprida: Sustainable Solutions for Global Concerns

BEST Pyrolysis, Inc. | Slow Pyrolysis - Biomass - Clean Energy - Renewable Ene

Dynamotive Energy Systems | The Evolution of Energy

Ensyn - Environmentally Friendly Energy and Chemicals

Agri-Therm, developing bio oils from agricultural waste

Advanced BioRefinery Inc.

Technology Review: Turning Slash into Cash

3R Environmental Technologies Ltd. (Edward Someus)

The company has Swedish origin and developing/designing medium and large scale carbonization units. The company is the licensor and technology provider to NviroClean Tech Ltd British American organization WEB: and VERTUS Ltd.

Genesis Industries, as the current licensee of Eprida technology, provides you with a carbon negative Eprida energy machine at the same cost as going direct to Eprida. Through our technical support staff we also provide you with the information to obtain the best utilization of the biocharcoal that is produced by the machine. Recent research has shown that Eprida charcoal can increase plant productivity as it sequesters carbon in the soil, thus helping reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.


Mycorrhizae Inoculent;

The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) conference  held at Terrigal, NSW, Australia in 2007.  The papers from this conference are  posted at their home page;

Restoring soil carbon can reverse global warming

Here is a strait forward conversion of the impact of building soil organic material (SOM) on ppm of atmospheric GHGs, using just marginal land and standard SOM building processes. Adding Biochar protocols would really jump start this solution.

Restoring soil carbon can reverse global warming, desertification and biodiversity loss

Tony Lovell of Soil Carbon P/L in Australia estimates that by actively supporting regrowth of vegetation in damaged ecosystems, billions of tons of carbon dioxide can be sequestered from the atmosphere.

"Determining how much carbon dioxide (CO2) can physically be consumed from the atmosphere?

As the planet has 7.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in circulation for each 1 ppm of atmospheric CO2, and there are 5 billion hectares of inappropriately managed or unmanaged, desertifying savannahs on the Earth (which on empirical evidence we contend to be the case), the question that should sensibly be asked is: How much carbon dioxide would be absorbed if policies were put in place (in Australia and elsewhere) that caused the focus of on-ground management to be deliberately directed towards the widespread consumption of cyclical GHGs within the currently under-utilised savannah lands?

Consumption of CO2 per hectare
One hectare is 10,000 sq. metres. If a hectare of soil 33.5 cm deep, with a bulk density of 1.4 tonnes per cubic metre is considered, there is a soil mass per hectare of about 4,700 tonnes.
If appropriate management practices were adopted and these practices achieved and sustained a 1% increase in soil organic matter (SOM)6, then 47 tonnes of SOM per hectare will be added to organic matter stocks held below the soil surface
This 47 tonnes of SOM will contain approximately 27 tonnes of Soil Carbon (ie 47 tonnes at 58% Carbon) per hectare
In the absence of other inputs this Carbon may only be derived from the atmosphere via the natural function known as the photo-synthetic process. To place approximately 27 tonnes of Soil Carbon per hectare into the soil, approximately 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide must be consumed out of the atmosphere by photosynthesis
A 1% change in soil organic matter across 5 billion hectares will sequester 500 billion tonnes of physical CO2
Converting global Soil Carbon capacity to ppm of atmospheric GHGs
Every 1% increase in retained SOM within the topmost 33.5 cm of the soil must capture and hold approximately 100 tonnes per hectare of atmospheric carbon dioxide (the variability in the equation being due only to the soil bulk density). We submit that under determined, appropriate management, that this is readily achievable within a very few years
For each 1% increase in SOM achieved on the 5 billion hectares there will be removed 64 ppm of carbon dioxide from atmospheric circulation (500,000,000,000 tonnes CO2 / 7,800,000,000 tonnes per ppm = 64 ppm).
Soil Organic Matter is the plant material released into the soil during the natural phases of plant growth. It includes root material sloughed off below the soil surface and plant litter carried into the soil by microbes, insects and rainfall
Soil Carbon is the elemental carbon contained within Soil Organic Matter (SOM).
One tonne of CO2 contains 12/44 units of carbon (ie 0.27 tonnes of carbon per tonne of CO2.). Therefore 27 tonnes of carbon sequesters 27/0.27 = 100 tonnes CO2 (rounded). NB Carbon atomic weight 12, oxygen atomic weight 16 ie CO2 = 12+(16+16) = 44
The global opportunity and numbers

It appears that the pre-industrial level of atmospheric carbon dioxide was 280ppm, and that globally we are now at 455ppm, and heading towards 550ppm. To get from 550ppm back to 280ppm, 270ppm must be removed. Globally, a 4.2% increase in SOM would potentially reverse the expected situation. In any case, any form of determined management will substantially reduce the now crippling legacy loadings in the atmosphere. "

Erich J. Knight
1047 Dave Berry Rd.
McGaheysville, VA. 22840


From Dr.Johannes Lehmann;

"Several carbon costs are associated with the land-based production of the biomass, the
transport to the bio-energy plant, the pyrolysis itself, and the land application of the biochar
(the latter is much less costly than that of biomass due to the greatly reduced mass
by about 70-80%). Our preliminary calculations take all of these carbon costs into
account and suggest that the energy balance for various feedstocks such as corn or
switchgrass is very favorable with approximately 3 – 11 kg C energy yield for every kg C
energy invested, even with the proposed use of bio-char as a carbon sink instead of an
energy source (Gaunt and Lehmann unpubl. data). Comparable ratios for ethanol
currently amount to 0.7-2.2 kg C kg-1 C (Pimentel and Patzek 2005; Metzger 2006) and
for biomass burning to 10-13 kg C kg-1 C (willow; Keoleian and Volk 2005) with the
caveat for the latter that it does not produce a liquid fuel but only heat in contrast to
pyrolysis or fermentation. This means that 3-11 times more energy can be produced than
invested and at the same time about half of the carbon can be sequestered in soil. Such acarbon-negative technology would lead to a net withdrawal of carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere while producing and consuming energy. These numbers need to be
substantiated by using a wider range of scenarios including the actual use of the bioenergy
as well as better data for fertilizer savings, bio-char stability and greenhouse gas
emissions to allow for more definitive conclusions.

Improving soil
Any bio-energy production will lead to a maximum removal of biomass from land. This
highly extractive procedure potentially leads to wide-spread soil degradation with
negative effects on soil productivity, habitats, and off-site pollution. Pyrolysis coupled
with an organic matter return through bio-char applications addresses this dilemma,
because about half of the original carbon can be returned. In addition, the bio-char is
extremely effective in restoring soil fertility. Several overviews have presented evidence
for the improvement of soil productivity by bio-char which will not be repeated here
(Glaser et al. 2002; Lehmann and Rondon 2006). The extraordinary persistence of biochar
makes it possible to extend its application beyond the area from which the biomass
was obtained to generate the bio-energy. Once applied to a certain location, additions do
not need to be repeated annually as exemplified by the persistently high fertility of
Amazonian Dark Earths over several hundred to thousand years as well as of remnants of
historic charcoal production (Glaser et al. 2002; Lehmann and Rondon 2006). That
allows application to areas which were not harvested for bio-energy production, but
would benefit from improved soil fertility or reduced pollution by agro-chemicals"

With Biochar the old saw; "Feed the soil not the Plant" becomes;

Feed, Cloth, provide a furnished house, waste & water system, community center, health insurance and Job security to the Soil not the Plant!!

Let us all Please incant ritual supplications for a smooth transition to these new agricultural protocols.

Just for fun I leave you with The Terra Preta Prayer;

The Terra Preta Prayer

Our Carbon who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name
By kingdom come, thy will be done, IN the Earth to make it Heaven.
It will give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our atmospheric trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against the Kyoto protocols
And lead us not into fossil fuel temptation, but diliver us from it's evil
low as we walk through the valley of the shadow of Global Warming,
I will feel no evil, your Bio-fuels and fertile microbes will comfort me,
For thine is the fungal kingdom,
and the microbe power,
and the Sequestration Glory,
For ever and ever (well at least 2000 years)

Climate Change

Climate change is a serious event,
We cannot say it is heaven sent,
Though in the sky the heat's contained,
Our actions are the ones to blame,
The carbon fuels we daily burn,
We really don't have much concern,
"It's just so little and the world is so big",
We don't care a feather or a fig,
But slowly like the hare and tortoise,
The heat creeps up and rigor mortis,
Sets in to our continuing wasteful ways,
We don't even notice the gathering haze,
The rising waters, the deserts expand,
The violent winds, the useless lands,
A mockery we have made of our Earth,
But the joke is on us, for all it is worth.

A Little Riddle;

I am renewable;
I am a chemical element;
as a fuel I am often less expensive ($/GJ) than natural gas;
my energy density (GJ/m3) can exceed that of ethanol or LPG;
and my combustion does not add to the CO2 in the atmosphere;
I am easily stored and safe to transport;
I clean the water you drink and the air you breathe;
Plants grow best in soils that are enriched with me;
I am a key ingredient in the production of semiconductors;
When eaten I settle an upset stomach and clean the intestines; and
No one is afraid of me!
What am I?



Please review my USBI 2016 Presentation;
"The Civilization of Soil",

The full paper & citations, (no slides), is on my LinkedIn page;

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