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Concepts of dryland farming systems incorporating biochar and carbon-rich biological fertilisers

Blackwell, P., Joseph, S., McHenry, M.P., Park, D. and Bellamy, P. (2009) Concepts of dryland farming systems incorporating biochar and carbon-rich biological fertilisers. In: 1st Asia Pacific Biochar Conference, 17 - 20 May, Gold Coast.


Future benefits to rural industry and communities from biochar and other anthropogenic carbon capture, depend on robust concepts and economic models which can provide confidence to those investing capital and time into new systems of rural activity and income. Due to the inherent difficulties in measuring and validating soil C pools, soil C is not currently considered within carbon pollution reduction schemes. Therefore it is it is necessary to build farming systems and produce specific biochar products whose viability does not depend on receiving income from carbon credits. This in itself may limit the application rates that biochars can be added to broadacre agriculture, as well as the present low price that is paid for renewable energy. In this paper we explore the application of specific biochar products within different farming systems to determine the likely return to the farmer and the biochar producer.

A systems and economic analysis for specific cases will indicate that:
1) Integration of groups of farms to support a local pyrolysis power station, and biochar production, with biomass plantation grazing, crop and pasture improvement and manufacture of biochar/mineral complex provides some possibilities of diverse income streams and perhaps a more robust business model than a single use of biochar from renewable energy; some scenarios are explored.
2) Fertiliser replacement by biochar/mineral/biological fertilisers may provide more rapid financial benefits if rates of application are low and material is made from low cost sources of biomass (eg thinning from plantations and waste), minerals and heat.
3) Energy generation through pyrolysis may become financially viable if the biochar/mineral/biological fertiliser produced can be sold at a price greater than $500/t.
4) The use of biochar in potentially high return applications, such as de-tannification of stockfeed, potting mix and turf applications, can also provide a strategy to increase the rate of return on capital investment.
5) The effect of biochar on crop production depends on both the method and rate of application.
6) Potential fertiliser savings achieved through the use of biochar may provide an income stream to help support the production of low cost biochar sources.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Energy
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