Carbon sequestration.

edited November 2013 in Soils & Compost
I have noticed, touring farms in our area. The farmers don't put any stress on making compost. It seems the emphasis has been changed from soil building by compost, to inputs from off farm, with very few farmers making their own compost. Or knowing how. As environmentalists, organic farmers might be able to explore carbon sequestration,by way of compost and bio char.


  • in the pacific north west where i hang out i see the same thing. but i can see why. there are several local sources of certified organic compost for prices close to or even less than what it would costs to bring in the raw stocks to compost. also the region has a couple producers of composted chicken manure based certified organic fertilizers. when considering the economics on the scale of farms i work on (3-15 acres in production) it is not viable or competitive to make your own compost. the farms i have worked for in southern oregon have all composted their own wastes and left overs, but this is just a mere drop in the bucket of the needed fertility. if a farmer has 10 acres of tillable land and can grow productively on that land by buying in organic fertilizer/compost diverted from waste streams it can improve their bottom line. other wise they would have to divert significant portions of their land to the growing of compost crops.

    i am not sold on the bio-char deal just yet. i have a hard time looking at a pile of wood going up in smoke due to intentional inefficient burning and not choking. that is an awe full lot of nasty smoke and wasted heat just to put some charcoal in the ground. then you still need to get it in the ground, that takes more energy. no if we develop large scale wood gas generators and the by product is bio char, that is a whole different story. so for now, i cringe when i read articles on how to burn brush piles in the open to produce bio char. kinda like cutting off your nose to spite your face
  • The way I make bio char is not making the char by burning new wood. It's very easy to get char by pulling the char out of your fireplace or wood stove and adding it to the compost pile to inoculate it before applying it to the soil. Anything can be accomplished with determination,and curiosity. You don't need 10 or more acres to get going on making your living farming.
    Not everyone has the advantage of living in the Pacific Northwest. There a few of us so remote, buying compost is an outrageous expense.I could never afford it, so I picked up leaves and vegetable scraps from local chefs who were my customers so I wouldn't go home empty.With that we made up to 10 heaps at a time.

  • if due to location and other factors, you can produce your own compost more economically then buying in organic fertilizers. then by all means do it.

    i didnt mean to imply that anyone needed 10 acre to be a farmer, i was merely giving an example of a situation where buying in compost or compost stock can be a proper solution.

    i would prefer to see all farms be closed systems where we provide all our own fertility with our customers returning all their food waste for us to compost. but for most, that is not likely to happen. so taking advantage of what ever waste streams are available is what we have to do, for you it can be your local chef for me it can be the local organic dairy, for someone else it could be a neighbor with horses. taking advantage of the low hanging fruit is a wise motto no matter where you are.
  • This is why soils are so cool! depending on where you're at, the climate and the parent material makes a huge difference as to how you can manage soil fertility.Marcia I could not tell by your post where your located but there are a number of online resources for soil fertility. My personal favorite is the SARE book "Building soils for better crops" it is available free online or you can buy the print version. Compost is just one of many things you can do to increase soil fertility. For my little home garden my biggest input is cover crops. I use a mixture of legumes (vetches,field peas, fava beans) along with oats and during the summer buckwheat. I take a soil test once a year to try and balance the minerals as best I can. For me, I like the Albrecht method of balancing the minerals as percent of base saturations.
    As for biochar, I do not use it yet since I am still trying to understand how it works in our cold wet pacific Northwest soils. I was understanding that the wood-stock had to be burned under airless conditions otherwise you end up with either ash or charcoal with many impurities still in it. One other source if you have access to youtube is search for Dr. Jill Clapperton. She has done a number of talks on soil food-web and has a bunch of really cool photos of the life in the soil.
    zone 7 WA
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