METHOD FOR APPLICATION OF BIOCHAR IN TURF GRASS AND LANDSCAPING ENVIRONMENTS
The present invention relates to a method for applying biochar to turf and landscape to allow the turf and landscape to be effectively maintained under reduced water and/or reduced fertilizer applications.
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This application is a divisional of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/184,763, filed Jun. 16, 2016, titled METHOD FOR APPLICATION OF BIOCHAR IN A TURF GRASS AND LANDSCAPING ENVIRONMENTS, which application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/186,876 filed Jun. 30, 2015 titled BIOCHAR COATED SEEDS and to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/180,525 filed Jun. 16, 2015 titled METHOD FOR APPLICATION OF BIOCHAR IN TURF GRASS ENVIRONMENT and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/290,026 filed Feb. 2, 2016 titled BIOCHAR AGGREGATE PARTICLES, which application Ser. No. 15/184,763 is also is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/385,986 filed on May 29, 2012 (now U.S. Pat. No. 9,493,380), titled Method for Enhancing Soil Growth Using Bio-Char which is a 371 of PCT/US12/39862 filed on May 29, 2012, which application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/154,213 filed on Jun. 6, 2011 (now U.S. Pat. No. 8,317,891), and Ser. No. 15/184,763 is also a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/036,480, filed on Sep. 25, 2013 (now U.S. Pat. No. 9,359,268), titled Method for Producing Negative Carbon Fuel, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/189,709, filed on Jul. 25, 2011 (now U.S. Pat. No. 8,568,493); this application is also a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 16/406,986, filed on May 8, 2019, titled ENHANCED BIOCHAR, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/792,486, filed on Oct. 24, 2017, titled ENHANCED BIOCHAR (now U.S. Pat. No. 10,301,228), which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/156,256, filed on May 16, 2016, titled ENHANCED BIOCHAR (now U.S. Pat. No. 9,809,502), which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/162,219, filed on May 15, 2015, titled ENHANCED BIOCHAR; this application is also a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 16/035,177 filed on Jul. 13, 2018, titled BIOCHARS AND BIOCHAR TREATMENT PROCESSES, which is a divisional of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/213,122 filed on Jul. 18, 2016, titled BIOCHARS AND BIOCHAR TREATMENT PROCESSES (now U.S. Pat. No. 10,023,503), which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/873,053 filed on Oct. 1, 2015, titled BIOCHARS AND BIOCHAR TREATMENT PROCESSES (now U.S. Pat. No. 10,252,951), which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/058,445, filed on Oct. 1, 2014, titled METHODS, MATERIALS AND APPLICATIONS FOR CONTROLLED POROSITY AND RELEASE STRUCTURES AND APPLICATIONS and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/058,472, filed on Oct. 1, 2014, titled HIGH ADDITIVE RETENTION BIOCHARS, METHODS AND APPLICATIONS, all of the above of which are incorporated in their entirety by reference in this application.BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of Invention
The invention relates to a method for application of biochar and enhanced biochar in turf grass environments, and in particular, an organic soil amendment produced from plant matter that significantly improves water holding capacity, plant quality and landscape resilience.2. Background
Turfs and lawns can provide many benefits including providing spaces for recreational activities, including golf courses, sporting fields, and parks, decreasing runoff from storm events, beautifying urban areas, and providing cooling, but generally these grasses require significant water to stay healthy, attractive, and functional. The “California Single Family Water Use Efficiency Study” published in June, 2011 (see http://www.irwd.com/images/pdf/save-water/CaSingleFamilyWaterUseEfficiencyStudyJune2 011.pdf) found 53 percent of a single-family household's water usage was for outdoor use, or about 190 gallons per household per day. Unfortunately, water is a limited natural resource and it is becoming increasingly expensive and in certain areas, such as California, in short supply. Thus water conservation is a challenge facing many people and governments, especially in areas facing water shortages. For example a five-year drought in California that continues today, has pushed the state government to put executive orders and laws in place to help curb the water usage in the state. In January 2014, the governor of California declared a state of emergency, recommending a 20 percent reduction in water use be implemented statewide. Then in July of 2014, the governor signed into legislation new laws requiring urban water suppliers and public water distributors to adopt emergency water conservation practices. In April of 2015, as the drought continued, the governor further ordered the State Water Resources Control Board to achieve a 25 percent reduction in urban water usage and instructed the California Department of Water Resources to work towards replacing 50 million square feet of lawns and turf with drought tolerant landscapes. Similarly, in the State of Florida, many municipalities have resorted to fertilizer bans or restrictions during the summer months to reduce the amount of nitrates, phosphates, and other nutrients leached into the groundwater and runoff into the storm water collection facilities and surrounding ocean and/or natural waterways. Much of this runoff is generated through fertilization performed on turf grass and ornamental landscapes. A need exists, not just in California and Florida, but in other areas of the world, for solutions to allow both public and private entities to maintain turfs, lawns, and grasses while conserving water and allowing for more efficient use of synthetic chemicals and nutrients.SUMMARY
The present invention relates to a method for applying biochar to turf and landscape to allow the turf and landscape to be effectively maintained under reduced water and/or reduced fertilizer applications. California Economic Policy Report: Lawn and Water Demands in CA, reported that fifty percent or more of California's household water use goes to lawns and outdoor landscaping. By applying biochar to turf and landscape, as further described below, municipalities and residents alike can reduce water consumption and respond to statewide goals for water conservation.
For the purposes of this application, “turf” shall have the broadest possible interpretation and apply to grasses or other grass-like plants, ornamental or otherwise, which typically are used to cover large areas of ground in order to improve aesthetics, make an area more suitable for recreation, reduce soil erosion, or other applications. Some typical types of turf grass are Bermuda, Fescue, St. Augustine, Ryegrass, Bluegrass, as well as mixtures of these and others.
The method of the present invention includes applying porous carbonaceous particles (e.g., biochar), where at least 75% of the particles have a particle size less than or equal to 10 mm, to an area of soil or turf grass to improve the survivability of new installation, improve the health and appearance of grass, or maintain the turf grass, especially during periods of drought. One example of an application includes spreading a layer of porous carbonaceous particles over the area of soil in amount ranging from 1 to 15 cubic yards per acre, prior to installing sod. Another example of an application includes creating voids in the area of soil, spreading the porous carbonaceous particles over the area of soil in an amount ranging from 1-15 cubic yards per acre and raking the porous carbonaceous particles into the soil after spreading. Alternatively, the application can comprise spreading the porous carbonaceous particles on the surface of the soil or incorporating the porous carbonaceous particles into the top 1-2 inches of the area of soil prior to planting. The porous carbonaceous particles applied may be treated porous carbonaceous particles (some forms of which are known as enhanced biochar), which are treated by infusing a liquid into the pores of the plurality of porous carbonaceous particles.
As demonstrated below, the biochar applied to the turf and landscape of the present invention increases the retention of water and nutrients in the soil which is an enabler for superior soils rich with organic matter and microbial life. The application results in visibly fuller turf and landscapes with improved vitality and longevity that can be maintained with less water.
Other devices, apparatus, systems, methods, features and advantages of the invention are or will become apparent to one with skill in the art upon examination of the following figures and detailed description. It is intended that all such additional systems, methods, features and advantages be included within this description, be within the scope of the invention, and be protected by the accompanying claims.
The invention may be better understood by referring to the following figures. The components in the figures are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention.
As illustrated in the attached figures, the present invention relates to a method for applying biochar to landscaping and turf that reduces water consumption by increasing overall water holding capacity of the soil. As described below, raw biochar may be treated to increase the water holding and retention capacities of the overall soil. Through treatment, the properties of the raw biochar can be modified to significantly increase the biochar's ability to retain water and/or nutrients while also, in many cases, creating an environment beneficial to microorganisms. The processing of the biochar can also ensure that the pH of biochar used in the present application is suitable for creating soil conditions beneficial for turf growth, which has been a challenge for raw biochars.
For purposes of this application, the term “biochar” shall be given its broadest possible meaning and shall include any solid materials obtained from the pyrolysis, torrefaction, gasification or any other thermal and/or chemical conversion of a biomass, where the biochar contains at least 55% carbon based upon weight. Pyrolysis is generally defined as a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures in the absence of, or with reduced levels of oxygen.
For purposes of this application, biochar may include, but not be limited to, BMF char disclosed and taught by U.S. Pat. No. 8,317,891, which is incorporated into this application by reference, and those materials falling within the IBI and AAPFCO definition of biochar. When the biochar is referred to as “treated” or undergoes “treatment,” it shall mean raw, pyrolyzed biochar that has undergone additional physical, biological, and/or chemical processing.
As used herein, unless specified otherwise, the terms “carbonaceous”, “carbon based”, “carbon containing”, and similar such terms are to be given their broadest possible meaning, and would include materials containing carbon in various states, crystallinities, forms and compounds.
As used herein, unless stated otherwise, room temperature is 25° C. And, standard temperature and pressure is 25° C. and 1 atmosphere. Unless stated otherwise, generally, the term “about” is meant to encompass a variance or range of ±10%, the experimental or instrument error associated with obtaining the stated value, and preferably the larger of these.
Typically, biochars include porous carbonaceous materials, such as charcoal, that are used as soil amendments or other suitable applications. Biochar most commonly is created by pyrolysis of a biomass. In addition to the benefits to plant growth, yield and quality, etc.; biochar provides the benefit of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere by serving as a method of carbon sequestration. Thus, biochar has the potential to help mitigate climate change, via carbon sequestration. However, to accomplish this important, yet ancillary benefit, to any meaningful extent, the use of biochar in agricultural applications must become widely accepted, e.g., ubiquitous. Unfortunately, because of the prior failings in the biochar arts, this has not occurred. It is believed that with the solutions of the present invention may this level of use of biochar be achieved; and more importantly, yet heretofore unobtainable, realize the benefit of significant carbon sequestration.
In general, one advantage of putting biochar in soil includes long term carbon sequestration. It is theorized that as worldwide carbon dioxide emissions continue to mount, benefits may be obtained by, controlling, mitigating and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the oceans. It is further theorized that increased carbon dioxide emissions are associated with the increasing industrial development of developing nations, and are also associated with the increase in the world's population. In addition to requiring more energy, the increasing world population will require more food. Thus, rising carbon dioxide emissions can be viewed as linked to the increasing use of natural resources by an ever increasing global population. As some suggest, this larger population brings with it further demands on food production requirements. Biochar uniquely addresses both of these issues by providing an effective carbon sink, e.g., carbon sequestration agent, as well as, an agent for improving and increasing agricultural output. In particular, biochar is unique in its ability to increase agricultural production, without increasing carbon dioxide emission, and preferably reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, as discussed above, this unique ability of biochar has not been realized, or seen, because of the inherent problems and failings of prior biochars including, for example, high pH, phytotoxicity due to high metals content and/or residual organics, and dramatic product inconsistencies.
Biochar can be made from basically any source of carbon, for example, from hydrocarbons (e.g., petroleum based materials, coal, lignite, peat) and from a biomass (e.g., woods, hardwoods, softwoods, waste paper, coconut shell, manure, chaff, food waste, etc.). Combinations and variations of these starting materials, and various and different members of each group of starting materials can be, and are, used. Thus, the large number of vastly different starting materials leads to biochars having different properties.
Many different pyrolysis or carbonization processes can be, and are used to create biochars. In general, these processes involve heating the starting material under positive pressure, reduced pressure, vacuum, inert atmosphere, or flowing inert atmosphere, through one or more heating cycles where the temperature of the material is generally brought above about 400° C., and can range from about 300° C. to about 900° C. The percentage of residual carbon formed and several other initial properties are strong functions of the temperature and time history of the heating cycles. In general, the faster the heating rate and the higher the final temperature the lower the char yield. Conversely, in general, the slower the heating rate or the lower the final temperature the greater the char yield. The higher final temperatures also lead to modifying the char properties by changing the inorganic mineral matter compositions, which in turn, modify the char properties. Ramp, or heating rates, hold times, cooling profiles, pressures, flow rates, and type of atmosphere can all be controlled, and typically are different from one biochar supplier to the next. These differences potentially lead to a biochar having different properties, further framing the substantial nature of one of the problems that the present inventions address and solve. Generally, in carbonization most of the non-carbon elements, hydrogen and oxygen are first removed in gaseous form by the pyrolytic decomposition of the starting materials, e.g., the biomass. The free carbon atoms group or arrange into crystallographic formations known as elementary graphite crystallites. Typically, at this point the mutual arrangement of the crystallite is irregular, so that free interstices exist between them. Thus, pyrolysis involves thermal decomposition of carbonaceous material, e.g., the biomass, eliminating non-carbon species, and producing a fixed carbon structure.
As noted above, raw or untreated biochar is generally produced by subjecting biomass to either a uniform or varying pyrolysis temperature (e.g., 300° C. to 550° C. to 750° C. or more) for a prescribed period of time in a reduced oxygen environment. This process may either occur quickly, with high reactor temperature and short residence times, slowly with lower reactor temperatures and longer residence times, or anywhere in between. To achieve better results, the biomass from which the char is obtained may be first stripped of debris, such as bark, leaves and small branches, although this is not necessary. The biomass may further include feedstock to help adjust the pH, cationic and anionic exchange capacity, hydrophilicity, and particle size distribution in the resulting raw biochar. In some applications, it is desirous to have biomass that is fresh, less than six months old, and with an ash content of less than 3%. Further, by using biochar derived from different biomass, e.g., pine, oak, hickory, birch and coconut shells from different regions, and understanding the starting properties of the raw biochar, the treatment methods can be tailored to ultimately yield a treated biochar with predetermined, predictable physical and chemical properties. Additionally, the biomass may be treated with various organic or inorganic substances prior to pyrolysis to impact the reactivity of the material during pyrolysis and/or to potentially be fixed in place and available for reaction with various substances during the treatment process after pyrolysis. Trace materials, usually in gaseous form, but potentially in other forms, may also be injected during the pyrolysis process with the intention of either modifying the characteristics of the raw biochar produced, or for potential situation on the raw biochar so that those materials, or a descendant material created by thermal or chemical reaction during pyrolysis, may be reacted with other compounds during the treatment process.
In general, biochar particles can have a very wide variety of particle sizes and distributions, usually reflecting the sizes occurring in the input biomass. Additionally, biochar can be ground, sieved, strained, or crushed after pyrolysis to further modify the particle sizes. Typically, for agricultural uses, biochars with consistent, predictable particle sizes are more desirable. By way of example, the biochar particles can have particle sizes as shown or measured in Table 1 below. When referring to a batch having ¼ inch particles, the batch would have particles that will pass through a 3 mesh sieve, but will not pass through (i.e., are caught by or sit atop) a 4 mesh sieve.
For most basic agricultural applications, it is desirable to use biochar particles having particle sizes from about 3/4 mesh to about 60/70 mesh, about 4/5 mesh to about 20/25 mesh, or about 4/5 mesh to about 30/35 mesh. However, for applications such as seed treatment, or microbial carriers, smaller mesh sizes ranging from 200, to 270, to 325, to 400 mesh or beyond may be desirable. It is understood that the desired mesh size, and mesh size distribution can vary depending upon a particular application for which the biochar is intended.
The pore structure 101 forms an opening 121 in the outer surface 100a of the biochar particle 100. The pore structure 101 has a macropore 102, which has a macropore surface 102a, and which surface 102a has an area, i.e., the macropore surface area. (In this diagram only a single micropore is shown. If multiple micropores are present than the sum of their surface areas would equal the total macropore surface area for the biochar particle.) From the macropore 102, several mesopores 105, 106, 107, 108 and 109 are present, each having its respective surfaces 105a, 106a, 107a, 108a and 109a. Thus, each mesopore has its respective surface area; and the sum of all mesopore surface areas would be the total mesopore surface area for the particle. From the mesopores, e.g., 107, there are several micropores 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119 and 120, each having its respective surfaces 110a, 111a, 112a, 113a, 114a, 115a, 116a, 117a, 118a, 119a and 120a. Thus, each micropore has its respective surface area and the sum of all micropore surface areas would be the total micropore surface area for the particle. The sum of the macropore surface area, the mesopore surface area and the micropore surface area would be the total pore surface area for the particle.
Macropores are typically defined as pores having a diameter greater than 300 nm, mesopores are typically defined as diameter from about 1-300 nm, and micropores are typically defined as diameter of less than about 1 nm, and combinations, variations and continuums of these morphologies. The macropores each have a macropore volume, and the sum of these volumes would be the total macropore volume. The mesopores each have a mesopore volume, and the sum of these volumes would be the total mesopore volume. The micropores each have a micropore volume, and the sum of these volumes would be the total micropore volume. The sum of the macropore volume, the mesopore volume and the micropore volume would be the total pore volume for the particle.
Additionally, the total pore surface area, volume, mesopore volume, etc., for a batch of biochar would be the actual, estimated, and preferably calculated sum of all of the individual properties for each biochar particle in the batch.
It should be understood that the pore morphology in a biochar particle may have several of the pore structures shown, it may have mesopores opening to the particle surface, it may have micropores opening to particle surface, it may have micropores opening to macropore surfaces, or other combinations or variations of interrelationship and structure between the pores. It should further be understood that the pore morphology may be a continuum, where moving inwardly along the pore from the surface of the particle, the pore transitions, e.g., its diameter becomes smaller, from a macropore, to a mesopore, to a micropore, e.g., macropore 102 to mesopore 109 to micropore 114.
In general, most biochars have porosities that can range from 0.2 cm3/cm3 to about 0.8 cm3/cm3 and more preferably about 0.2 cm3/cm3 to about 0.5 cm3/cm3. (Unless stated otherwise, porosity is provided as the ratio of the total pore volumes (the sum of the micro+ meso+ macro pore volumes) to the solid volume of the biochar. Porosity of the biochar particles can be determined, or measured, by measuring the micro−, meso−, and macro pore volumes, the bulk volume, and the inter particle volumes to determine the solid volume by difference. The porosity is then calculated from the total pore volume and the solid volume.
As noted above, the use of different biomass potentially leads to biochars having different properties, including, but not limited to different pore structures. By way of example,
The surface area and pore volume for each type of pore, e.g., macro−, meso− and micro− can be determined by direct measurement using CO2 adsorption for micro−, N2 adsorption for meso− and macro pores and standard analytical surface area analyzers and methods, for example, particle analyzers such as Micrometrics instruments for meso− and micro pores and impregnation capacity for macro pore volume. Mercury porosimetry, which measures the macroporosity by applying pressure to a sample immersed in mercury at a pressure calibrated for the minimum pore diameter to be measured, may also be used to measure pore volume.
The total micropore volume can be from about 2% to about 25% of the total pore volume. The total mesopore volume can be from about 4% to about 35% of the total pore volume. The total macropore volume can be from about 40% to about 95% of the total pore volume. By way of example,
As explained further below, treatment can increase usable pore volumes and, among other things, remove obstructions in the pores, which leads to increased retention properties and promotes further performance characteristics of the biochar. Knowing the properties of the starting raw biochar, one can treat the biochar to produce controlled, predictable and optimal resulting physical and chemical properties.
The rationale for treating the biochar after pyrolysis is that given the large internal pore volume and large interior surface are of the biochars, it is most efficient to make significant changes in the physical and chemical properties of the biochar by treating both the internal and external surfaces and internal pore volume of the char. Testing has demonstrated that if the biochar is treated, at least partially, in a manner that causes the forced infusion and/or diffusion of liquids and/or vapors into and/or out of the biochar pores (through mechanical, physical, or chemical means), certain properties of the biochar can be altered or improved over and above simply contacting these liquids with the biochar. By knowing the properties of the raw biochar and the optimal desired properties of the treated biochar, the raw biochar can then be treated in a manner that results in the treated biochar having controlled optimized properties.
For purposes of this application, treating and/or washing the biochar in accordance with the present invention involves more than simply contacting, washing or soaking, which generally only impacts the exterior surfaces and a small percentage of the interior surface area. “Washing” or “treating” in accordance with the present invention, and as used below, involves treatment of the biochar in a manner that causes the forced, accelerated or assisted infusion and/or diffusion of liquids, vapors, and/or additivities into and/or out of the biochar pores (through mechanical, physical, biological, or chemical means) such that certain properties of the biochar can be altered or improved over and above simply contacting these liquids with the biochar or so that treatment becomes more efficient or rapid from a time standpoint over simple contact or immersion.
In particular, effective treatment processes can mitigate deleterious pore surface properties, remove undesirable substances from pore surfaces or volume, and impact anywhere from between 10% to 99% or more of pore surface area of a biochar particle. By modifying the usable pore surfaces through treatment and removing deleterious substances from the pore volume, the treated biochars can exhibit a greater capacity to retain water and/or other nutrients as well as being more suitable habitats for some forms of microbial life. Through the use of treated biochars, agricultural applications can realize increased moisture control, increased nutrient retention, reduced water usage, reduced water requirements, reduced runoff or leaching, increased nutrient efficiency, reduced nutrient usage, increased yields, increased yields with lower water requirements and/or nutrient requirements, increases in beneficial microbial life, improved performance and/or shelf life for inoculated bacteria, increased efficacy as a substrate for microbial growth or fermentation, and any combination and variation of these and other benefits.
Treatment further allows the biochar to be modified to possess certain known properties that enhance the benefits received from the use of biochar. While the selection of feedstock, raw biochar and/or pyrolysis conditions under which the biochar was manufactured can make treatment processes less cumbersome, more efficient and further controlled, treatment processes can be utilized that provide for the biochar to have desired and generally sustainable resulting properties regardless of the biochar source or pyrolysis conditions. As explained further below, treatment can (i) repurpose problematic biochars, (ii) handle changing biochar material sources, e.g., seasonal and regional changes in the source of biomass, (iii) provide for custom features and functions of biochar for particular soils, regions or agricultural purposes; (iv) increase the retention properties of biochar, (v) provide for large volumes of biochar having desired and predictable properties, (vi) provide for biochar having custom properties, (vii) handle differences in biochar caused by variations in pyrolysis conditions or manufacturing of the “raw” biochar; and (viii) address the majority, if not all, of the problems that have, prior to the present invention, stifled the large scale adoption and use of biochars.
Treatment can impact both the interior and exterior pore surfaces, remove harmful chemicals, introduce beneficial substances, and alter certain properties of the biochar and the pore surfaces and volumes. This is in stark contrast to simple washing, contact, or immersion which generally only impacts the exterior surfaces and a small percentage of the interior surface area. Treatment can further be used to coat substantially all of the biochar pore surfaces with a surface modifying agent or impregnate the pore volume with additives or treatment to provide a predetermined feature to the biochar, e.g., surface charge and charge density, surface species and distribution, targeted nutrient addition, magnetic modifications, root growth facilitator, and water absorptivity and water retention properties. Just as importantly, treatment can also be used to remove undesirable substances from the biochar, such as dioxins or other toxins either through physical removal or through chemical reactions causing neutralization.
Again, depending upon the starting characteristics of the raw biochar and the intended application for the resale product, further processing may still be needed or desired. In this case, the treated moisture adjusted biochar may then be passed to a third reactor 408 for inoculation, which may include the impregnation of biochar with beneficial additives, such as nutrients, bacteria, microbes, fertilizers or other additives. Thereafter, the inoculated biochar may be bagged 420, or may be yet further processed, for example, in a fourth reactor 410 to have further moisture removed from or added to the biochar. Further moisture adjustment may be accomplished by placing the inoculated biochar in a fourth moisture adjustment reactor 410 or circulating the biochar back to a previous moisture adjustment reactor (e.g. reactor 406). Those skilled in the art will recognize that the ordering in which the raw biochar is processed and certain processes may be left out, depending on the properties of the starting raw biochar and the desired application for the biochar. For example, the treatment and inoculation processes may be performed without the moisture adjustment step, inoculation processes may also be performed with or without any treatment, pH adjustment or any moisture adjustment. All the processes may be completed alone or in the conjunction with one or more of the others. It should also be noted that microbes themselves may be part of the process, not simply as an inoculant, but as an agent to convey materials into or out of the pore volume of the biochar.
As illustrated in
Optionally, rather than using a vacuum pump 405, a positive pressure pump may be used to apply positive pressure to the tank 404. In some situations, applying positive pressure to the tank may also function to force or accelerate the washing or treating liquid 403 into the pores of the biochar 402. Any change in pressure in the tank 404 or across the surface of the biochar could facilitate the exchange of gas and/or moisture into and out of the pores of the biochar with the washing or treating liquid 403 in the tank. Accordingly, changing the pressure in the tank and across the surface of the biochar, whether positive or negative, is within the scope of this invention. The atmosphere of the tank may be air or other gaseous mixture, prior to the intuition of the pressure change.
While known processes exist for the above described processes, research associated with the present invention has shown improvement and the ability to better control the properties and characteristics of the biochar if the processes are performed through the infusion and diffusion of liquids into and out of the biochar pores. One such treatment process that can be used is vacuum impregnation and vacuum and/or centrifuge extraction. Another such treatment process that can be used is the addition of a surfactant to infused liquid, which infused liquid may be optionally heated, cooled, or used at ambient temperature or any combination of the three.
Since research associated with the present invention has identified what physical and chemical properties have the highest impact on plant growth and/or soil health, the treatment process can be geared to treat different forms of raw biochar to achieve treated biochar properties known to enhance these characteristics. For example, if the pH of the biochar needs to be adjusted to enhance the raw biochar performance properties, the treatment may be the infusion of an acid solution into the pores of the biochar using vacuum, surfactant, or other treatment means. This treatment of pore infusion through, for example, the rapid, forced infusion of liquid into and out the pores of the biochar, has further been proven to sustain the adjusted pH levels of the treated biochar for much longer periods than biochar that is simply immersed in an acid solution for the same period of time. By way of another example, if the moisture content needs to be adjusted, then excess liquid and other selected substances (e.g. chlorides, dioxins, and other chemicals, to include those previously deposited by treatment to catalyze or otherwise react with substances on the interior or exterior surfaces of the biochar) can be extracted from the pores using vacuum and/or centrifuge extraction or by using various heating techniques. The above describes a few examples of treatment that result in treated biochar having desired performance properties identified to enhance soil health and plant life or other applications.
The infiltrate or treating liquid is drawn into the biochar pore, and preferably drawn into the macropores and mesopores. Depending upon the specific doses applied and pore structure of the biochar, the infiltrate can coat anywhere from 10% to 50% to 100% of the total macropore and mesopore surface area and can fill or coat anywhere from a portion to nearly all (10%-100%) of the total macropore and mesopore volume.
As described above, the treating liquid can be left in the biochar, with the batch being a treated biochar batch ready for packaging, shipment and use in an agricultural or other application. The treating liquid may also be removed through drying, treatment with heated gases, subsequent vacuum processing, centrifugal force (e.g., cyclone drying machines or centrifuges), dilution, or treatment with other liquids, with the batch being a treated biochar batch ready for packaging, shipment and use in an agricultural application. A second, third or more infiltration, removal, infiltration and removal, and combinations and variations of these may also be performed on the biochar with optional drying steps between infiltrations to remove residual liquid from and reintroduce gasses to the pore structure if needed. In any of these stages the liquid may contain organic or inorganic surfactants to assist with the penetration of the treating liquid.
As illustrated in
Alternatively, the infiltrate may be added to the vacuum infiltration tank 501 before vacuum is pulled on the tank. Optionally, one or more selected gasses may be added to the tank. In this manner, infiltrate is added in the tank in an amount that can be impregnated into the biochar and optionally, the gasses introduced can also potentially impact the reactivity of the liquid as well as any organic or inorganic substances on the surface or in the pore volume of the biochar. As the vacuum is applied, the biochar is circulated in the tank to cause the infiltrate to fill the pore volume. To one skilled in the art, it should be clear that the agitation of the biochar during this process can be performed through various means, such as a rotating tank, rotating agitator, pressure variation in the tank itself, or other means. Additionally, the biochar may be dried using conventional means before even the first treatment. This optional pre-drying can remove liquid from the pores and in some situations may increase the efficiency of impregnation due to pressure changes in the tank.
Pressure is then restored in the tank 501 with either ambient air or a prescribed selection of gasses, and the infiltrated biochar is removed, as shown by arrow 541, from the tank 501 to bin 512, by way of a sealing gate 511 and removal line 510. The infiltrated biochar is collected in bin 512, where it can be further processed in several different ways. The infiltrated biochar can be shipped for use as a treated biochar as shown by arrow 543. The infiltrated biochar can be returned to the tank 501 (or a second infiltration tank). If returned to the tank 501 the biochar can be processed with a second infiltration step, a vacuum drying step, a washing step, or combinations and variations of these. The infiltrated biochar can be moved by conveyor 514, as shown by arrow 542, to a drying apparatus 516, e.g., a centrifugal dryer or heater, where water, infiltrate or other liquid is removed by way of line 517, and the dried biochar leaves the dryer through discharge line 518 as shown by arrow 545, and is collected in bin 519. The biochar is removed from the bin by discharge 520. The biochar may be shipped as a treated biochar for use in an agriculture application, as shown by arrow 547. The biochar may also be further processed, as shown by 546. Thus, the biochar could be returned to tank 501 (or a second vacuum infiltration tank) for a further infiltration step. The drying step may be repeated either by returning the dry biochar to the drying apparatus 516, or by running the biochar through a series of drying apparatus, until the predetermined dryness of the biochar is obtained, e.g., between 50% to less than 1% moisture.
The system 500 is illustrative of the system, equipment and processes that can be used for, and to carry out the present inventions. Various other implementations and types of equipment can be used. The vacuum infiltration tank can be a sealable off-axis rotating vessel, chamber or tank. It can have an internal agitator that also when reversed can move material out, empty it, (e.g., a vessel along the lines of a large cement truck, or ready mix truck, that can mix and move material out of the tank, without requiring the tank's orientation to be changed). Washing equipment may be added or utilized at various points in the process, or may be carried out in the vacuum tank, or drier, (e.g., wash fluid added to biochar as it is placed into the drier for removal). Other steps, such as bagging, weighing, the mixing of the biochar with other materials, e.g., fertilized, peat, soil, etc. can be carried out. In all areas of the system referring to vacuum infiltration, optionally positive pressure can be applied, if needed, to enhance the penetration of the infiltrate or to assist with re-infusion of gaseous vapors into the treated char. Additionally, where feasible, especially in positive pressure environments, the infiltrate may have soluble gasses added which then can assist with removal of liquid from the pores, or gaseous treatment of the pores upon equalization of pressure.
As noted above, the biochar may also be treated using a surfactant. The same or similar equipment used in the vacuum infiltration process can be used in the surfactant treatment process. Although it is not necessary to apply a vacuum in the surfactant treatment process, the vacuum infiltration tank or any other rotating vessel, chamber or tank can be used. In the surfactant treatment process, a surfactant, such as yucca extract, is added to the infiltrate, e.g., acid wash or water. The quantity of the surfactant added to the infiltrate may vary depending upon the surfactant used. For example, organic yucca extract can be added at a rate of between 0.1-20%, but more preferably 1-5% by volume of the infiltrate. The infiltrate with surfactant is then mixed with the biochar in a tumbler for several minutes, e.g., 3-5 minutes, without applied vacuum. Optionally, a vacuum or positive pressure may be applied with the surfactant to improve efficiency and penetration, but is not strictly necessary. Additionally, infiltrate to which the surfactant or detergent is added may be heated or may be ambient temperature or less. Similarly, the mixture of the surfactant or detergent, as well as the char being treated may be heated, or may be ambient temperature, or less. After tumbling, excess free liquid can be removed in the same manner as described above in connection with the vacuum infiltration process. Drying, also as described above in connection with the vacuum infiltration process, is an optional additional step. Besides yucca extract, a number of other surfactants may be used for surfactant treatment, which include, but are not limited to, the following: nonionic types, such as, ethoxylated alcohols, phenols—lauryl alcohol ethoxylates, Fatty acid esters—sorbitan, tween 20, amines, amides—imidazoles; anionic types, such as sulfonates—arylalkyl sulfonates and sulfate—sodium dodecyl sulfate; cationic types, such as alkyl—amines or ammoniums—quaternary ammoniums; and amphoteric types, such as betaines—cocamidopropyl betaine. Additionally biosurfactants, or microbes which produce biosurfactants such as Flavobacterium sp. may also be used.
Optionally, the biochar may also be treated by applying ultrasonics. In this treatment process, the biochar may be contacted with a treating liquid that is agitated by ultrasonic waves. By agitating the treating liquid, contaminants may be dislodged or removed from the biochar due to bulk motion of the fluid in and around the biocarbon, pressure changes, including cavitation in and around contaminants on the surface, as well as pressure changes in or near pore openings (cavitation bubbles) and internal pore cavitation.
In this manner, agitation will cause contaminants of many forms to be released from the internal and external structure of the biochar. The agitation also encourages the exchange of water, gas, and other liquids with the internal biochar structure. Contaminants are transported from the internal structure to the bulk liquid (treating fluid) resulting in biochar with improved physical and chemical properties. The effectiveness of ultrasonic cleaning is tunable as bubble size and number is a function of frequency and power delivered by the transducer to the treating fluid
In one example, applying ultrasonic treatment, raw wood based biochar between 10 microns to 10 mm with moisture content from 0% to 90% may be mixed with a dilute mixture of acid and water (together the treating liquid) in a processing vessel that also translates the slurry (the biochar/treating liquid mixture). During translation, the slurry passes near an ultrasonic transducer to enhance the interaction between the fluid and biochar. The biochar may experience one or multiple washes of dilute acid, water, or other treating fluids. The biochar may also make multiple passes by ultrasonic transducers to enhance physical and chemical properties of the biochar. For example, once a large volume of slurry is made, it can continuously pass an ultrasonic device and be degassed and wetted to its maximum, at a rapid processing rate. The slurry can also undergo a separation process in which the fluid and solid biochar are separated at 60% effectiveness or greater.
Through ultrasonic treatment, the pH of the biochar, or other physical and chemical properties may be adjusted and the mesopore and macropore surfaces of the biochar may be cleaned and enhanced. Further, ultrasonic treatment can be used in combination with bulk mixing with water, solvents, additives (fertilizers, etc.), and other liquid based chemicals to enhance the properties of the biochar. After treatment, the biochar may be subject to moisture adjustment, further treatment and/or inoculation using any of the methods set forth above. In certain applications, ultrasonic technology may also be used to modify (usually reduce) the size of the biochar particles while retaining much, most, or nearly all of the porosity and pore structure. This yields smaller size particles with different morphologies than other methods of sizing such as grinding, crushing, sieving, or shaking.
C. Impact of Treatment
As illustrated above, the treatment process, whether using pressure changes (e.g. vacuum), surfactant or ultrasonic treatment, or a combination thereof, may include two steps, which in certain applications, may be combined: (i) washing and (ii) inoculation of the pores with an additive. When the desired additive is the same and that being inoculated into the pores, e.g., water, the step of washing the pores and inoculating the pores with an additive may be combined.
While not exclusive, washing is generally done for one of three purposes: (i) to modify the surface of the pore structure of the biochar (i.e., to allow for increased retention of liquids); (ii) to modify the pH of the biochar; and/or (iii) to remove undesired and potentially harmful compounds or gases.
Testing has further demonstrated that if the biochar is treated, at least partially, in a manner that causes the infusion and/or effusion of liquids and/or vapors into and/or out of the biochar pores (through mechanical, physical, biological, or chemical means), certain beneficial properties of the biochar can be altered, enhanced or improved through treatment. By knowing the properties of the raw biochar and the optimal desired properties of the treated biochar, the raw biochar can then be treated in a manner that results in the treated biochar having controlled optimized properties and greater levels of consistency between batches as well as between treated biochars arising from various feedstocks.
Using the treatment processes described above, or other treatments that provide, in part, for the infusion and/or effusion of liquids and/or vapors into and/or out of the biochar pores, biochars can have improved physical and chemical properties over raw biochar.
1. Water Holding/Retention Capacity
As demonstrated below, the treatment processes of the invention modify the surfaces of the pore structure to provide enhanced functionality and to control the properties of the biochar to achieve consistent and predicable performance. Using the above treatment processes, anywhere from at least 10% of the total pore surface area up to 90% or more of the total pore surface area may be modified. In some implementations, it may be possible to achieve modification of up to 99% or more of the total pore surface area of the biochar particle. Using the processes set forth above, such modification may be substantially and uniformly achieved for an entire batch of treated biochar.
For example, it is believed that by treating the biochar as set forth above, the hydrophilicity of the surface of the pores of the biochar is modified, allowing for a greater water retention capacity. Further, by treating the biochars as set forth above, gases and other substances are also removed from the pores of the biochar particles, also contributing to the biochar particles' increased water holding capacity. Thus, the ability of the biochar to retain liquids, whether water or additives in solution, is increased, which also increases the ability to load the biochar particles with large volumes of inoculant, infiltrates and/or additives.
A batch of biochar has a bulk density, which is defined as weight in grams (g) per cm3 of loosely poured material that has or retains some free space between the particles. The biochar particles in this batch will also have a solid density, which is the weight in grams (g) per cm3 of just particles, i.e., with the free space between the particles removed. The solid density includes the air space or free space that is contained within the pores, but not the free space between particles. The actual density of the particles is the density of the material in grams (g) per cm3 of material, which makes up the biochar particles, i.e., the solid material with pore volume removed.
In general, as bulk density increases the pore volume would be expected to decrease and, if the pore volume is macro or mesoporous, with it, the ability of the material to hold infiltrate, e.g., inoculant. Thus, with the infiltration processes, the treated biochars can have impregnation capacities that are larger than could be obtained without infiltration, e.g., the treated biochars can readily have 10%, 30%, 40%, 50%, or most preferably, 60%-100% of their total pore volume filled with an infiltrate, e.g., an inoculant. The impregnation capacity is the amount of a liquid that a biochar particle, or batch of particles, can absorb. The ability to make the pores surface hydrophilic, and to infuse liquid deep into the pore structure through the application of positive or negative pressure and/or a surfactant, alone or in combination, provides the ability to obtain these high impregnation capabilities. The treated biochars can have impregnation capacities, i.e., the amount of infiltrate that a particle can hold on a volume held/total volume of a particle basis, that is greater than 0.2 cm3/cm3 to 0.8 cm3/cm3.
Accordingly, by using the treatment above, the water retention capacity of biochar can be greatly increased over the water retention capacities of various soil types and even raw biochar, thereby holding water and/or nutrients in the plant's root zone longer and ultimately reducing the amount of applied water (through irrigation, rainfall, or other means) needed by up to 50% or more.
In chart A of
As illustrated in
“Water holding capacity,” which may also be referred to as “Water Retention Capacity,” is the amount of water that can be held both internally within the porous structure and in the interparticle void spaces in a given batch of particles. While a summary of the method of measure is provided above, a more specific method of measuring water holding capacity/water retention capacity is measured by the following procedure: (i) drying a sample of material under temperatures of 105° C. for a period of 24 hours or using another scientifically acceptable technique to reduce the moisture content of the material to less than 2%, less than 1%; and preferably less than 0.5% (ii) placing a measured amount of dry material in a container; (iii) filling the container having the measured amount of material with water such that the material is completely immersed in the water; (iv) letting the water remain in the container having the measured amount of material for at least ten minutes or treating the material in accordance with the invention by infusing with water when the material is a treated biochar; (v) draining the water from the container until the water ceases to drain; (vi) weighing the material in the container (i.e., wet weight); (vii) again drying the material by heating it under temperatures of 105° C. for a period of 24 hours or using another scientifically acceptable technique to reduce the moisture content of the material to less than 2% and preferably less than 1%; and (viii) weighing the dry material again (i.e., dry weight) and, for purposes of a volumetric measure, determining the volume of the material.
Measured gravimetrically, the water holding/water retention capacity is determined by measuring the difference in weight of the material from step (vi) to step (viii) over the weight of the material from step (viii) (i.e., wet weight-dry weight/dry weight).
Water holding capacity can also be measured volumetrically and represented as a percent of the volume of water retained in the biochar after gravitationally draining the excess water/volume of biochar The volume of water retained in the biochar after draining the water can be determined from the difference between the water added to the container and water drained off the container or from the difference in the weight of the wet biochar from the weight of the dry biochar converted to a volumetric measurement. This percentage water holding capacity for treated biochar may be 30% and above by volume, and preferably 50-55 percent and above by volume.
Given biochar's increased water retention capacity, the application of the treated biochar and even the raw biochar can greatly assist with the reduction of water and/or nutrient application. It has been discovered that these same benefits can be imparted to agricultural growth.
2. Plant Available Water
As illustrated in
“Plant Available Water” is the amount of unbound water in the material available for plants to uptake. This is calculated by subtracting the water content at permanent wilting point from the water content at field capacity, which is the point when no water is available for the plants. Field capacity is generally expressed as the bulk water content retained at −33 J/kg (or −0.33 bar) of hydraulic head or suction pressure. Permanent wilting point is generally expressed as the bulk water content retained at −1500 J/kg (or −15.0 bar) of hydraulic head or suction pressure. Methods for measuring plant available water are well-known in the industry and use pressure plate extractor, which are commercially available or can be built using well-known principles of operation.
3. Remaining Water Content
Treated biochar of the present invention has also demonstrated the ability to retain more water than raw biochar after exposure to the environment for defined periods of time. For purposes of this application “remaining water content” can be defined as the total amount of water that remains held by the biochar after exposure to the environment for certain amount of time. Exposure to environment is exposure at ambient temperature and pressures. Under this definition, remaining water content can be may be measured by (i) creating a sample of biochar that has reached its maximum water holding capacity; (ii) determining the total water content by thermogravimetric analysis (H2O (TGA)), as described above on a sample removed from the output of step (i) above, (iii) exposing the biochar in the remaining sample to the environment for a period of 2 weeks (15 days, 360 hrs.); (iv) determining the remaining water content by thermogravimetric analysis (H2O (TGA)); and (v) normalizing the remaining (retained) water in mL to 1 kg or 1 L biochar. The percentage of water remaining after exposure for this two-week period can be calculated by the remaining water content of the biochar after the predetermine period over the water content of the biochar at the commencement of the two-week period. Using this test, treated biochar has shown to retain water at rates over 4× that of raw biochar. Testing has further demonstrated that the following amount of water can remain in treated biochar after two weeks of exposure to the environment: 100-650 mL/kg; 45-150 mL/L; 12-30 gal/ton; 3-10 gal/yd3 after 360 hours (15 days) of exposure to the environment. In this manner, and as illustrated in
Tests have also shown that treated biochars that show weight loss of >1% in the interval between 43-60° C. when analyzed by the Thermal Gravimetric Analysis (TGA) (as described below) demonstrate greater water holding and content capacities over raw biochars. Weight loss of >5%-15% in the interval between 38-68° C. when analyzed by the Thermal Gravimetric Analysis (TGA) using sequences of time and temperature disclosed in the following paragraphs or others may also be realized. Weight percentage ranges may vary from between >1%-15% in temperature ranges between 38-68° C., or subsets thereof, to distinguish between treated biochar and raw biochar.
In particular, the treated biochars 902 exhibit substantial water loss when heated in inert gas such as nitrogen. More particularly, when heated for 25 minutes at each of the following temperatures 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 degrees Celsius, ° C. the treated samples lose about 5-% to 15% in the interval 43-60° C. and upward of 20-30% in the interval between 38-68° C. The samples to determine the water content of the raw biochar were obtained by mixing a measured amount of biochar and water, stirring the biochar and water for 2 minutes, draining off the water, measuring moisture content and then subjecting the sample to TGA. The samples for the treated biochar were obtained by using the same measured amount of biochar as used in the raw biochar sample, and impregnating the biochar under vacuum. Similar results are expected with biochar treated with a treatment process consistent with those described in this disclosure with the same amount of water as used with the raw biochar. The moisture content is then measured and the sample is subjected to TGA described above.
The sequences of time and temperature conditions for evaluating the effect of biochars heating in inert atmosphere is defined in this application as the “Bontchev-Cheyne Test” (“BCT”). The BCT is run using samples obtained, as described above, and applying Thermal Gravimetric Analysis (TGA) carried out using a Hitachi STA 7200 analyzer under nitrogen flow at the rate of 110 mL/min. The biochar samples are heated for 25 minutes at each of the following temperatures: 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60° C. The sample weights are measured at the end of each dwell step, at the beginning and at the end of the experiment. The analyzer also continually measures and records weight over time. Biochars having enhanced water holding or retention capacities are those that exhibit weight loss of >5% in the interval between 38-68° C., >1% in the interval between 43-60° C. Biochars with greater water holding or retention capacities can exhibit >5% weight loss in the interval between 43-60° C. measured using the above described BCT.
D. Impregnation and/or Inoculation with Infiltrates or Additives
In addition to mitigating or removing deleterious pore surface properties, by treating the pores of the biochar through a forced, assisted, accelerate or rapid infiltration process, such as those described above, the pore surface properties of the biochar can be enhanced. Such treatment processes may also permit subsequent processing, may modify the pore surface to provide predetermined properties to the biochar, and/or provide combinations and variations of these effects. For example, it may be desirable or otherwise advantageous to coat substantially all, or all of the biochar macropore and mesopore surfaces with a surface modifying agent or treatment to provide a predetermined feature to the biochar, e.g., surface charge and charge density, surface species and distribution, targeted nutrient addition, magnetic modifications, root growth facilitator, and water absorptivity and water retention properties.
By infusing liquids into the pores of biochar, it has been discovered that additives infused within the pores of the biochar provide a time release effect or steady flow of some beneficial substances to the root zones of the plants and also can improve and provide a more beneficial environment for microbes which may reside or take up residence within the pores of the biochar. In particular, additive infused biochars placed in the soil prior to or after planting can dramatically reduce the need for high frequency application of additives, minimize losses caused by leaching and runoff and/or reduce or eliminate the need for controlled release fertilizers. They can also be exceptionally beneficial in animal feed applications by providing an effective delivery mechanism for beneficial nutrients, pharmaceuticals, enzymes, microbes, or other substances.
For purposes of this application, “infusion” of a liquid or liquid solution into the pores of the biochar means the introduction of the liquid or liquid solution into the pores of the biochar by a means other than solely contacting the liquid or solution with the biochar, e.g., submersion. The infusion process, as described in this application in connection with the present invention, includes a mechanical, chemical or physical process that facilitates or assist with the penetration of liquid or solution into the pores of the biochar, which process may include, but not be limited to, positive and negative pressure changes, such as vacuum infusion, surfactant infusion, or infusion by movement of the liquid and/or biochar (e.g., centrifugal force, steam and/or ultrasonic waves) or other method that facilitates, assists, forces or accelerates the liquid or solution into the pores of the biochar. Prior to infusing the biochar, the biochar, as described in detail above, may be washed and/or moisture adjusted.
In summary, the infusion process may be performed with or without any washing, prior pH adjustment or moisture content adjustment. Optionally, the infusion process may be performed with the wash and/or the moisture adjustment step. All the processes may be completed alone or in the conjunction with one or more of the others.
Through the above process of infusing the additive into the pores of the biochar, the pores of the biochar may be filled by 25%, up to 100%, with an additive solution, as compared to 1-20% when the biochar is only submerged in the solution or washed with the solution for a period of less than twelve hours. Higher percentages may be achieved by washing and/or drying the pores of the biochar prior to infusion.
Data have been gathered from research conducted comparing the results of soaking or immersion of biochar in liquid versus vacuum impregnation of liquid into biochar. These data support the conclusion that vacuum impregnation provides greater benefits than simple soaking and results in a higher percentage volume of moisture on the surface, interstitially and in the pores of the biochar.
In one experiment, equal quantities of pine biochar were mixed with equal quantities of water, the first in a beaker, the second in a vacuum flask. The mixture in the beaker was continuously stirred for up to 24 hours, then samples of the suspended solid were taken, drained and analyzed for moisture content. The mixture in the vacuum flask was connected to a vacuum pump and negative pressure of 15″ was applied. Samples of the treated solid were taken, drained and analyzed for moisture content.
In addition, as illustrated by
In another experiment, the percentage of water retained in the pores of pine derived biochar was measured to determine the difference in retained water in the pores of the biochar (i) soaked in water, and (ii) mixed with water subjected to a partial vacuum. For the soaking, 250 mL of raw biochar was mixed with 500 mL water in a beaker. Upon continuous stifling for 24 hrs., aliquots of the suspended solid were taken, drained on a paper towel and analyzed for moisture content. For the vacuum, 250 mL of raw biochar was mixed with 500 mL water in a vacuum flask. The flask was connected to a vacuum pump and negative pressure of 15″ has been applied, aliquots of the treated solid were taken, drained on a paper towel and analyzed for moisture content.
The total retained water amounts were measured for each sample. For the soaked biochar, the moisture content of biochar remains virtually constant for the entire duration of the experiment, 52 wt. % (i.e. 1 g of “soaked biochar” contains 0.52 g water and 0.48 g “dry biochar”). Taking into account the density of raw biochar, 0.16 g/cm3 (or mL), the volume of the 0.48 g “dry biochar” is 3.00 mL (i.e. 3 mL dry biochar can “soak” and retain 0.52 mL water, or 1 mL dry biochar can retain 0.17 mL water (sorbed on the surface and into the pores)).
For vacuum, the moisture content of the biochar remains virtually constant for the entire duration of the experiment, 72 wt. %, (i.e. 1 g of vacuum impregnated biochar contains 0.72 g water and 0.28 g “dry biochar”). Taking into account the density of raw biochar, 0.16 g/cm3 (or mL), the volume of the 0.28 g “dry biochar” is 1.75 mL (i.e. 1.75 mL dry biochar under vacuum can “absorb” and retain 0.72 mL water, or 1 mL dry biochar can retain 0.41 mL water (sorbed on the surface and into the pores)).
It was next determined where the water was retained—in the pores or on the surface of the biochar. Capillary porosity (“CP”) (vol % inside the pores of the biochar), non-capillary porosity (“NCP”) (vol. % outside/between the particles), and the total porosity (CP+NCP)) were determined. Total porosity and non-capillary porosity were analytically determined for the dry biochar and then capillary porosity was calculated.
Since the dry biochar used in this experiment had a density less than water, the particles could be modeled and then tested to determine if soaking and/or treating the biochar could infuse enough water to make the density of the biochar greater than that of water. Thus, the dry biochar would float and, if enough water infused into the pores, the soaked or treated biochar would sink. Knowing the density of water and the density of the biochar, calculations were done to determine the percentage of pores that needed to be filled with water to make the biochar sink. In this specific experiment, these calculations determined that more than 24% of the pore volume would need to be filled with water for the biochar to sink. The two processed biochars, soaked and vacuum treated, were then immersed in water after 1 hour of said processing. The results of the experiment showed that the vast majority of the soaked biochar floated and remained floating after 3 weeks, while the vast majority of the vacuum treated biochar sank and remained at the bottom of the water column after 3 weeks.
Using the results of these experiments and model calculations, the biochar particles can be idealized to estimate how much more water is in the pores from the vacuum treatment versus soaking. Since the external surface of the materials are the same, it was assumed that the samples retain about the same amount of water on the surface. Then the most conservative assumption was made using the boundary condition for particles to be just neutral, i.e. water into pores equal 24%, the water distribution is estimated as follows:
In summary, these experimental tests and model calculations show that through vacuum treatment more than 24% of the pores of the biochar can be filled with water and in fact at least 1.8 times the amount of water can be infused into the pores compared to soaking. Vacuum treatment can impregnate almost two times the amount of water into the pores for 1 minute, while soaking does not change the water amount into the pores for three weeks.
The pores may be substantially filled or completely filled with additives to provide enhanced performance features to the biochar, such as increased plant growth, nutrient delivery, water retention, nutrient retention, disadvantageous species control, e.g., weeds, disease causing bacteria, insects, volunteer crops, etc. By infusing liquid into the pore structure through the application of positive or negative pressure, surfactant and/or ultrasonic waves, alone or in combination, provides the ability to impregnate the mesopores and macropores of the biochar with additives, that include, but are not limited to, soil enhancing solutions and solids.
The additive may be a soil enhancing agent that includes, but is not be limited to, any of the following: water, water solutions of salts, inorganic and organic liquids of different polarities, liquid organic compounds or combinations of organic compounds and solvents, mineral and organic oils, slurries and suspensions, supercritical liquids, fertilizers, PGPB (including plant growth promoting rhizobacteria, free-living and nodule-forming nitrogen fixing bacteria, organic decomposers, nitrifying bacteria, and phosphate solubilizing bacteria), biocontrol agents, bioremediation agents, saprotrophic fungi, ectomycorrhizae and endomycorrhizae, among others.
Fertilizers that may be infused into the biochar include, but are not limited to, the following sources of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium: urea, ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate, sulfur, ammonium sulfate, monoammonium phosphate, ammonium polyphosphate, potassium sulfate, or potassium chloride.
Similar beneficial results are expected from other additives, such as: bio pesticides; herbicides; insecticides; nematicides; plant hormones; plant pheromones; organic or inorganic fungicides; algicides; antifouling agents; antimicrobials; attractants; biocides, disinfectants and sanitizers; miticides; microbial pesticides; molluscicides; bacteriacides; fumigants; ovicides; repellents; rodenticides, defoliants, desiccants; insect growth regulators; plant growth regulators; beneficial microbes; and, microbial nutrients or secondary signal activators, that may also be added to the biochar in a similar manner as a fertilizer. Additionally, beneficial macro− and micro− nutrients such as, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, zinc, iron, manganese, molybdenum, copper and chloride may also be infused into the biochar in the form of a water solution or other solvent solution.
Examples of compounds, in addition to fertilizer, that may be infused into the pores of the biochar include, but are not limited to: phytohormones, such as, abscisic acid (ABA), auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins, brassinosteroies, salicylic acid, jasmonates, planet peptide hormones, polyamines, karrikins, strigolactones; 2,1,3-Benzothiadiazole (BTH), an inducer of systemic acquired resistance that confers broad spectrum disease resistance (including soil borne pathogens); signaling agents similar to BTH in mechanism or structure that protects against a broad range or specific plant pathogens; EPSPS inhibitors; synthetic auxins; photosystem I inhibitors photosystem II inhibitors; and HPPD inhibitors. Growth media, broths, or other nutrition to support the growth of microbes or microbial life may also be infused such as Lauryl Tryptose broth, glucose, sucrose, fructose, or other sugars or micronutrients known to be beneficial to microbes. Binders or binding solutions can also be infused into the pores to aid in the adhesion of coatings, as well as increasing the ability for the treated biochar to associate or bond with other nearby particles in seed coating applications. Infusion with these binders can also allow for the coating of the biochar particle itself with other beneficial organisms or substances.
In one example, a 1000 ppm NO3−N fertilizer solution is infused into the pores of the biochar. As discussed above, the method to infuse biochar with the fertilizer solution may be accomplished generally by placing the biochar in a vacuum infiltration tank or other sealable rotating vessel, chamber or tank. When using vacuum infiltration, a vacuum may be applied to the biochar and then the solution may be introduced into the tank. Alternatively, the solution and biochar may both be introduced into the tank and, once introduced, a vacuum is applied. Based upon the determined total pore volume of the biochar or the incipient wetness, the amount of solution to introduce into the tank necessary to fill the pore of the biochar can be determined. When infused in this manner, significantly more nutrients can be held in a given quantity of biochar versus direct contact of the biochar with the nutrients alone.
When using a surfactant, the biochar and additive solution may be added to a tank along with 0.01-20% of surfactant, but more preferably 1-5% of surfactant by volume of fertilizer solution. The surfactant or detergent aids in the penetration of the wash solution into the pores of the biochar. The same or similar equipment used in the vacuum infiltration process can be used in the surfactant treatment process. Although it is not necessary to apply a vacuum in the surfactant treatment process, the vacuum infiltration tank or any other rotating vessel, chamber or tank can be used. Again, while it is not necessary to apply a vacuum, a vacuum may be applied or the pressure in the vessel may be changed. Further, the surfactant can be added with or without heat or cooling either of the infiltrate, the biochar, the vessel itself, or any combination of the three.
The utility of infusing the biochar with fertilizer is that the pores in biochar create a protective “medium” for carrying the nutrients to the soil that provides a more constant supply of available nutrients to the soil and plants and continues to act beneficially, potentially sorbing more nutrients or nutrients in solution even after introduction to the soil. By infusing the nutrients in the pores of the biochar, immediate oversaturation of the soil with the nutrients is prevented and a time released effect is provided. This effect is illustrated in connection with
Given all the added benefits of biochar, which may be enhanced through treatment processes as described above, applying biochar to existing turf, lawns, and grass can yield beneficial results.
As illustrated in
Example benefits of the biochar to new turf grass from seed are illustrated in connection with
Rather than applying to existing turf grass, biochar can also be applied to the dirt prior to installing new turf grass in sod form or establishing new turf grass from seed. For installations of new turf using sod, the biochar may be incorporated on the surface or into the top 0-4 inches of the soil prior to the placement of sod. In this case, for preparation of soil for turf, the average percentage of biochar in the root zone (a zone extending from the surface to a depth of up to six inches, but generally at depth of between three to four inches) should be between 0.01%-60% by volume, with 0.1%-30% by volume being optimal for most applications. When applied as a surface coating before sod application, the thin layer of biochar may contain up to 100% biochar, but be applied in a layer not to exceed one inch to the surface of the soil. These two methods may also be combined, with a percentage of biochar or treated biochar being incorporated into the soil to a depth of 0-4 inches in accordance with the rates above, and then followed by a thin (0.001 inches to 2 inches) surface coating of biochar or treated biochar prior to installation of the sod. For improved results when treating soil with biochar prior to laying the turf grass, the biochar/soil mixture can then be watered (e.g., to saturation or field capacity) and/or treated with macro or micro nutrients either in liquid or solid form, prior to or following the installation of the sod.
Alternatively, the biochar may be applied to the bottom (soil side) of the sod after it is cut, but before it is installed either at the site of installation or at the site of sod cutting/harvesting or at an intermediate site. One method of addition can be accomplished by contacting the damp root side of the sod with a flat area of biochar, then optionally applying pressure to allow the biochar to adhere to the root side of the sod. A chemical or organic binder may also be used to assist with the adhesion of biochar to the bottom of the sod. Both of these methods, along with others, can be used individually or simultaneously with the goal of establishing a layer of biochar underneath the sod installation to assist with water and nutrient retention which has proven to be beneficial for the development of juvenile roots and re-establishment of the sod in a new location.
As outlined in Concepts in Photobiology: Photosynthesis and Photomorgphogenesis (Edited by G S Singhal, G Renger, S K Sopory, K-D Irrgang and Govindjee, Narosa Publishers/New Delhi; and Kluwer Academic/Dordrecht, pp. 11-51), photosynthetic pigment molecules, mainly chlorophylls a and b, strongly absorb visible light in the 0.4-0.5 (blue) and in the 0.6-0.7 (red) micron range while strongly reflecting near infrared light. And thus, measuring a turfs' “greenness” by determining its Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) provides a quantitative indirect measurement of the plants photosynthetic activity and thus its healthiness. One method for using this concept in turf trials is to use a drone with a visible and infrared camera to collect pictures and then analyze them to determine the near infrared and visible values. The NDVI is defined in the equation below, where VIS and NIR are the spectral reflectance measurements from the visible and near infrared ranges, respectively. The NDVI value will range from −1 to 1, where higher values indicate higher photosynthetic activity. Healthy turf generally has NDVI values that range from 0.2 to 0.4.
As depicted in
In the same trial, soil cores were taken from the treatment area where the treated biochar had been spread on top of the dirt prior to sod installation.
Also in this trial, representative root images were taken nineteen (19) weeks after installation and are shown in
For growth of new turf from seed, the biochar may be incorporated uniformly into the top 2-4 inches of the soil by spreading and tilling. Other common methods used to incorporate soil amendments may also be used to incorporate the biochar uniformly into the top soil. In summary, the use of biochar during the installation of new turf from either seed or sod can dramatically reduce the need for high frequency saturation watering in the period immediately following installation.
In another example, the turf seeds themselves may be coated with biochar prior to planting. One method to coat the turf seeds with biochar may be accomplished generally by (i) creating a slurry of biochar and starch binder, (ii) immersing the seeds in the slurry, and (iii) then drying the seeds.
At step 2402, the starch solution is prepared by mixing a starch or other binder with water. If the hydrophobicity of the biochar has been reduced during treatment, water alone can also be used as a binder. Corn starch is a simple example of a type of starch that may be used, although one skilled in the art will realize that there are many binders that can be used, such as starches, sugars, gum arabic, cellulose, clay, or polymers such as vinyl polymers, or a combination of these. The binder solution may be prepared by mixing enough corn starch with deionized H2O to create a solution. For example, the starch may be approximately 2% by weight, but may range from 0.5% to 10% of starch by weight.
Those skilled in the art will recognize that another starch, besides corn starch may be used as a binder. Additionally, other binders may be used with the restriction that they may not be phytotoxic and must be suitable for introduction into soil or other environments where seeds are germinated and the resulting seedlings are matured. Some examples of these other binders are gelatins, cellulose, sugars, or combinations thereof. The binding solution can be made from a starch or other type of binder. According, the starch solution and starch, in the illustrated example, are only one type of binding solution or binder that may be used in connection with the present invention.
In this particular embodiment, at step 2404, the starch solution is then heated to dissolve the starch. At step 2406, the seeds are then placed in a tumbler, such as a rotary tumbler. The seeds may be weighed prior to placement in the tumbler. A variable speed tumbler may be used to help facilitate the mixing.
At step 2406, the seeds are placed in a rotary tumbler and the tumbler is prepared for introduction of the starch (or other binder) solution. The seeds are then lightly sprayed with starch solution and tumbled with the starch solution until they are evenly coated with the starch/binder solution.
Thereafter, at step 2410, the biochar may be added to the tumbler. Prior to adding to the tumbler, the biochar may be prepared by reducing it to a power if the particle size is not already desirable, by either shifting or reducing the particle size of the biochar to one that is suitable for seed coating. If needed, the biochar may be pulverized to an average particle size of <1 mm. The size of the biochar particles may be adapted to the size of the seeds being coated, with larger seeds optionally utilizing larger particle sizes. As mentioned previously, the method of sizing the biochar may be grinding, pulverizing, crushing, fracturing using ultrasonic, chemical, thermal, or pressure mechanisms, sieving, hydrodynamically sorting, attritting, or any combination of these.
Prior to adding the biochar, if necessary, the powered biochar may be dried at a temperature of at or about 120 degrees C. Additionally, beneficial macro− and micro− nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, zinc, iron, manganese, molybdenum, copper and chloride or starter fertilizers using ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, monoammonium phosphate, or ammonium polyphosphate with added micronutrients can be added to the mixture at this time. Optionally, the biochar may have been already infused with these nutrients, beneficial microbes, or even the binder solution itself during the treatment process outlined earlier. In some applications, the biochar may have already been infused with a substance that will react with the binder added in this step to provide a more functional two stage biodegradable adhesive such as those outlined in U.S. Pat. No. 8,895,052 or others which perform in similar manner. These types of adhesives function in a similar manner to common epoxies, but demonstrate biodegradable characteristics that may make them more suitable for agricultural applications.
The mixture may also be heated or cooled during this stage to enhance or improve either the performance of the binder or maintain the inoculant (if used) at a proper temperature to assure efficacy. When adding to the tumbler, the powered biochar is sprinkled or otherwise dispensed into the tumbler until the seeds are coated, step 2412.
If a thicker coating of biochar is desired, then steps 2408 and 2410 may be repeated. Each of the layers of biochar may optionally be infused with the same, different, or zero nutrients, microbes, or other beneficial substances, causing the layers the be the same or causing them to be different or varied. The seeds may be sprayed with starch solution again and allowed to tumble until evenly coated. If nutrients are added, they may also be layered during this process such that nutrients most beneficial to early germination and seedling growth are incorporated onto the biochar coated seeds. Then, more biochar mixture may be added to the tumbler to increase the coating thickness until the desired coating thickness is achieved. For example, these steps may be repeated, as necessary, to assure consistent coating to an average thickness of 0.01 to 100 times the diameter of the seed.
Once the desired coating thickness is achieved, the coated seeds may then be dried, for example, by tumbling at ambient temperature for a period of 12 hours, step 2412. Once dried, the coated seeds may then be removed from the tumbler and prepared for packing. An example of the end product is illustrated in the image attached as
Optionally, a fertilizer, nutrient or microbial carrier (other than biochar) may be added to coat the seeds in any of the layers. If a fertilizer is desired, the fertilizer may be pulverized to prepare for addition. The pulverized fertilizer may be added with the biochar or may be added separately, using a different coating step from that of the biochar. Like the biochar, the fertilizer, when added, is dispensed to allow for even coating of the seeds and is tumbled with seed for adequate time to disperse evenly across the seeds. The fertilizer may also be pulverized to an average particle size of <1 mm before dispensing. Examples of fertilizers that may be added to the coat, include, but are not limited to the following: ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, monoammonium phosphate, ammonium polyphosphate, Cal—Mag fertilizers or micronutrient fertilizers. Other additives, such as fungicides, insecticides, nematicides, plant hormones, beneficial microbial spores, or secondary signal activators, may also be added to the coating in a similar manner as a fertilizer, the inclusion of which does not depart from the scope of the invention.
The above is only one example of how seeds may be coated with biochar prior to use as a soil amendment. Those skilled in the art will recognize that there are many other mechanisms and processes that may be used to coat seeds without departing from the scope of the invention. Those skilled in the art will further recognize that the present invention can be used on any type of plant seed, including, but not limited to, the following: grass, corn, wheat, soybeans, sugar beet, ornamental plant, vegetable, such as tomato, cucumber, squash, or lettuce, or any other plant commonly grown from seeds. For purposes of this application, grass seeds shall include all types of grass seeds.
When the coated seeds are grass seeds, the coated seeds may then be applied using normal seeding techniques at the rate of between 500-1000 lbs. per acre for lawns or ornamental applications, ranges of between 15 and 4000 lbs. per acre may also be used without departing from the scope of the invention. For pasture grass applications, the application rate is typically lower, generally between 15-100 lbs. per acre.
The utility of coating the seeds with the biochar is that the biochar creates a protective “oasis” of water and nutrient retention around the seed to provide a more constant supply of available water and nutrients to the seedling during germination and initial growth. Coating seeds also allows for much easier application of biochar to the turf environment. It should be noted that coated seeds can also be used in “overseeding” applications for existing turf—namely applications where seeds are added to either increase the density of existing turf, or to establish an annual turf (e.g. rye) during a season where the perennial turf is dormant. Additionally, the seeds may be coated with treated biochar pre-infused with either nutrients, or microbial agents, such as mycorrhizal fungi, biocontrol bacteria or fungus, plant growth promoting rhizobacteria, mineral solubilizing microorganisms, or other microbes which demonstrate efficacy in turf grass environments.
The biochar increases the water and nutrient holding capacity of the immediate surroundings of the seed. Biochar applied in the manner described above results in more vigorous root development and increased establishment time leading to healthier plants with increased disease resistance compared to plants from seeds absent the biochar coating. Coating seeds in this manner can also be a greatly improved mechanism for delivery of both biochar as well as any nutrient or microbe infused into the biochar into the soil as the delivery can be accomplished simultaneously with the delivery of the seed into the soil.
Furthermore, the present invention may be used to coat other particles, besides seeds, with biochar. A solid or semi-solid particle, such as a small stone, polymer bead, biodegradable plastic pellet, fragment of a mineral such as perlite, or other particle that displays generally uniform distribution in particle size when seen in aggregation may be coated in the same manner as the seeds (described above) to assist with the distribution of biochar, or treated biochar, in a more efficient manner. This method may be used to produce biochar pellets in a manner that does not rely on heat or pressure treatment. Thus, coating particles, as set forth above, can avoid many issues associated with maintaining efficacy of microbes or less stable nutrients or microbial energy sources when making pellets from biochar or treated biochar without a core particle.
Additionally, the particle coated may also be an ingestible particle, such as animal feed pellets, medicines, vitamins or other nutrients or feed particles. Coating such ingestible particles with biochar or treated biochar may assist in the addition of biochar or treated biochar into the animal food chain and assist in the use of the biochar or treated biochar in animal health applications. By way of example only, particles for use in the present invention may be any type of particles that can be safely ingested or safely used in connection with agricultural application. Optimally, such particles will range in size from 50 to 0.001 millimeters in diameter.
Coated seeds could be applied to the soil, distributed by quantity, in the same amounts as recommended for the seed types that are coated. As the coated seeds will be heavier, distribution by weight will be higher than recommended per acre than uncoated seeds, and may, for example, range from applying coated seeds to soil at a rate of between 15 to 4000 pounds per acre.
In additional to turf applications, similar benefits to new or existing turf treated with biochar or treated biochar will be seen for biochar treatment in landscape applications of ornamental shrubs, trees, or similar plants. The container or planting holes should be filled with a blend of biochar and soil to achieve an approximate 1 to 30% percent mix by volume (optimally 3 to 20%) of biochar in the soil. If amending a large area in which fairly small plants will be installed, application can be done in just the top 2 to 4 inches of soil, as the biochar particles will migrate into the soil profile as the plants grow. Also, for plants less than a gallon, using a ½ cup of biochar or treated biochar per plant is a good rule of thumb. Additionally, similar to the method of applying biochar or treated biochar to the bottom of sod, the rootball of container plants, shrubs, or trees may be either coated with biochar, or dipped in a solution consisting of any combination of biochar, treated biochar, water, soluble nutrients, microbes, compost teas, binders (starches, sugars, polymers, gum arabic, clay, cellulose, and other common binders) such as those outlined in the description of coating sod. This dipping can occur either at the nursery, or immediately before planting as the plants are removed from their containers, flats, or other carrier prior to placement into the soil.
For existing trees, application can be done in multiple ways. The easiest of which is top dressing by applying a layer of biochar or treated biochar about one (1) inch thick under the tree canopy and then covering with compost or mulch. For medium and large trees, this can equate to about 5-10 gal of biochar per tree. Another method would be side dressing by digging around the root zone and mixing the biochar into the backfill targeting a concentration of about 5 to 25% by volume. Another more invasive option which can incorporate the material into the roots is to extract the soil around the roots and then fill in with a mixture of biochar and soil with a concentration of biochar between 1 to 30% by volume. One method to remove the soil from around the roots is using air spading. These application methods for existing trees can also be applied to other existing landscape plants.
For the installation or transplanting of trees, shrubs, ornamental plants, or flowers into a new environment, a hole may be first dug to create a void space for the installation of the new plant. This hole is generally equal to or larger than the size of the root ball of the plant. The soil removed while creating this void is typically referred to as “backfill.” The plant to be installed is placed into this void. In many cases, the plant must be removed from its container or packing material to be installed in this way, although this is not strictly necessary. After the placement of the plant, the backfill is returned to the hole. At any time, prior to the replacement of backfill into the void, biochar or treated biochar should be mixed with the backfill at 0.01% to 50% by volume, preferably from 3% to 20% by volume.
One skilled in the art will note that other materials, such as nutrients, microbes, rooting hormones, compost, or other beneficial substances or soil amendments may be mixed with the backfill prior to replacement in the void space. Additionally, as an optional step, the root ball of the plant to be installed (where the root ball is understood to be the mass of root tissue and soil which is retained after the plant is removed from its container) may be coated with a mixture of biochar and water, or biochar and a binder before being placed into the void space. Water, nutrients or other additives may be added to either the void space or the backfill at any time during this process. In another example of an installation, a slurry of biochar and water, and optionally other additives (water, nutrients or other beneficial substances) may be added to the void space and the plant placed in this slurry.
In applications where many plants are to be installed into a large area of soil, the soil may be prepared en masse by incorporating the biochar or treated biochar into the soil at a rate of between 0.01% to 50% by volume, preferably from 0.1% to 5% by volume to a depth of between 0.1 inches and 24 inches, preferably from 0.1 inches to 4 inches. This incorporation may be accomplished using one of many commonly used methods for incorporation, such as tilling, turning, mixing, drop spreading, agitating, aerating, or injecting. The biochar may also be surface applied either by itself, or by mixing it with mulch or other materials commonly applied to the surface of landscape installations. In one example of an installation, the biochar is applied to the surface of the soil in a 0.25 inch layer, and then mulch is applied on top of the layer of biochar or treated biochar. The biochar may be applied on the surface either before or after the plants are installed, and may be applied alone or mixed with other additives, soil components, or amendments. The thickness of the layer of application can be from a single particle of biochar to 2 inches, but preferably from 0.1 inches to 0.5 inches. In surface applications, it may be desirable to use biochar that has been treated to increase its hydrophilicity and also to increase its bulk density to be greater than that of water in order to keep the biochar from floating away or running off during rainfall or irrigation events.
In some applications, the root ball of ornamental trees, shrubs, or plants is covered with a biodegradable or partially biodegradable material, such as burlap. In these applications, the burlap or wrapping material may itself be immersed in a solution of biochar and liquid, or the wrapping material may be saturated with moisture, adhesive, a binder, or a combination of any of these, and then contacted with biochar or treated biochar with the goal of using the wrapping material as a substrate or support to carry the biochar into the soil along with the plant. In this case, the coated layer can consist of either biochar by itself, or a mixture of biochar with other soil components, amendments, nutrients, biological entities, carriers, or substances beneficial to plant or soil health. The biochar or biochar mixture may also be added to the inside of the wrapping with or without water or other saturation before the wrapping is applied to the root ball. Although the biochar may be applied at any thickness and concentration, a thickness of 0.1 inch to 1 inch is preferred.
Biochar increases the water and nutrient holding and retention capacity of the soils where it is applied and provides an environment for improved microbial growth. Treatment of biochar can enhance all of these capabilities: increasing water holding capacity by increasing available pore volume through the elimination of residual material from the pyrolysis process from the pore space, increasing nutrient holding by improving ionic exchange characteristics such as CEC and AEC, and improving microbial growth by providing necessary shelter, water, macronutrients, and/or micronutrients to microbes. These components are held in the root zone for easy access by plant roots, which lead to increased plant and soil health, usually manifested by more robust growth. Biochar applied in the manner described above results in greener, fuller turf and landscape compared to installations grown without it and increases the plants ability to survive and thrive in conditions where it is deprived of water or nutrients. Tree plantings and transplants planted with biochar applied in the manner described above demonstrate substantial decreases in the rate of mortality and the ability to sustain plant health during variations in seasonal rainfall.
As outlined above, for all of the methods presented for biochar applications other materials and additives can be applied in conjunction with the biochar. These materials can be added to the biochar or can be infused in pores of the biochar using the methods first set forth above. Such additives may include, but not be limited to fertilizers (e.g., ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, monoammonium phosphate, ammonium polyphosphate, Cal—Mag fertilizers or micronutrient fertilizers). Other additives, such as fungicides, insecticides, nematicides, plant hormones, beneficial microbial spores, compost, soil amendments, agricultural minerals, binders, microbial nutrients, soil components, secondary signal activators, mycorrhizal fungi, biocontrol bacteria or fungus, plant growth promoting rhizobacteria, mineral solubilizing microorganisms (or other microbes which demonstrate efficacy in turf grass and landscaping environments) and/or other material generally understood to be beneficial to plant growth (including but not limited to water), may also be added to the coating in a similar manner as a fertilizer, the inclusion of which does not depart from the scope of the invention. Such additives may be mixed with the biochar, added separately from the biochar, or infused into pores of biochar through the various treatment methods, as described previously.
The invention has been proven effective by application in several cities in California to turf and landscape areas. With just a single application, the treated biochar enabled one city to cut watering in half while improving the overall turf quality in front of city hall. While a single application results in improved quality and water savings, a second application may provide further benefit. It is believed that additional applications will create cumulative benefits to overall soil performance and plant health.
The foregoing description of implementations has been presented for purposes of illustration and description. It is not exhaustive and does not limit the claimed inventions to the precise form disclosed. Modifications and variations are possible in light of the above description or may be acquired from practicing the invention. The claims and their equivalents define the scope of the invention.
1. A method for applying biochar to an area of soil prior to transplanting a plant, the method comprises the steps of:
- removing soil to create a hole for the plant;
- mixing the removed soil with biochar to a final concentration of 1 to 30% by volume of carbonaceous particles to soil;
- placing the plant in the hole; and
- backfilling the hole with said mixture of soil and biochar.
2. The method of claim 1 where the mixture includes other additives beneficial to plants.
3. A method for applying porous carbonaceous particles to a container or bed prior to planting a seed or plant, the method comprises the steps of:
- mixing soil with the porous carbonaceous particles to a final concentration of 1 to 30% by volume of carbonaceous particles to soil;
- placing said mixture of soil and carbonaceous particles in the container or bed; and
- planting the seed or plant in said mixture.
Filed: Aug 26, 2019
Publication Date: Feb 25, 2021
Applicant: Cool Planet Energy Systems, Inc. (Greenwood Village, CO)
Inventors: Richard W. Wilson (San Diego, CA), Han Suk Kim (Thousand Oaks, CA), Ranko Panayotov Bontchev (Monrovia, CA), Neil Christopher Wahlgren (Ventura, CA), Vern S Traxler (Simi Valley, CA), Timothy Alan Thompson (Ventura, CA), Brian Buege (Centennial, CO), Mark L. Jarand (Newbury Park, CA)
Application Number: 16/550,980