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View Diary: DOJ quietly drops investigation of Monsanto (145 comments)

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  •  Not to go off on a tangent...... (10+ / 0-)

    If farms had not turned into agronomic carbohydrate factories, sustained by petrochemical inputs, they could be the answer to global warming and not a cause of it.

    Application of biochar to soils builds up the soil and at the same time sequesters carbon.  World fossil fuel consumption is in the range of 8-10 billion tons of carbon, and that number, about 10 billion, is coincidentally the number of acres of agricultural land in the world.  

    So one way of getting carbon emissions to be a net zero is to apply a ton of biochar to each acre of agricultural land.  Some of the fertile terra preta soils in the Amazon contain on the order of 50 tons of biochar per acre, so application of biochar can be more than just a one-off thing.  Building up the soil with biochar can solve the carbon emissions problem for half a century while we figure out how to transition over to an all renewables energy economy.  

    But biochar puts no $$ in the pockets of Monsanto.  Biochar requires no laboratory gene splicing and can be made by illiterate peasants with simple hand tools i.e., subsistence farmers.  In fact, biochar takes money OUT of the pocket of Monsanto and DOW, because farmers need to use less chemical fertilizers after applications of biochar.

    Where to get all that biochar?  How about start with the millions of acres of standing but dead pine trees that the pine bark beetle left in western North America? If they are left to decompose naturally, that's a whole lot more CO2 and methane emissions.  

    •  My only concern is that those dead trees (6+ / 0-)

      from the pinebark beetle will provide necessary nutrients to the forest floor. If you remove that material the question is what do you replace it with? Part of the regenerative process of forests is the nutrient cycling through dead tree decay.

      Now I know that the USFS allows spraying of "biosolids" into the forests of Washington state. But then that comes with its own complications (i.e. heavy metals and such).

      Again, a complicated matter.

      •  No need to replace it (5+ / 0-)

        There are far, far too many nutrients, given the sheer mass of dead wood that is standing.  If they were left alone, only a small part would become part of the regenerative process of the forest.  The great bulk of it would be digested by termites and bacteria and become CO2 and methane emissions.  

        In order to come up with a number of what to remove and what to leave, it would be instructive to study large scale forest fires and calculate how much carbon is left, and what form that takes (biochar, partially burned biomass, etc.)  Then a reasonable management plan could be formed.

        My concern is that the dead forest represents many decades of biomass accumulation.  Allowing it to become carbon emissions is only going to aggravate the problem, when it could actually be a solution to it.

        •  And excessive nutrients lead to multitude of (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blueoasis, lotlizard, CA wildwoman

          problems in any environment. But if they handle it something like they tended to doin the past they will simply scarf it all out and leave the forests devastated. Years ago against the bitching of the lumber industry environmentlists forced harvesters to replant the forests and today that is what they have left to harvest in large part. Along the way studies were made of forests in controlled way. Not some observer making assumptions. I especially like how they leave a large tree in the midst of all the cut ones to somehow communicate to new trees ... the new trees thru studies were found to do better... So in Oregon when I drive by a new stand I see those big old trees in the middle of replants.

          But you are right about taking out the excess. There is also the danger of fire in drying out dead material... Nasty, really hot fires that can further damage the actual ground.

          Fear is the Mind Killer...

          by boophus on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:37:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Biochar not a panacea (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Methinks They Lie

      In fact the research on the use of biochar in agricultural production systems is mixed at best.

      Additionally, it takes a lot of energy to create the biochar. It is not necessarily an environmentally neutral process.  With the proper feedstocks pyrolysis can produce some interesting biofuels/biochemicals and leave biochar as a byproduct.  However based on the conditions within the pyrolysis system and the feedstock, fresh biochar contains a lot of volatile organic compounds that will diffuse out over extended periods of time.  These VOCs are not necessarily good for the soil.

      It appears that the proposed soil quality benefits of biochar additions will come in some time after application.

      -4.9, -5.7. Hominem unius libri timeo (I fear the man of one book) - Saint Thomas Aquinas

      by envwq on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:04:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  True, not a panacea (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        envwq

        But it deserves quite a bit more study.

        All that you mention could keep many researchers and engineers quite busy for quite a while.  But it's not.  A few research programs at a few institutions are begging the granting agencies, and after competing with all the other proposals, come home with a few dollars to support a couple of graduate students.  

        At that rate, we are not going to solve our environmental problems.  

        •  Agreed (0+ / 0-)

          We always need more $$ for research.  Unfortunately those $$ are drying up and going to things that can be immediately patentable and profitable...

          -4.9, -5.7. Hominem unius libri timeo (I fear the man of one book) - Saint Thomas Aquinas

          by envwq on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:15:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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