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Jorma Kivistö

Terra Preta

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Terra Preta: Carbon Negative, Bioremediating, methods for working for Sustenancy and Prosperity that rich and poorest alike can perform with only local materials and little amounts of instructions and attitude."

Terra Preta do Indio is a recently researched but old Amazonas area cultures' method for making new permanent soil, from less fertile and more desertified sandlands, by using specific controlled mixtures of charcoal, compost materials, and pottery shards. Recently this home-scale doable low-technology but highly beneficial method has been under research and testing in different climates and areas. One method to effectively make Terra Preta -type mixture for making new permanent living soil, is to turn biomass (sticks, straws... anything dry and organic, and not needed by people, or elsewhere in environment more urgently) to charcoal with simple pyrolysis methods that do not cause smoke, but burn the smoke into energy for cooking and heating. One such method that can be improvised in few hours from somewhat commonly available parts is Holon method, which can be found here.

Another method to do the charcoal component from such biomasses, is more durable Anila -stove. Anila Stove usage diagrams and usage instructions, as well as more information on the Terra Preta method can be found here.

It is very important to remember that these methods must not be used in poorly ventilated areas, and rather should be used mostly outdoors only, as there is danger that some of the dangerous invisible firegasses do not get properly burned, and can cause serious damage and danger on living things in "enclosed spaces" with them: unconsciousness, death, and even fires. Outdoors usage only, highly recommended.

Even as these methods are doable in most environments, from local materials, the method has many advantages: Less firewood is needed to generate the same amount of heating and cooking, than would be from larger amount of firewood in 3-stone fireplace method. Thus, less firewood needs to be cut and gathered, saving trees, and toil. Anila stove makes it possible to use all kinds of dry biomass, like leaves, straws, and so on, that could not be burned in three stone fireplace, thus saving even more trees from firewood gathering. Anila stove causes much less smoke, and on occasions no smoke, because it burns the smoke itself for heat generation... thus improving nearby air condition... which reduces respiratory diseases and harms that come from the smoke of traditional 3-stone fireplaces. Further away, from ecological perspective this is also good, as much less soot particles are released, and thus they can not so much drift with winds local mountain glaciers (sources of rivers) to reduce the albedo of glaciers, which currently causes melting of glaciers, both local and polar: reduced albedo caused by presence of dark soot particles on the snow and ice.

Benefits continue even after the increased amount of heat is extracted from the smoke of biomass as it turns into charcoal: That charcoal can be made into Terra Preta -type mixture by grinding it into charcoal dust (one method to do this, is to put charcoal between sheets, or within bag, and stomp on it, walk over it, etc.), then mixing that charcoal dust with compost material (any wet -type compost material... for example left over slurry from biogas digestor... or even humanure: toilet compost), and after the microscopically fractally porous charcoal powder particles have soaked into themselves the compost plant nutrient, the mixture should be ready to be spread over infertile sand land, for rain or irrigation water to soak it into the surface layers of the sandland... thus making the soil to start to form as soilmicrobes and mycelias (mushroom "root" networks) start to inhabit the land area. In areas where soil microbial activity is very low, a start up mixture for microbes may be needed... such as many India areas farmers do from barrel of water, with raw sugar, cow urine and cow dung that is let to ferment in warm place for few days so that bacterial fermentation peaks just before it is poured into land.

New fertile soil means new farmland for growing sustenancy plants, which means more food. Not to mention less forests slashed and burned for sustenancy farming: instead frigid sand areas reclaimed for greenery and gardening.

Apparently Terra Preta -type mixtures also cause the charcoal in them to be tied into the soil that is thus made, for thousands of years, possibly for longer, thus making it particularly effective way of carbon sequestration, taking carbon away from atmospherical circulation considerably cheaper and probably more realiably than many mechanized and high technology requiring solutions of carbon sequestration. Whether this can be existing as beneficial if unintended side effect of Terra Preta -type local sustenancy bioremediation (healing ecosystem) , or also to be sold as provable carbon sequestration credits, for much needed monetary income for the sustenancy bioremediating gardeners and farmers, depends on will and focus of all peoples and factions involved in carbon trading market mechanisms and their forming.

And to make this model into more connected with real world life material flows and processes, charcoaling Terra Preta -type methods mix well with following similarly self doable methods, which also are usually doable from local materials:

biogassing, which can also be done effectively as low technology (and high sanity) method, as in India areas some of the villages are using self made airless clay chambers as biodigestors), harvesting and solar drying (also very low tech) and charcoaling overgrowths (like water hyacinths in many warm areas) from soiled and overnutrified freshwaters. Such plant materials can be biogassed as well... making it probably possible to harvest amount of water weeds and biogass on portion, while charcoaling other portion, to get the both main components of the Terra Preta -type mixture from same source. (Perhaps also saltwater seaweeds could be used thus, if first hung up so that rain water washes the salt away from their surfaces, before biogassing in biodigestor or solar drying for charcoaling... as that would enable gathering nutrients from local seas, to be utilized for creating more of the permanent soil areas in land, in those areas from which nutrients have been depleted, like desertified or clearcut areas... ?).

Here are some biogas digestor making instructions, their principle should be adaptable for clay chambers, if needed: http://biorealis.com/digester/construction.html and http://www.arti-india.org/content/view/46/43/

Companion Planting: Where selected plant species are planted nearby each other, to enable them to act symbiotically by driving pest insects away from each other, attracting symbiote insects and animals towards each other, having local land effects that compliment each other's existing and growth phases. Here are listed some plants that are suitable for being companies for each other, and how they have been known to benefit each other.

Mycelial Farming, where the "root" networks of mushrooms are consciously used as symbiotes of the garden/farm companion plant species, by their capabilities of holding the land together in place with their symbiote plant roots, and retaining moisture in the land, as well as feeding beneficial nutrients to their plant companions. This can be done by selecting mycelias of suitable local mushroom species known to form symbioses with the plant species that are being cultivated. Once the mushrooms have been identified by their fruiting bodies (the "mushroom" -part, actually these are more like fruits of mycelias, just temporary portions for making and spreading the spores (their microscopic seeds), like apple is a temporary portion of apple tree) their mycelias can be gathered and moved to inhabit in suitable chosen place with their selected, gardened plant species. By also strenghtening their plant symbiotes with more nutrients, mushroom mycelias also reduce the needed amounts of pesticides, and fertilizations, as well as the amount of watering needed, as they storage and regulate the water to some extent with plants. Not to mention that some such symbiote mushroom mycelia species also produce occasional edible mushroom harvests. Just as a side note, many edible mushroom species can turn many forms of non-edible organic materials into edible mushrooms, for example, Oyster Mushrooms can turn trees (or planks, logs, etc.), paper, straws and more into edible mushrooms... and even oil (and possibly tar). Like various ant species have done for long a practice where they harvest all manners of organic materials that they are unable to eat, in bits and pieces that they can carry, into their nests, and into a food mycelia growing chamber, so that as mycelia eats the materials and metabolizes (transforms) that organic materials into mushroom mycelia which those ants can and do eat. (at least for such ants this seems to have worked for millions of years... or more... perhaps we could learn from this ?).

For more information, test results and instructions, in these methods and many others methods of self-doable mycelial bioremediation, I recommend the following book: Mycelium Running, written by Paul Stamets, published by Ten Speed press, and readable also in this link, and a shorter version of that same. Here is the Author, Paul Stamets explaining more in short video representation.

Food forest farming, a permaculture method for producing much edible food plants in planned and gardened long lived forests and forest patches, which can also be initiated and made into open land areas... apparently this provides quite ample food amounts when compared even with intense monoculture agri-industry farming, except without the need for all those polluting and wasteful industries, mined chemicals, factory made vehicles and such. For more information and links in this method.

On permaculture methods and models of thinking and acting effectively and sustainably with surrounding living world.

And following short video introduction to one succesfull desert patch greening operation.

For discussion forums, instructions, questions and ideas relating to permaculture. And from here, a whole downloadable community survival and sustenancy guide with surrounding environment, by using tested methods, in simple word english and many illustrations of instruction. (from there, signing in is wished, then by selecting the "A Community Guide to Environmental Health" You can get the entire book, chapter by chapter, or as single download file, for free... or you can order the paper form of the book for payment).

And here, water cleaning while growing food vegetables on home scale vertical gardens.

See also EPLIES, Public Library of Ideas.