Archive for July, 2010

Rice progress – 17.07.2010

July 22, 2010

Rice planted this season (usually planted between May and July), is wet season rice, irrigated through rainfall, although some farmers in this region have access to irrigation channels from the Barai (link to other post). Reportedly late rains have led to some difficulties for farmers in keeping their paddies flooded.

The plots with biochar added for the two farmers in Krable Riel were visited to see if there were any visible impacts for the addition of biochar. These had been planted at the beginning-middle of June. In one farmer’s field, there were more visible weeds in the plots amended with biochar. The farmer commented that once the field was flooded these will die off naturally, although he would also be doing some weeding of the field in the next few weeks. This demonstrates some of the impacts which biochar can bring to fields, a soil improvement which is a favourable environment for plant growth, although in this case weeds. It is hoped although was difficult to see, that the rice was growing better too.

In another farm with the same application of biochar, the rice appeared slightly yellower than in the areas which did not have biochar. No other changes were visible so it is hoped that this is not a problem.

Keep reading the blog for the final results at harvest (October onwards).

Weeds in farmer CADF3's rice field 17.07.2010

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So what is the importance of biomass energy?

July 21, 2010

I’ve recently listened to the webinar Solar Fuel – Natural and Artificial Photosynthesis by James Barber, Imperial college organised by UKERC (UK Energy Research Council) National Energy Research Network (NERN) / EG&S (Energy Generation and Supply) KTN (Knowledge Transfer Network). It was a fascinating look at artificial photosynthesis (Ps.), but here are a few points which were inspired by the comments on natural Ps. and it’s contribution to the energy question.

– Scale of current use

In terms of global energy consumption, out of 14 TW of energy currently, 1.21 TW is from biomass, 4.52 is oil and 0.286 is renewables. In terms of number of people using biomass energy, just one example, for cooking and heating, over a third of humanity, 2.4 billion people burn biomass (Warwick & Doig 2004)

– Potential for sequestering C

Almost half of the C which we burn goes into the atmosphere, and half is sequestered through Ps – a photochemical process which converts hydrogen and oxygen and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into biomass. Although the global average conversion of light to energy is 0.2%, the maximum efficiency is 4.5%.
Where biochar is a product from energy generation from biomass, this conversion of C can be subsequently stored in soils.

Conversely, burning of biomass leads to black carbon (not biochar) particulate matter which contributes to the global warming effect, although this warming effect may be less than that of black carbon from industrial fossil fuel burning (Grieshop et al 2009).

– Large scale production

Bioenergy crops are widespread, although the availability of land for expansion is a question. But there is potential for energy production in units which can utilise waste products including rice husks, and also number of recent developments in smaller scale technologies which can also burn rice husks. This is known as a second generation biofuel, and does not compete with food production.


Grieshop, A.P., Reynolds, C.C.O., Kandlikar, M. and Dowlatabadi, H. 2009. A black-carbon mitigation wedge. Nature Geoscience. Vol 2. August 2009.

Warwick, H. & Doig, A. (2004). Smoke – the Killer in the Kitchen. Indoor Air Pollution in Developing Countries. Practical Action, ITDG.

Biochar application 14.07.2010

July 21, 2010

Biochar was added to the last farmer who is an outgrower with Nagathom in Kouk Cherei. Again the same plot design was used as recent rice trials. This farmer will plough, then transplant the seedlings within the next 3 days.

Biochar application Nagathom 2. 14.07.2010. Photo by Vichida Tan.

Biochar application Nagathom 2. 14.07.2010. Photo by Vichida Tan.