The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Poultry litter biochar

The last video in this week's lunchtime series may be too scientific for some of you, but I highly recommend it to folks who are serious about giving biochar a try.  Ken Revell, graduate student at Virginia Tech, is experimenting with turning overabundant poultry litter at commercial chicken farms into biochar.  He'll tell you precisely how much biochar is beneficial in soil and why it shouldn't be applied beyond a certain rate.

Want your chickens to have a higher standard of living than the average bird?  Our homemade chicken waterer provides unlimited clean water.

This post is part of our Biochar Videos lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Anna, you are such a good researcher that I wonder if you might have the answer to a question that I have been unsuccessful with.

I've been told by a couple of farmers that it is okay to use, for example, manure from horses that are fed non-organic feed, or non-organic veg scraps in compost or to feed pigs (think dumpster diving), because the "bad" molecules are too large for plants to take up. Even Geoff Lawton has made this claim! Yet I haven't gotten him to answer the request for resources proving this . . .

Non-organic manure & food waste is so abundant, such as in your poultry example here, that I would love to know the answer! Do you have any ideas, even of where to look for an answer?

Hmmm-----maybe I'll write the Rodale institute/farm.

Thanks for all that you do. Peace & blessings, Terry

Comment by Terry Mon Jun 2 09:39:27 2014

Terry --- I guess the answer depends on whether your definition of "okay." I'm not sure that those inputs would work in a certified organic operation, but if you're like us and are interested in eating the healthiest foods possible and don't care about labels, I'd say you'd be fine.

A healthy garden soil can break down scary chemicals pretty quickly, especially if you promote fungi, so chances are the plants not only won't take up the bad chemicals, those chemicals won't even be present before long. Only heavy metals would stay problematic, since these can't be broken down by living things and can accumulate in plant tissues.

Feeding scraps to pigs then eating the meat is more likely to harm you than putting questionable inputs into your soil would, although I'd still do it if it weren't illegal to do so.

You might also be interested in this post, which specifically addresses the horse manure issue.

Comment by anna Mon Jun 2 14:40:45 2014

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