Monday, July 16, 2007

Terra Preta - From traditional Potters Kiln

If application of charcoal and other material generated by communities was useful for application in the Amazon, I was searching for similar signatures existing in India, which could be called "Terra Preta" ?! of India. Since every civilisation would use all the best material available locally.

The left over material from the traditional potters kiln after baking pottery items is a good additive for the soils. These kilns yield the following material after burning, wood and straw (paddy straw), etc.
  1. Charcoal - mostly from the wood used
  2. Ash - from the straw used wood used
  3. Broken pieces of pots - some of the pots broken during the baking process
  4. Brunt soil used to coverup the kiln
All the above components form a good additive for the acidic soils as it is. The potter rarely shares this material with others, he uses it as the most precious materail for his own fields.


Lou Gold said...

Terra Preta is the real thing and the upcoming climate talks in Bali could create the mechanism for taking the carbon out of the atmosphere and putting into the soil where it can help us all.

The emerging “Carbon Exchange” can create the difference that makes the difference. Those who have no immediate choice about polluting — airline companies for example — can fund those who are able to do the right thing. The right thing is to reward everyone (rich and poor) for repairing soil so that it can it can grow plants faster — pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere and providing more food — which will sustainably provide an abundance for all.

Charcoal (carbon) put into the soil increases its fertility, stores more nutrients (think less fertilizer), holds more water and filters what is released, pulls more CO2 out of the atmosphere and provides greater production of both fuel and
food — and the char can be made out of agricultural waste. How’s that for a win/win/win/etc?

This is the way we can leave the blame-game and help each other. We can jump-start a new no-fault relationship between ecology and economy — a healing one — by focusing attention on the soil.

It’s all based on recent discoveries of an ancient Amazon Indian technique called terra preta de indio that was able to create a living soil — up to 800% more productive than nearby nutrient-poor tropical soil. It was so successful that it is thought that prior to the Conquest there may have been millions of people living in great cities in the central Amazon without continuously deforesting the forests around them. There actually might have been an El Dorado of people living in harmony with nature. But its history is lost to us. It was devastated when the European explorers carried in diseases for which there was no immunity. The only hints that we have are buried in the soils.

A 2002 BBC documentary put the first media spotlight on terra preta and concluded with these words: “So there is a true irony to the story of the hunt for El Dorado. There was once a great civilisation in the Amazon, one the Europeans destroyed even as they discovered it, but the Amazonians may have left us a legacy far more precious than the gold the Conquistadors were seeking. That black earth, the terra preta, may mean a better future for us all.”

Here are some links about what we should be thinking about “on the way to Bali”.

The ABC 11 minute video about “Agrichar”.

A lay person’s introduction to terra preta.

The BBC documentary, “The Secret of El Dorado”tells the story of rediscovering terra preta soils.

Lou Gold
An American in Brazil

Storm Runner said...

I found this today You may find it interesting. In vietnam they produce charred briquettes for cooking using clay as a binder.

The heated clay left over looks suprisingly like pottery chards. There is also talk of the pieces being crushed and the used to cover roads.

This may be a better design then your coal-clay balls as there is a honey comb design to allow more surface contact.

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