Monday, June 27, 2016

Sunshine Insurance

Composting biochar and digging it into the soil before planting is a best practice that needn't be followed in all situations. When mulch is needed, especially for warmth-loving plants, biochar could be a better choice than straw or other common dressings. As I pointed out in my previous post, this mimicking of a natural fire's residue gives the biochar an opportunity to become somewhat charged and inoculated while holding moisture in the ground.

My pepper plants basking in the heat from a top-dressing of biochar and black plastic
Plants need three things to exist: Nutrients, Water, and a suitable atmosphere that contains Light. Charging biochar with nutrients and getting it wet make it an excellent buffer for the first two needs. For the sake of completeness, I've been trying to imagine how biochar could also buffer a plant's need for light, allowing it to make sugar without total reliance on photosynthesis. If it does this, it would be by use of an alternative energy source, e.g. electric current.

The discharge of electrical currents around plants is touted by some to aid plants in many ways, including improvement of their capacity for photosynthesis. Or perhaps, rather than using light in conjunction with chlorophyll, plants can use electricity through their roots to power the transformation of CO2 and water into sugar.

Biochar has a quasi-graphene micro-crystalline structure that could make it able to generate photoelectrons by sunlight impingement, which it might then store capacitively until its conductivity is raised by filling with rainwater, allowing the electrons to discharge into the ground. Alternatively, rain could deposit cations on the graphene-like micro-crystals to trigger current. In these ways, biochar top-dressings might act as a photosynthesis buffer on rainy days when sunlight is lacking.

These conjectures enable me to maintain the notion that biochar can provide assurance of plants' three essential inputs. If biochar provides sufficient assurance, then maybe the government will see fit someday to subsidize farmers with biochar instead of crop insurance.

Now, (speaking of assurance) I doubt that exposure to the elements is going to fully prepare biochar for incorporation into the soil over a single season. Using a 50-50 mix of compost and biochar as a top-dressing, however, might be just the ticket.

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