It's better than all that.

Dr. Johnson has developed a system for soil regeneration that is all about soil microbes, particularly fungi. It is not a fertilizer approach. The way it works is if you recreate a natural, microbially diverse soil ecosystem, it becomes a factory for processing all the minerals and chemicals needed for vigorous plant growth. The plants and bugs are symbiotic, feeding each other while optimizing the conditions favorable to all. A result of this is that both labile and recalcitrant carbon are being stored in the roots and mycorrhizomes, which can reach many meters into the ground. The recalcitrant carbon is chemically stabile and can remain sequestered for thousands of years, while the labile carbon is like a pantry with resources to be drawn upon when needed. Soil carbon has been seriously depleted because of soil disturbing practices (plowing is akin to nuking the soil community), fertilizing (ammonia fertilizers react with the carbon creating CO2), and erosion losses.

In Johnson's experiments over the past ten years, he has measured soil carbon increases of 5 tons/acre/year, with the harvest of about the same amount of crop biomass from the above ground part of the plants. The crop biomass is not sequestering C though, that is all chemically active (labile).

But we can make biochar from the biomass, which results in 60% of the C in the material being turned into recalcitrant carbon, which has many beneficial uses, including soil amending.

Our R&D is all about combining Johnson's microbial soil inoculant with biochar, which will make the inoculant easier to spread and will provide "migrant housing" for the bugs so they can have a better survival rate when applied in more hostile environments than irrigated farms (rangeland and forest regeneration, and dryland farms).

In addition to transforming more than half of the C in biomass to biochar, our pyrolysis systems also make a lot of energy - an average pound of biomass contains 8600 Btus of heat energy, 3300 in the char and 5300 in the smoke. If that energy in the smoke is utilized it can displace an equivalent amount of fossil fuel (propane, NG, fuel oil). So, we can indirectly sequester the rest of the C in the biomass that wasn't captured in the char.

I have posted these videos before, but they take a good bit of time to watch. If your interest is caught, you will want to watch every minute, though.

carbonlink video series

Regarding carbon credits, or carbon payments, we aren't there, yet - but we don't need to be. Between the energy value and the biochar value, this already pencils out to be a paying proposition. The college that we are installing a system at to use waste biomass to make char and heat will make money while heating buildings. The pilot project building was costing $30,000 a year to heat with propane. Assuming a low-end market value for the char, our pro forma shows that they will be at least $10,000 in the black using our system. The actual soil benefits are not included in that spreadsheet, nor are the local economic and social benefits, or the potential CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) values. Since the recent IPPC report that says we have 10 years left to figure out how to do major atmospheric CO2 drawdown, and since engineered CCS strategies are becoming the next big thing to that end (see PIA's post above), we believe that we will soon be paid for sequestration. The difference between us and the engineered CCS strategies is that our approach has a whole slew of associated triple-bottom-line benefits, and we can make good money while doing it!
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“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”
– R. Buckminster Fuller