Friday, November 14, 2014

A biochar day at the coffee farm / Un dia de biocarbon en la finca de cafe - AHUACHAPAN / EL SALVADOR

Finca de Cafe en Ahuachapan - El Salvador
Coffee Farm in El Salvador

The farm is located close to the geothermal zone in El Salvador known by the name of AUSOLES

Los Ausoles is a group of hot springs located 20 kilometers north of Ahuachapán in El Salvador. The area has been described as "the capital of Central American geothermal." Many of the springs in the area produce heavy steam, and as of 1850, were described as "semi-fluid mass of mud and water in a state of ebullition, continually throwing large heavy bubbles to the surfaces; this heated mass is in some black, in others red, or of the ochry colour."

New Coffee plants substituting the old ones that were removed due to the terrible infection of ROYA

The best option for the coffee farmers is to "delete" the old coffee trees and renew the plantation with new varieties that are more resistant to the fungi and that cal also give good quality grains.

 Abundance of mycelium life shows the interaction of microorganisms in the habitat

One of the primary roles of fungi in an ecosystem is to decompose organic compounds. Petroleum products and pesticides, typical soil contaminants, are organic molecules, i.e. they are built on a carbon structure. This means that these substances present a potential carbon source for fungi. Hence, fungi have the potential to remove such pollutants from the soil environment, unless the chemicals prove toxic to the fungus. This biological degradation is a process known as bioremediation. 

Fungi are essential for converting biomass into compost, as they decompose feedstock components such as lignin which many other composting microorganisms cannot.

Biochar process at the farm

Old wood, trimed branches of trees that give shadow to the coffee plants, and removed  roots from ROYA infected tress are the main feedstock for the biochar production in this farm.

Pyrolysis device

This reactors were hand made - with recovered wasted iron pieces that were around the farm - 4 were made. In the middle a barrel is placed in order to take advantage of the heat and dry more biomass. Pyrolysis starts in the evening and left for the night, next day during morning biochar is taken out of the device and cooled down with water. Reaches temperatures around 500 - 800C.

Pyrolized biomass in a 100% - with a 60 -50% weight loss - excellent biochar quality

Biochar is crushed down and inoculated with biofertilizers - by doing this Micorrizal fungi and bacteria like Rhizobium etli and Azospirillium brazilense are ready to colonize the biochar and make a better effect in rood development and nutrient availability for plants - therefore giving as a result an excellent plant development.

Well crushed biochar with some water, makes it easy to handle and does not let dust disturb you

Biochar is displaced in this hand made device - were biofertilizers are added for inoculation - notice the lower pipe - is opened to let go the excess water - the water goes to inoculation once more.

Inoculated biochar goes to the bags and keep in the storage room for applications next day - this gives time for microorganisms to go inside the biochar pores.

I found this perfect peace of biochar around the farm  with a gorgeous moss growing on it - BIOCHAR IS LIFE!!!!

 Biochar aplications to 6-8 month old coffee trees.
Two full hands of biochar were added to each tree - area covered 2,500 trees

 Another application will be made after 6 months

Application were made previous to my visit, and it can be observed that the soil has already incorporated the biochar in it.

Beautiful development  - good absorption of nutrients due to the adsorption of the biofertilizers by biochar.

Dr. Biochar wants to thank Mr. Alejandro Martinez for letting us explore his coffee farm -

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