Later this month I’ll be visiting one of my favorite places on earth: Costa Rica, a nation highly focused on sustainability. Not surprisingly Costa Rica has some very interesting biochar initiatives that have been going on for several years which I am hoping to check out while I am there.
I am also excited to be talking to some AgroEcology students about biochar during my trip as well as visiting coffee, cacao and banana plantations. I was pondering how best to talk about biochar to an audience that most definitely understands their local crops, climates and challenges far better than I ever will, but may not know much about biochar and its potential benefits. And thus the Biochar Optimization Framework was born. The basic idea is to understand constraints and then determine if and how biochar might be able to mitigate those constraints.
Much of the research and promotional focus for biochar often seems to be on its ability to impact yield. With a growing population, this is obviously critical for food security. But the reality is that there are a lot of different growing constraints which biochar can potentially impact. In some cases these constraints may be more pressing than improving yield especially in those cropping systems where yield is deliberately constrained to ensure higher quality harvests. Given that I thought I’d try to figure out a way to understand the various things that growers are dealing with and also provide a framework for figuring out where biochar might be able to provide benefits.
Using this framework I’ve sketched out how this could be applied to vineyards in the Finger Lakes but what I think would be really interesting and useful is to create similar biochar optimization frameworks for different crops in different soils and different climate conditions. So that’s my self imposed mission for the Costa Rica trip: see how well this little tool works in getting a solid understanding of how the right kind of biochar might be able to benefit different types of agriculture. I’ll blog about my findings from the land of chocolate, coffee and bananas. Can’t wait!