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update on optimal inoculation duration

 
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I use a 55 gallon barrel with a chimney, TLUD.

I crush it by driving over it between panels of plywood.

I have been inoculating it mostly the same way, but I've been updating it.

I used to think I needed to inoculate the crushed biochar for 3 weeks to a month.

I think it depends largely on your method.  Some people put it in with compost.  I think the compost should be covered so it doesn't dry out in summer or get too drenched by heavy rain.

My new method is to layer in different nutrients.  I put in rotten fruit, 1 cup of whole wheat flour, worm compost, regular/leaf compost, rotten wood for fungal mycelium, and crushed oyster shells.  Then I pour into it enough urine to soak it.  I only soak it for about a minute, to make sure the "housing" is being filled by nutrients.  Then I pour the liquid out and store it until the next day.  I keep pouring it in and out once per day.   The idea is that I want the biochar to be nutrified and  heavily oxygenated.  If it is oxygenated, the kinds of microbes that dominate will be ones that help plants to grow.  I now think that if one is dousing with this liquid mixture or with compost tea, for example, it doesn't need to wait three weeks.  Since I am adding liquid inoculant along with food, I now have been adding it after six or seven liquid inoculations, which might only be a week.  I have also found that within a week I can crush the biochar to as fine a condition as I can probably make it.  This has been working well for me. If you see something that I should do better, please let me know in a constructive way.
Thanks,
John S
PDX OR
 
pollinator
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I think a lot of us are learning this on the hoof, John. What I've been doing is to fill a half or whole drum with crushed biochar, then pour liquid manure slurry, compost tea, or seaweed extract (or some blend of all these) over the material and let it soak for a week or two. My cue that it was "ready" was that the liquid goes clear and looks like almost pure water...the first time I did it I thought it was just a layer of clean rainwater on top and boy was I surprised when I tipped it all out.

Anyway, I've got a big crushing machine now and I'm working my way through a backlog of lumpy stuff and want to speed up the inoculation treatment. Doing 100-200l at a time no longer cuts it when I've got cubic meters on hand. It occurred to me, much as you point out, that it shouldn't take long for the wee beasties to move in if there's lots of aeration involved. So, on my last trailer load I just poured my liquid mix over the top, then turned it into a large wool fadge (a 0.5 m3 woven sack) to sit for a spell. I suspect that a few days should suffice for everyone to move into their new digs and set up shop.
 
John Suavecito
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I also noticed that the slurry turns kind of yellow on top, almost clear.  I have noticed that a powder like black wet dust settles out at the bottom.  Like you said, we're figuring this out as we go along, which makes sharing these ideas with others all the more important.
John S
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John Suavecito
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One thing that completely amazes me every time, is that when I pour the liquid into the raw charcoal at first, it just disappears. Like a giant sponge.   Only a few drops come out when I try to pour it out the first time.   After about the fourth or fifth time, the same amount of  liquid comes out.  This is usually after I have added yet more rotten fruit.  At that time, I figure, it is inoculated.  The nutritious materials in it will continue to evolve with all of the microbes in it, and they will exchange each other when put into the soil.  The liquid was originally urine, but after swishing through the worm compost, regular leaf compost, crushed oysters, rotten wood mycelium, and flour, it is clearly a slurry mixture.  It will no longer suck the nutrition out of the soil when put into it.

John S
PDX OR
 
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My new method is to layer in different nutrients.  I put in rotten fruit, 1 cup of whole wheat flour, worm compost, regular/leaf compost, rotten wood for fungal mycelium, and crushed oyster shells.  Then I pour into it enough urine to soak it.  I only soak it for about a minute, to make sure the "housing" is being filled by nutrients.  Then I pour the liquid out and store it until the next day.  I keep pouring it in and out once per day.   The idea is that I want the biochar to be nutrified and  heavily oxygenated.  

 

Hi John,
sorry if this is a dumb question but I'm not sure I get where you have the char in your layers here.  Does your urine go through all these layers and then hit the char at the bottom?

I agree with your thinking that the char probably doesn't need a long inoculation.  These beings go to work and live and die rather quickly on our time scales.
 
John Suavecito
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Great question Roberto.
I don't have acreage. I'm just doing a suburban yard version.  After crushing the char, I want it to be mixed in with the other nutrients.  I start with about 4 gallons of charcoal, and I layer it in so that the nutritious sauce will flow throughouot the charcoal, turning it into biochar.  After I add the 4 gallons to each layer, the 5 gallon bucket is about filled up.  When I drench the sauce through once a day, it will have a chance to mix through.  If I wanted to premix it, I would need a larger container.  I don't think that layering the nutrients in is structurally beneficial.  It just lets me make sure that I fit the right mix of nutrients and charcoal.  If I had a 10 gallon bucket I could mix them all together first, I guess.
JohN S
PDX OR
 
Roberto pokachinni
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John and s,

What is interesting to me about bokashi and other anaerobic ferments is the idea that they are offering diversity of micro beasties, and that these anaerobic friends can be, well, friends.



I can't speak on Elaine Ingham's nor Redhawk's ideas about deep soil and anaerobic amendments.  Kind of intriguing, really.  



Ya the more I think about I could imagine it being a very useful tool in areas with heavy clay soil. You might rip some lines as deep as you can and drop anaerobically prepared char down there and then proceed with working the surface. Definitely an area of interest, I've never actually heard of anyone doing it so maybe its genius, maybe it's just a whacky interwebs idea



I wonder if there is value to having some inoculated both ways?




I agree with how intriguing the concept is.  I think it makes sense to not only incorporate anaerobic ferments and such in the deep soil, however, as these anaerobic ferments seem to be having a positive effect with surface inoculation, and tillage.  The way that all makes sense is that there is always going to be some anaerobic bacteria (and other microbes) in the soil, and as the entire soil structure will have denser areas, (or micro areas where water is held) and these areas will have some anaerobic conditions, there is a niche to be filled by positive anaerobes, and they can thus take the place of any negative anearobes in the system.  This is particularly true of tilled soils, which are immediately super oxygenated when the tilling takes place, but then inevitably collapse (as the air pockets are artificial rather than created by the biologically created soil pore structure.  

It should also be noted that some communities of living beings can actually switch from being anaerobic to aerobic.  They are called facultative.  Elaine Ingham mentions them in her lectures, and I can give the example she uses.  

Take a bucket full of water and put cow manure or weeds in it, and it will get really stinky in this anaerobic stew.  Feed your plants with it, and see the results.  Some people will oxygenate the stuff before applying it, but I know several people who do this without any stirring or bubbling, and they grow excellent greenhouse crops, fertilized by the clippings in the greenhouse.

In nature, there is plenty of anaerobic conditions that are nutrient-dense and must have some degree of positive anaerobes in it.  One that comes to mind is a pile of fresh cow dung.

I think there is great value in inoculating biochar with a great variety of different substances, including anaerobes.  Other possibilities include forest duff or forest soil, put in both aerobic bubbled water mixes and in anaerobic stews.  Of course, urine is a classic inoculation, as is using the char with humanure, or in composts, or worm farms.  Various animal dungs if put in char, raw instead of composting, will each give a different set of microbes, and these will then produce a different inoculated biochar product.  I  think there is great value in the idea of diverse inoculation.


 
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"If you see something that I should do better, please let me know in a constructive way. " I'm not going to say you should do anything different, because you seem to have way more experience with this than I do.
I either add my char to a compost pile, or dig a hole in my garden bed and pour some water soaked char, (large pieces of char in a bucket with liquid, mixed and only slightly broken up,) in the bottom, then kitchen scraps etc on top, then fill the hole back in. I haven't yet noticed any problems with it, and the soil seems to be improving..
If I were to add anything to your process, it would be to maybe aerate the liquid with a bubbler when it is not soaking in your char mix, or just leave it in the bucket and aerate the whole batch for the time it is soaking, to ensure it all stays aerobic... ..although the benefits of good-anaerobes in deeper soil that has been mentioned is something that seems worth considering.
 
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To  tie back into the spirit of the thread, I should share the two techniques I have experience with.

The first was second hand but us the most time efficient method I've heard of. The friend who first introduced me to biochar would inoculate his by putting 5-10 gallons of char into a 32 gallon trash can, filling it with water and then making an aerated compost tea with a mesh bag of inoculants.  He considered his char ready to use about 12-36 hours later

The way I currently use char is to layer it into the compost piles I make where I'm layering bokashi fermented kitchen scraps with rotting hay and other brown garden waste. I sprinkle the char on top of each layer of soggy bokashi scraps. The compost gets turned once and then forked into a worm tower. It probably spends around 4 months in the process before its applied to various garden beds. Very low effort
 
John Suavecito
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I tried to stir the biochar during the inoculation phase. Almost impossible when it is dry doesn't have the "Sauce" in it.  Pretty easy when it is soaking.   I can't completely stir it 100% of the way, but I can mix it a bit more.  The sauce itself mixes all of the nutrients throughout.  I also don't think that it is crucial that each tiny piece of biochar has equal amounts of nutrients in it.  I think the mycelium will distribute that.  That was in response to Roberto Pokaninni.

J Brun-It is in an extremely aerobic situation for 23 hours and 58 minutes of the day. It just gets drenched once per day, so that is definitely aeroblcally dominated.

John S
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"J Brun-It is in an extremely aerobic situation for 23 hours and 58 minutes of the day. It just gets drenched once per day, so that is definitely aeroblcally dominated. " My comment was more focusing on maintaining the liquid in an aerobic state to ensure the next dose would contain mostly those microbes for re-innoculation. but.. Perhaps the pouring in and out each day is aerating the liquid well enough, or maybe whatever anaerobes that would be transferred back would feed the aerobic ones left in the char-mix.    
 
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