I get what you're trying to do, and I really like the idea. It seems that a lot of techniques are touted as panaceas on the one hand, and then "disproved" by skeptics who refer to poorly done research on the other.
One of the reasons I enjoy the Walden Effect blog so much is that Anna approaches many of these techniques objectively and tries them out, and she is willing to report on the failures she's experienced with some of permaculture' darlings.
I've been wanting to do a pretty rigorous experiment with biochar in pots, which goes something like this:
- create a list of various garden/orchard plants, such as grape, tomato, carrot, some type of grain, and maybe soybean
- fill 12 pots for each plant with a mix of charged biochar; the first pot would have 100% char, the next would have 1/2 the amount of char to the same amount of soil as in the first, the next would have 1/2 the char as the second, and so on. There's a name for this method, though I can't remember it at the moment.
- transplant seedlings of each plant into their 12 pots (so, one tomato gets 100% char, one gets 50% char, and so on).
- observe and record results for the season.
This could lead to other experiments on biochar. For example, we could leave the harvested (thus, devoid of living plants) pots out over winter, and rerun the experiment as before. I've seen reports of biochar working exceptionally well after having been exposed to snow and spring rains. We could also perform the same experiment, but charge the char first.
I like the idea of citizen-science on these techniques that are part of the toolbox of permaculture, especially if they are conducted well and the results interpreted objectively. It's all well and good to say, "yeah, there's no research on this or that 'cause Monsanto;" I'd rather just go out and do the research myself.