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Coal as a soil amendment?!


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#1 Michaelangelica

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Posted 19 May 2007 - 04:04 AM

Don't jump down my throat -yet

In Victoria (The southish bit of Australia- for the Americans) they have vast deposits of "Brown Coal" or Lignite. They often complain about it because it is full of water and produces lots of greenhouse gasses to burn
(In the driest, inhabited continent, we complain of something being wet-I don't get it!)

But it seems to me this stuff is somewhere between black coal and peat on the evolutionary scale.
Could it be used like charcoal in the garden/farm?
Chemists, soil scientists I need some help here.
This is the only reference to it's use in soil I could find

Improving Soil with Coal-Derived Materials
Acidification of soil is a naturally occurring process.
However, factors such as excessive use of nitrogen fertilisers and overharvesting can accelerate its progress.

Acidification leads to increased solubility and availability of phytotoxic metals such as aluminium andmanganese, and the loss of nutrients such as phosphorus and calcium.
This can have devastating economic and environmental implications.
An estimated 90 million hectares of Australian agricultural land are currently classified as being acidic (pHCa < 6.5). Major trouble spots include the Western Australian wheat belt and significant sections of northern and
eastern Australia.

Previous research has shown that organic materials high
in oxygen functional groups (e.g. carboxylates and phenols)
can improve acidic soils. These functional groups, which may
be characterised by titrimetric or spectroscopic methods, can
act as ion exchange sites useful for pH buffering in soil,
nutrient transport to plants and the binding of phytotoxic metals such as aluminium, rendering them harmless to plants.

‘K humate’ (potassium humate) from brown coal is one such
organic material abundant in oxygen functional groups.
This project trialled a commercial humic product sold as a soil
conditioner in order to characterise, quantify and maximize its
effect on acidic soils. Experiments were conducted in which a
calcium additive was incorporated into the K Humate.
The calcium source was ‘Calsulmag’, a commercially treated coal
fly ash which contains inorganic additives such as calcium and
magnesium which are beneficial to soil.

These two products were trialled on two acidic soils – a
sandy soil used for pasture, and a clay loam vineyard soil.
The pasture soil was investigated in controlled soil column
leaching experiments where columns packed with soil were
treated on the surface with various amounts of amendments,
and then leached with water to simulate rainfall. After a
period of leaching, the soil was analysed down to 15 cm in the
profile for chemical parameters pertinent to soil fertility such
as pH and aluminium levels. The vineyard soil was
investigated in a field experiment where plots were treated
with various coal-derived amendments, and the chemistry of
the profile (down to 25 cm) of each plot was monitored at
regular intervals over about a year.

The findings of both studies were that in many cases K
Humate in conjunction with a calcium source such as fly ash,
increased pH, decreased aluminium levels, and increased
calcium and plant-available phosphorus levels down to
substantial depths into the soil profile (at least 6 cm). For one
of the soils, which is prone to waterlogging, the addition of K
Humate improved water retention and the permeability of soil
to liquid.
Results have been successfully presented at national and
international conferences and have led to new projects including: a
follow-up study of the vineyard field trial focussing on effects of
humates and fulvates (ex brown coal) on microbial activity,
aggregate stability and water-retention capacity of soil;
investigations of the use of organic amendments from various
sources (e.g. compost, municipal waste, etc) on the levels of
phosphorus in soil; alleviation of salinity in soils again using
various organic amendments; and the characterisation of an acidic
high organic carbon soil. These projects involving green products
have the support and expertise of local and overseas collaborators
from both private and government sectors.
Jason Issa (PhD Student) - April 2002

http://www.chem.mona...ews-apr2002.pdf

Not -too fond of coal fly ash- as I am told that it contains uranium and thorium (at least black coal does).
Though, I suppose,with a bit of radioactive glow, I could then garden in the dark.B)B)

#2 Philip Small

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Posted 19 May 2007 - 11:12 AM

... soil scientists I need some help here.


It would depend on the coal, and the site specific conditions, and, if sodium or any other impairment, the application rate. In principle coal could be used directly, or in a processed form, as a soil amendment.

#3 TheBigDog

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Posted 19 May 2007 - 05:28 PM

This sounds like the perfect question for UncleAl. Anyone want to summon him up for an answer?

Bill

#4 Michaelangelica

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 06:11 AM

This sounds like the perfect question for UncleAl. Anyone want to summon him up for an answer?

Bill

Good idea, but doesn't he want to make diamonds?

Diamond dust in potting mix?
I suppose there is an up-market for everything.

Funny how you come across something you have never considered before and then you see it (the concept, word,etc) everywhere.
I guess we walk around with a lot of filters on our perception of the world.

Just found this

The Japanese are extensively investigating the use of coal dust for promoting field fertility. Coal dust does seem to reproduce many of the positive effects of wood charcoal.
The research of Siegfried Marian on the benefits of carbon incorporation, as reported in Leonard Ridzon and Charles Walters' The Carbon Connection and The Carbon Cycle, led to the development of Ridzon's NutriCarb product (no longer being produced), which claimed agricultural benefits very similar to those claimed for terra preta.

Those who want to use coal dust for soil fertility need to make certain that the dust is from brown coal, which is more humic,
and that the coal does not contain toxins.

It comes from a very good clear well written web article on the major ideas of TP
You might want to use it so you can convince the neighours that you are not crackers :angryfire: grinding up, running the car over, burning, burying; good BBQ charcoal. :evil:
http://www.championtrees.org/topsoil/TerraPreta.htm

#5 Alari

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 09:22 PM

Hi,
We are actually using a "Tropical turba" , which is not the usual peat, but the result of very young deposit of a forest (200.000 years). We crush , and compost with chicken manure and/orother N sources and making a good ammenment. We have access to slurries of coal washing facilities of anthracitic coals, which are washed before entering into Coke ovens. We think , we can also do some microbiological degradation, and use for soil ammendents. Good S, and other inerts there. Any experience in Australia wih those slurries???

#6 Michaelangelica

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 11:26 PM

Hi,
We are actually using a "Tropical turba" , which is not the usual peat, but the result of very young deposit of a forest (200.000 years). We crush , and compost with chicken manure and/orother N sources and making a good ammenment. We have access to slurries of coal washing facilities of anthracitic coals, which are washed before entering into Coke ovens. We think , we can also do some microbiological degradation, and use for soil ammendents. Good S, and other inerts there. Any experience in Australia wih those slurries???

Not a lot. Victorian Brown Coal, I am told, is very "peaty" and holds a lot of water. Most research seems to concentrate on the use of the waste ash
Here is what I could find

These organic amendments, applied at 20-60 t product/ha, were organic humate , derived from brown coal, composted supermarket waste and vermicast.

The effect of organic amendments and phosphogypsum on sodic soil under wastewater irrigation at Mooroopna, Victoria

Previous research has shown that organic materials high
in oxygen functional groups (e.g. carboxylates and phenols)
can improve acidic soils. These functional groups, which may
be characterised by titrimetric or spectroscopic methods, can
act as ion exchange sites useful for pH buffering in soil,
nutrient transport to plants and the binding of phytotoxic
metals such as aluminium, rendering them harmless to plants.
‘K humate’ (potassium humate) from brown coal is one such
organic material abundant in oxygen functional groups.

The new Geen Chemistry Centre is funded as an Australian Research Council Special Research Centre with $1

ABSTRACT: The potential for using commercially available potassium humate (K-humate) derived from Victorian Brown Coal to improve soil structure and aggregate stability was assessed in this study.
. . .
This work demonstrates that potassium humate is potentially effective as a soil conditioner in improving aggregate stability of acidic and sodic soils against adverse effects of cyclic seasonal wetting and drying conditions.

ScienceDirect - Geoderma : Effects of potassium humate on aggregate stability of two soils from Victoria, Australia

A US study:-

Evolving new technologies for deriving humic substances from lignite may provide products that can, either alone or possibly in combination with poultry wastes, improve and sustain productivity of organically impoverished soils. Environmental factors also add to the attractiveness of the humic products, which have been shown to increase efficiency of soil-release and plant-uptake of N and P and thus may lead to lowered risk of groundwater pollution from inorganic fertilizers, which release nutrients faster than plants can utilize them. Lignite-derived humic substances have also had success in reducing problems created by soil alkalinity, a major problem in Arkansas, a leading rice producer.

Lignite proposal

#7 Alari

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 09:45 AM

Michaelangelica, thanks for the information. We are doing also some work with Poultry wastes and turba, showing very good composting results. We are looking for "green" uses to the very fine coal powder out of the coal washing facilities, maybe following our same aproach given to the turba. ..... Any experiences with coal fines???

#8 Michaelangelica

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 10:50 AM

Michaelangelica, thanks for the information. We are doing also some work with Poultry wastes and turba, showing very good composting results. We are looking for "green" uses to the very fine coal powder out of the coal washing facilities, maybe following our same aproach given to the turba. ..... Any experiences with coal fines???

We might need to find an alternative use for coal in the future.
Last week Greenpeace shut down a coal power station by climbing on to the roof and writing "Coal kills" (?) or similar on the roof.

Dr. Karl is a local, media science Guru and professor at Uni of NSW

"Dr. Karl's" reaction to coal power stations
In his book "Sensational Moments in Science", ABC Press, 2001.
He has an interesting take on coal power:-

"In 1982, some 111 (US)nuclear-fired power plants consumed about 540 tonnes of nuclear fuel.
In the same year, coal-fired power plants released over 800 tonnes of uranium." into the atmosphere.
"If a single nuclear-fired plant released 8K of uranium into the bio-sphere. there would be . .an enormous outcry."

He says the nuclear content of coal has not yet reached general public awareness in the same way that the greenhouse effect AIDs, or the ozone hole have.
There are no nuclear regulations about the disposal of coal ash

Coal apparently contains a heap of uranium and thorium
He concludes that you will get three times more radiation from a coal fired power plant than a nuclear fueled power plant! That's if you include the complete nuclear fuel cycle mining, processing operating, disposal(!?)
If you don't include these your average coal-fired power plant puts out 100 times more radiation than a nuclear-fired plant.
p103-104


Seems you are on the right track with coal finesBut there is not a lot of info I can find with simple searches. I can search a bit more if you like.

Alroc Mineral Fertiliser
Kensington, Vic, Australia

Alroc is a blend of crushed volcanic Basalt, Granite, Dolomite, Bentonite, Rock Phosphate, Rock Potash and Bio Coal Fines, chosen for their mineral content.
The Bio Coal Fines have been composted for 10 years and are added as a dry, micro-fine dust to provide carbon for our soils in the.

.
Alroc Mineral Fertiliser :: Welcome

Seedling production using cell trays
# Brown coal: This material is known also as Lignum Peat or coal fines.
The ratio of brown coal in a soil-less mix to other components needs to be low. about 20 percent by volume or even less.
Higher volumes with adequate nutrition cause plants to respond with lush growth and will be difficult to harden.
Brown coal has a high water-holding capacity, with a high level of unavailable water.
Its water loss is in fact high too, and it has been shown that plants transpire less water growing in brown coal, than is the case with peat moss.

Seedling production using cell trays

#9 Alari

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 08:18 PM

Hello Michaelangelica, Tks again... The issue of Uranium and Thorium, highly depending of the coal source... Same issue with other mineral sources...I won't discuss it today.... Keeping focused on coal as a source of C for feeding life cicle... . Very interesting the BioCoal fines.... Can you please give more information about their operation/process and results?? It is exaclty the direction we are heading.. At the end, several pieces go together.... Can I contact you directly??

#10 Rev

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Posted 28 November 2007 - 08:45 AM

i cant give refernces but i have often read of lignite in potting media and as a source of humic acids

however its still a fossil fuel. ok for local use but lets not entertain broadscale use
once its up it will degrade and release more co2

#11 Michaelangelica

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 11:46 AM

i cant give refernces but i have often read of lignite in potting media and as a source of humic acids

however its still a fossil fuel. ok for local use but lets not entertain broadscale use
once its up it will degrade and release more co2

Humates

These materials are usually produced by liquefaction of Brown Coal, although solid and soluble products have also appeared recently. These materials have never been regarded as fertilisers, but rather as “Soil conditioners”, with effects on soil structure, presumed to be due to their high Carbon content. However, many criticisms about the use of Humates have pointed to the small amount of Carbon actually applied, compared with the increases in Soil Organic Carbon that manufacturers claim. Others dismiss these criticisms, saying that humates act as catalysts for biological processes which lead to accumulation of organic matter in the soil.

Research by SWEP may actually support this latter contention, as it showed humates produce a similar change in microbial profile to Kelp extracts, but with a strong suppression of Lactic acid bacteria and stimulation of Cellulose utilisers. In a sense, these materials appear to work as if they were some kind of ‘hybrid’ between kelp extracts and fish emulsions, but generally at higher application rates. This finding also appears to support the general feeling among both manufacturers and users that combination products between two or more of these three materials can be more effective that each alone.

Due to the wide range of product formulations, there is probably no single effective application rate, but again the lower application rates appeared to be the more effective.

http://www.swep.com....biological.html

or,
said slighly differently

HUMATES
These materials are usually
produced by liquefaction of
brown coal, although solid and
soluble products have also appeared recently. They have never
been regarded as fertilisers, but rather as soil conditioners,
with effects on soil structure, presumed to be due to their high
carbon content.
However, many criticisms about the use of humates have pointed to the small amount of carbon actually applied, compared with the increases in soil organic carbon that manufacturers claim.
Others dismiss these criticisms, saying that humates act as catalysts for biological processes which lead to accumulation of organic matter in the soil, rather than simply adding carbon to the soil.
Research by SWEP may actually support this latter contention, as it showed humates produce a similar change in
microbial profile to kelp extracts, but with a strong suppres-
sion of lactic acid bacteria and an additional stimulation of
cellulose utilisers. In a sense, these materials appear to work as
if they were some kind of hybrid between kelp extracts and
fish emulsions, but generally at higher application rates. This
finding also appears to support the general feeling among
both manufacturers and users that combination products
between two or more of these three materials can be more
effective than each alone.
Due to the wide range of product formulations, there is
probably no single effective application rate, but again the
lower application rates appeared to be the more effective.

Bioactive materials for sustainable soil management

Interesting article on humates
Humates & Humic Substances

Include humate and molasses with the micro-organism package.

Humate contains humic and fulvic acid, is high in trace minerals, and may be found in both a liquid and a dry powder form. Humate increases water aggregates, infiltration, and percolating; benefits soil structure, enhances root growth, and reduces leaching, runoff and erosion. Humate can be used as a foliar to aid stress.

Molasses acts as a soil amendment and is an excellent chelating agent plus providing trace nutrients.

Welcome to the Holistic Horse Magazine

On the TP List-server a while ago there was some discussion of sugar as a fertiliser/soil amendment.

I just read this

"Molasses contains powerful chelating agents. . These. .envelop metal atoms. . . cyclic hydroxamic acids. . .The plants from which molasses is made presumably use these chelating agents to extract minerals from the soil

page148
'How to Fossilise your Hamster' and other amazing experiments M O'Hare

#12 Folke Günther

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 03:53 PM

No, probably not. As you saw in the picture of lignite forming, it is strongly compressed. The fine thing with ading charcoal is that you add a tremendous lot of surface to the soil. (One bag of charcoal, 2.5 kg, has an internal surface area of one square kilometre!). The surface works as a habitat for microorganisms and an adsorption surface for minerals and nutrients.
When you compress it, as in coal formation, you loose the surface. So, adding lignite or anthracite to he soil is nothing better than adding stones. In principle is a way to sequester carbon, but even better would it be if you never had taken it up.

#13 Moontanman

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 04:59 PM

I grew up in "Coal Country" the hills of West Virginia (USA) the amount of ecological damage done by coal is difficult to quantify. Coal is full of very acidic sulfates and leaching of this and other chemicals from coal has killed entire water sheds of lakes, streams, and rivers. Almost nothing grows in theses areas. Anywhere coal is stored or processed suffers from the same effects. Coal contains lots of radio-nucleotides. Spreading coal around also spreads these elements around and coal releases radon gas as well. I have no desire to spread coal in any form in my garden or even my neighborhood. Even if you can somehow neutralize the damage of the chemicals in coal the damage done by the process of mining the coal makes it not worth the effort.

#14 Michaelangelica

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Posted 28 June 2008 - 01:47 PM

Another interesting blog on humates

SOURCES OF HUMIC SUBSTANCES AND THEIR VALUE AS FERTILIZER INGREDIENTS

Humic substances commonly occur within soils, waters, peat, and in carbon containing minerals such as brown coals, low grade lignites, and leonardites.

"carbon containing minerals"= charcoal ??

Humic acids (HAs) and fulvic acids (FAs) are excellent foliar fertilizer carriers and activators. Application of humic acids (HAs) or fulvic acids (FAs) in combination with trace elements and other plant nutrients, as foliar sprays, can improve the growth of plant foliage, roots, and fruits. By increasing plant growth processes within the leaves an increase in carbohydrates content of leaves and stems occurs.

Most small molecules of non-humic substances are rapidly degraded by microorganisms within the soil. In contrast soil humus is slow to decompose (Degrade) under natural soil conditions. When in combination with soil minerals soil humus can persist in the soil for several hundred years.

The Wonderful World of Humus and Carbon

From a site that sell humates from Victorian Brown Coal.
Don't these sound like the benefits claimed by chatcoal in soil?

# Nutri-Mate has a very high Cation Exchange Capacity (250), with an associated ability for nutrient and moisture retention.
# Nutri-Mate contains the highest organic carbon levels of any input. Organic carbon is the principle limiting factor in many soils.
# Organic carbon is the home base for beneficial micro-organisms.
# Nutri-Mate Organic Humates deliver slow-release humic acid, at a price that equates to a few cents per litre.
# Nutri-Mate is a highly effective soil conditioner, largely due to its stimulation of fungi which generate desirable crumb structure in the soil.

Ylad Living Soils - Products - Nutri - Nutri-Mate Organic Humates™

#15 Michaelangelica

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 06:33 PM

This seems a strike aginst coal as a soil amendment?
or again does it depend on the coal, or pehaps the avilability of local, agriculture-friendly wee beasties?

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are a natural component of coal and petroleum. Because of their longevity and toxicity, sixteen of these substances were classed as particularly hazardous environmental pollutants as far back as the 1980s by the American environmental agency EPA. Adhesives containing coal tar were thus prohibited, as a health hazard. Some PAHs are unambiguously carcinogenic – as long as they are metabolised by the organism. Their bioavailability thus determines their toxicity. They are generally only bioavailable if the substances are water-soluble.
. . .
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the oil only decompose slowly due to the low Arctic temperatures.

Bioavailable Contaminants Come From Exxon Valdez Oil Catastrophe; Natural Coal Deposits Not Source Of Environmental Pollution, Study Finds

#16 maikeru

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 03:24 AM

PAHs are nasty. Increasing evidence of their contribution to air, water, and soil pollution. Read an article several months back where scientists concluded that coal tar and asphalt might need scrutiny and regulation because of the PAHs in them, which raise the risk of cancers, asthma, and other diseases.

Pavement Sealcoat A Source Of Toxins In Stormwater Runoff
Pavement Sealcoat Linked To Urban Lake Contamination In The Central And Eastern United States
Coal Tar-based Pavement Sealers Implicated As A Source Of Urban Water Pollution

Not only do asphalt/tar-paved roads cut up and occupy valuable land, they also pollute everything around them!

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

#17 Michaelangelica

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 12:39 AM

PAHs are nasty. Increasing evidence of their contribution to air, water, and soil pollution. Read an article several months back where scientists concluded that coal tar and asphalt might need scrutiny and regulation because of the PAHs in them, which raise the risk of cancers, asthma, and other diseases.

Pavement Sealcoat A Source Of Toxins In Stormwater Runoff
Pavement Sealcoat Linked To Urban Lake Contamination In The Central And Eastern United States
Coal Tar-based Pavement Sealers Implicated As A Source Of Urban Water Pollution

Not only do asphalt/tar-paved roads cut up and occupy valuable land, they also pollute everything around them!

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

O god! that is all we need. What a mess we are making of the planet!

Most roads here are asphalt some/many with coal ash!
Surely white concrete that reflects heat-therefore reducing GWming?-- would be better?

An interesting and sobering TV program on 'clean' coal
http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/