Carbon Cycling: A sustainable path to food and energy (6.6 MB pdf)
Danny Day, Eprida, Alternative Energy Technology Innovations, May 12, 2005

EPRIDA PyrolysisEPRIDA Pyrolysis

Terra Preta de Indio
Johannes Lehmann. Soil Biogeochemistry, Cornell University January 2007

"Terra Preta de Indio" (Amazonian Dark Earths; earlier also called "Terra Preta do Indio" or Indian Black Earth) is the local name for certain dark earths in the Brazilian Amazon region. These dark earths occur, however, in several countries in South America and probably beyond. They were most likely created by pre-Columbian Indians from 500 to 2500 years B.P. and abandoned after the invasion of Europeans (Smith, 1980; Woods et al., 2000). However, many questions are still unanswered with respect to their origin, distribution, and properties.


Introduction: Bio-char: the new frontier
Johannes Lehmann, Soil Biogeochemistry, Cornell University

Inspired by the fascinating properties of Terra Preta de Indio, bio-char is a soil amendment that has the potential to revolutionize concepts of soil management. While "discovered" may not be the right word, as bio-char (also called charcoal or biomass-derived black carbon) has been used in traditional agricultural practices as well as in modern horticulture, never before has evidence been accumulating that demonstrates so convincingly that bio-char has very specific and unique properties that make it stand out among the opportunities for sustainable soil management.

Energy & Agricultural Carbon Utilization: Sustainable Alternatives to Sequestration
University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, June 10-11, 2004

Oral Presentations

Discovery and Awareness of Anthropogenic Amazonian Dark Earths (Terra Preta)
Bill Denevan - Prof. Emeritus, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Madison, WI USA

Explorations of Pre-Columbian Agricultural Landscapes in the Amazon
Clark Erickson - Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA USA

The Secrets of Making Terra Preta Soils

Terra preta: how biofuels can become carbon-negative and save the planet
Biopact, Friday, August 18, 2006

Most often, biofuels are seen as being 'carbon- neutral' in that they do not add CO2 to the atmosphere. When they are burned for energy, CO2 is emitted, but it gets taken up again as the new biomass grows, thus closing the carbon cycle and resulting in a neutral balance. This is the commonly held view of how biofuels are 'green'. In an early text, however, we hinted at the possibility of bioenergy doi

Black Carbon Increases Cation Exchange Capacity in Soils
Liang et al. Soil Sci Soc Am J.2006; 70: 1719-1730

B. Liang, J. Lehmann, D. Solomon, J. Kinyangi, J. Grossman, B. O'Neill, J. O. Skjemstad, J. Thies, F. J. Luiz


Building a black soil
C.I. Czimczik (1) and C.A. Masiello (2)

Black carbon (BC) is a major fraction (up to 35%, depending on methods used) of
soil organic carbon (SOC) in some of the most fertile and extensively cropped soils
of the world (Mollisols, Andisols, Terra Preta de Indio). Although BC is produced via
biomass burning in many ecosystems, it accumulates as a component of SOC in only
a few. Soils enriched in BC are not necessarily found in areas with the highest fire frequencies (savannah) or with the largest black carbon production (woody vegetation).





Putting the carbon back: Black is the new green
SANET-MG Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

Amazon's mysterious black earth: Soil found along region riverbanks; Rich in nutrients, stores more carbon, February 25, 2006

Above ground, rainforests like the Amazon basin flourish as biological hot spots with exuberant growth and a riot of plant and animal species.

But the red and yellow soils below are notoriously poor in nutrients and organic matter. Once the lush vegetation is cleared, the heavy rains and tropical sun quickly decompose even that small reservoir.

Except not in thousands of patches dotted along the Amazon River and its tributaries, where dark, friable soil extends metres deep, fertile in nutrients and organic material. In total, an area the size of France may be covered by this Indian black earth, called terra preta do Indio in Portuguese.

"The textbooks say it shouldn't be there. That's justification enough for me to explore why it is there," says Johannes Lehmann, a Cornell University professor specializing in the chemistry and geology of soils.

The 'Terra Preta' phenomenon: a model for sustainable agriculture in the humid tropics
Bruno Glaser, Ludwig Haumaier, Georg Guggenberger, Wolfgang Zech
Journal Naturwissenschaften,Springer Berlin/Heidelberg
Issue Volume 88, Number 1 / February, 2001


Many soils of the lowland humid tropics are thought to be too infertile to support sustainable agriculture. However, there is strong evidence that permanent or semi-permanent agriculture can itself create sustainably fertile soils known as 'Terra Preta' soils. These soils not only contain higher concentrations of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium, but also greater amounts of stable soil organic matter. Frequent findings of charcoal and highly aromatic humic substances suggest that residues of incomplete combustion of organic material (black carbon) are a key factor in the persistence of soil organic matter in these soils. Our investigations showed that 'Terra Preta' soils contained up to 70 times more black carbon than the surrounding soils. Due to its polycyclic aromatic structure, black carbon is chemically and microbially stable and persists in the environment over centuries. Oxidation during this time produces carboxylic groups on the edges of the aromatic backbone, which increases its nutrient-holding capacity. We conclude that black carbon can act as a significant carbon sink and is a key factor for sustainable and fertile soils, especially in the humid tropics.


William M. Denevan, University of Wisconsin-Madison
William I. Woods, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Managing Terra Preta: Modifications of an Agricultural System in a Nutrient-Poor Environment
Laura A. German, Socio-Ecologist, African Highlands Initiative / World Agroforestry Centre, PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia

Amazonian Dark Earths: Origin, Properties, Management
Johannes Lehmann, Dirse C. Kern, Bruno Glaser, William I. Woods

This book publication emerged from a meeting in Benicassim, Spain, in 2001. A group of enthusiastic scientists from diverse backgrounds decided that it is time to present a comprehensive overview over research on the so-called "Terra Preta de Indio", or Amazonian Dark Earths. Authors were invited to cover a wide variety of aspects around these fascinating soils, and met what became the first International Workshop on Terra Preta de Indio, in Manaus in July 2002. The frequent interactions and the workshop meeting ensured that this publication became a major text book on Amazonian Dark Earths. It is published by Kluwer Academic Publishers in The Netherlands

Table of Contents


Foreword, by W. Sombroek

Chapter 1: Development of Anthrosol Research, by W.I. Woods

Chapter 2: Historical Perspectives on Amazonian Dark Earths, by T.P. Myers, W.M. Denevan, A. Winklerprins, A. Porro

Amazonian Dark Earth Soils (Terra Preta and Terra Preta Nova): A Tribute to Wim Sombroek
18th World Congress of Soil Science, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA July 9-15, 2006

Sponsor: WCSS
Presiding: Antoinette Winklerprins, Michigan State University
Convenor: William I. Woods, University of Kansas

544a Macromolecular Speciation of Organic Matter in Black C rich Anthrosols: Insight from 13C CP-MAS NMR and Synchrotron Based C (1s) NEXAFS and FTIR-ATR Spectroscopy.
Dawit Solomon, Cornell Univ, Johannes Lehmann, Cornell Univ, Janice Thies, Cornell Univ, Biqing Liang, Cornell Univ, James Kinyangi, Cornell Univ, Flavio Luiz

Map of the Terra Preta Occurrences in Brazil
University of Bayreuth, Germany


Terra Preta Homepage, Dark earths, Red Indian black earth
University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany 2002

Terra Preta (do indio) is a black earth-like anthropogenic soil with enhanced fertility due to high levels of soil organic matter (SOM) and nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium embedded in a landscape of infertile soils (see soil profiles below). Terra Preta soils occur in small patches averaging 20 ha, but 350 ha sites have also been reported. These partly over 2000 years old man made soils occur in the Brazilian Amazon basin and other regions of South America such as Ecuador and Peru but also in Western Africa (Benin, Liberia) and in the savannas of South Africa. Terra Preta soils are very popularby the local farmers and are used especially to produce cash crops such as papaya and mango, which grow about three times as rapid as on surrounding infertile soils.



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