Ithaka Journal

Building earthquake resistant clay houses

Gernot Minke and Hans-Peter Schmidt
Many thousands of clay houses crumbled during the recent earthquakes in Nepal. But that did not happen because of insufficient strength of the clay as a building material, but rather because basic construction rules were disregarded. Gernot Minke, an international expert on clay building, explains in this interview how to build clay houses that resist earthquakes even better ...  more

Nepal Climate Farming Fund

Hans-Peter Schmidt und Bishnu Hari Pandit
One week after the earthquake in Nepal and thanks to the generous support of the European Biochar Community, the Nepali Climate Farming Fund was launched and has already brought relief to many Nepali biochar farmers that suffered the collapse or damage to their homes. In exchange for an advance of 5000 NRP (US$50) for future carbon credits, each farmer family signed a ...  more

Vines take up yeasts from soil and transport them through the vine to the stem and skins of grapes

In a vineyard field experiment it was demonstrated that Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast can be adsorbed from the soil by the roots of Vitis vinifera subs. vinifera and transported via vine to the stems and surface of the grapes. To exclude any extrinsic yeast contamination, the ripening grapes were sterilized and wrapped in plastic bags. Eleven active dried yeasts from ...  more

Biochar Paper – elevating biochar from novelty to ubiquity

Kathleen Draper and Hans-Peter Schmidt
Pack your fruits and vegetables in a biochar box, double their shelf life then compost the boxes with the leftovers and make Terra Preta in your backyard. Biochar paper and cardboard might become the most influential invention to mitigate climate change while reducing organic residues sent to landfills. Biochar has a wide variety of beneficial properties that can ...  more

Kon-Tiki – the democratization of biochar production

Hans-Peter Schmidt und Paul Taylor
A simple but ingenious invention finally allows each farmer and gardener, everywhere in the world, to produce for themselves a sufficient quantity of high quality biochar. With reasonable investment and some know-how of the charmaker’s craft, farmers can produce in one afternoon a cubic meter of high quality biochar. This democratization of biochar production will be a key ...  more

The use of biochar as building material – cities as carbon sinks

Hans-Peter Schmidt
Biochar, a highly porous material produced from plant waste, is mostly used in agriculture as a soil conditioner, in livestock farming as a feed supplement, and in metalworking as a reducing agent. It can also be used for cleaning “grey water”, as an absorber in sports clothing, in batteries and many other uses (see 55 Uses of Biochar). The latest developments at ...  more

Justus von Liebig and the Birth of Modern Biochar

Kelpie Wilson
Biochar is one of the oldest soil amendments in the history of agriculture. However, with the advent of modern agro-chemistry, the agronomic value of biochar got rapidly into oblivion. Only lately, when biochar got into focus as climate mitigation strategy, it’s function as soil amendment and nutrient carrier was rediscovered. All the more its fascinating to see that at the ...  more

Switzerland: the first European country to officially approve biochar

Hans-Peter Schmidt
Switzerland has become the first country in Europe to officially approve the use of certified biochar in agriculture, with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture issuing its approval on 23 April 2013. In it, the Ithaka Institute is given responsibility for controlling biochar quality and the sustainability of its production. Following an exceptionally thorough 3-year ...  more

Biochar as Building Material for Optimal Indoor Climate

Hans-Peter Schmidt
The effect a wine cellar’s climate has on the quality and complexity of a wine has up to now been greatly underestimated. Only now are we beginning to realise that decisive factors for a good wine are not just temperature, but also humidity. As a result, the Delinat Institute has developed a new form of plaster made of biochar and clay, with which an optimal cellar ...  more

55 Uses of Biochar

Hans-Peter Schmidt
Initially only used in agriculture, the range of uses for biochar now covers a wide range of different fields, giving this plant-based raw material the chance to make the most of its positive properties. Wherever biochar is specifically used even for industrial purposes, the carbon taken from the atmosphere in the form of CO2 can be stored for long periods or at least used to ...  more