Lincoln professor shares knowledge with Russian university

Mid-Missouri lab is at the forefront of the biochar industry

Raimund Bayan shows samples of before and after as he explains how biochar improves the soil where it’s used. Bayan is assistant professor of soils and environmental sciences at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

Raimund Bayan shows samples of before and after as he explains how biochar improves the soil where it’s used. Bayan is assistant professor of soils and environmental sciences at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. Photo by Julie Smith.

In a third-floor Lincoln University lab, advances in the understanding and potential of biochar to make soil more fertile are leading the international industry.

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Lincoln University senior Michael Ashley and labratory manager Phillip Markway check on the process as grass is turned into biochar. They use a barrel inside a barrel and heat the material until the desired product is achieved.

This winter, professor Raimund Bayan shared his work with the Kazan Federal University in Russia. The school was so impressed with the research, they will open an international research and production center with his help.

Biochar’s effectiveness as a soil amendment dates back to South American tribes several millenia ago. It is the byproduct of a special heating process of biomass.

Bayan’s work in the past three years has explored the quantity of application and compared the biomass sources.

He recently made a discovery in the methodology of studying biochar — that its effect must be measured after it combines with the soil, not before.

Bayan was drawn to the concept after being introduced to biochar by Jack Ryan, who has led the NEEED (Nutrition, Energy, Environment and Economic Development) initiative.

This spring, NEEED hopes to facilitate a designated field for Bayan to use a large-scale study.

In a short time, Lincoln University’s labs, funded through a United States Department of Agriculture grant, have become a leader in this emerging technology.

Not only will the professor share his knowledge with the Russian research center, but the university may develop a more far-reaching partnership.

And Bayan hopes to see a center for biochar research and production established locally in the future.

Biochar presents economic opportunities as well as agricultural ones.

Ryan and Bayan hope this research may be a long-lasting connection between the university and the community. One of NEEED’s goals is to promote entrepreneurship.

“This is really something exciting,” Bayan said. “It started in Jefferson City then at Lincoln University, and now it’s spreading across the world.”

Russia’s economy and culture is in transition, Bayan observed.

“They are looking for ideas to invest their intellectual capabilities, to grow their economy and move on to the 21st century,” he said.

“It makes sense for us to do research and develop the industry in Kazan.”

Biochar promotes the accumulation of nutrients and helps retain moisture.

Some of Russia’s soil is polluted, due to poor soil management. And some areas face considerable drought periods. Biochar could make a dramatic impact.

“We need to find ways to produce food for our growing population without hurting our natural resources,” Bayan said.

By adding another research center and sharing results, more problems may be solved and more uses found, he said.

“In three years, our lab has offered great contributions to the understanding of biochar,” Bayan said. “As a team, we have been successful; it’s been exciting.”

Related video:

Video

Lecture of professor Raimund Bayan at Russian university

Lecture of professor Raimund Bayan at Russian university

Previous coverage:

Local scientist helps bring biochar research to Mid-Missouri

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