Thanks again to all those people who helped make the Bio-Agtive field day at Lake Cowal a great succes.
Special thanks to Geoff West and Evan Mickan for opening their farms and sharing the us their experinces with the Bio-Agtive method to date.
It was great to hear Gay Lewis explain his theory on why the technology works reinforcing what is goin on out in the paddock. For the last 10 years Gary has studied plant physiology and meneral nutrition in detail. As he say's he is only applying science already known but often forgotton and misunderstood by many.
We look forward to continue to collabrate with Australian farmers, helping them to be more confident in the future of agriculture by being more economically sustainable and more enviromentally responsible.
*Full feature of Gary's presentation is uploaded in user secure area for the Bio-Agtive User's. Login and look under BAET Educational Center for more!
We are excited to share with you our first Bio-Agtive™ Bulletin for 2012. Please feel free to forward on.
On behalf of the team at N/C Quest all the best for the New Year!
Working on an exhaustive answer
Greg Heard 03 Feb, 2012
WITH the spectre of climate change meaning carbon emissions are an increasingly dirty word across the globe, developers of a technology whereby exhaust emissions from machinery are captured and put back into the soil are hopeful they will be able to allow farmers to markedly cut emissions.
Tanzanian farmer Mick Dennis, formerly of Birregurra in Victoria’s Western District, said the Bio-Agtive system worked using a small condenser which captured exhaust emissions and placed them back under the soil where they were sequestered.
Together with the international distributor of the product, Canadian Gary Lewis, and Australian Bio-Agtive representative Brad Modra, Mr Dennis held some on-farm trials of the Bio-Agtive system at Birregurra last year.
Mr Lewis, whose company N/C Quest licenses the Bio-Agtive system, said the system had been a success right across the world.
“It’s been used everywhere from Tanzania, Kazakhstan, Britain to Canada, it can be fitted just as easily to small scale tractors or top of the line equipment used in Australia or North America.
Mr Dennis said the trials at Birregurra were being done on corn, barley and pasture crops.
While he said the benefits in Australia would be obvious when the carbon tax comes in, he said the reason the technology had been taken up in Africa was that it also boosted productivity.
The theory behind the technology is that the emissions boost carbon levels in the soil.
The recycled engine emissions fill the soil air spaces with oxidized organic matter (emissions) created by the tractor engine to move the seeder tines through the soil.
Mr Lewis said a complicated biochemical event occurred when carbon levels were boosted which reduced plant’s reliance on synthetic fertiliser.
Mr Modra said Australian farmers could be set up with both the Bio-Agtive technology, including the condenser and the systems to enable them to understand how to boost crop yields using the technology, for $60,000.
“The equipment is custom fitted to your seeding tractor, and then all the data is put onto a computer and is constantly updated.”
STOCK AND LAND
When the smoke from a tractor exhaust goes up, it's pollution. But get those emissions down into the soil and they become fertiliser, as Canadian farmer Gary Lewis is demonstrating.
Mr Lewis has spent the best part of a decade developing and refining a system that pipes tractor exhaust emissions through a condenser and into the pneumatic system of air seeders, which injects the carbon- and nitrogen-rich emissions into the ground with seed.
What is generally considered as pollution is in fact prime soil food, Mr Lewis said, and tractor exhaust has allowed him and other farmers working with his technology to grow excellent crops without conventional fertiliser.
The exhaust gases are claimed to stimulate microbial activity and root growth, allowing the plants to more efficiently extract nutrient and moisture from the soil.
Mr Lewis, an Alberta rancher and former auto mechanic who has specialised in growing timothy hay for export, claims not to have used fertiliser on his 250 hectare irrigation farm since 2001, instead fertilising with his own "BioAgtive" technology.
Mr Lewis said says he has seen no loss of production, his soils have moved from pH 8 (the same as the irrigation water) to a pH of about 7, and his soil organic matter levels are currently about 10 per cent.
In testimonials quoted on the BioAgtive website, former Agriculture Canada scientists turned consultants Dr Jill Clapperton and Dr Loraine Bailey agree that something positive is happening in BioAgtive treated soils,
"...the obvious conclusion is that the exhaust had a positive effect on crop growth, yield, and quality, and may have positively enhanced soil nutrients and nutrient chemistry," Dr Bailey wrote.
Understanding why BioAgtive is not just "blowing smoke", as Mr Lewis feels many scientists think he's doing, requires a different perspective on exhaust emissions.
In excess in the atmosphere, exhaust emissions are undesirable. But a breakdown of the content of diesel exhaust looks like a partial shopping list for plants.
A Volkswagen analysis of light-duty diesel engine exhaust published in a World Health Organisation-sponsored report gave an analysis by weight of 75pc nitrogen, 15pc oxygen, 7pc carbon dioxide and 2.6pc water vapour.
Several other substances exist in far smaller quantities, less than 0.1pc. (The report also noted a number of toxic compounds in diesel exhaust, mostly related to fuel additives.)
Mr Lewis calculates that a zero-till rig will put 1100 kilograms of air through the tractor engine to work a hectare of land.
"There's a lot of actual weight and volume to gases," he said.
Dr Bailey wrote that the exhaust treatment "... resulted in significant release of soil N and/or stimulated the crops to take up soil N".
"There were also small increases in the uptake of P, K, and S on the exhaust treatments that may be due to the function of the exhaust on the soil. Slight shifts in the amount of some micro-nutrients taken up by the crops were also observed."
If it proves viable, BioAgtive might also be a tool for farmers wanting to reduce their emissions profile under emissions trading.
"We're incorporating most of the tractor emissions," Mr Lewis said.
"We've analysed behind air drills and there's minimal escape if everything is operating properly."
Rather than sealing in the gases mechanically, the system relies on attraction between negatively-charged ions in the gases and the soil's positively charged alkaline component to hold the exhaust in the soil.
Some Canadian farmers are now growing their own biofuel crops using BioAgtive technology, Mr Lewis reported, potentially closing the emissions loop.
About 150 farmers around the world, including Australia and recently China, have bought into the BioAgtive concept.
"Most farmers are getting similar yields to conventionally fertilised crops, but sometimes they will get a little less," Mr Lewis said.
The system doesn't come cheap, at about CAN$40,000 –but Mr Lewis says a farmer can then potentially save $400,000 in fertiliser in a year.
BioAgtive users will feature at the Carbon Farming Conference and Expo at Orange, NSW, on November 4-5.
FARMER Mick Dennis believes a unique crop planting method that pumps his tractor's exhaust fumes into the soil to boost the yield and health of his crop is the way of the future.
Mr Dennis, from Birregurra near Colac, says the technique reduced the need for fertilisers and produced a healthier, often bigger yield, by assisting in the soil's biological processes and enhancing root growth and microbial activity.
''Everybody has to be responsible and look after rural industries. The farmer has to change his ways and if he does the right thing, he will get rewarded,'' he said.
A COLAC district farm’s carbon emissions trial could help improve food security in a developing African country.
Mike Dennis, who is originally from Birregurra and lives in Tanzania, has started a trial of a tractor kit to plant maize at the Dennis’ Warncoort farm.
The N/C Quest Bio-Agtive technology converts the tractor’s exhaust fumes into organic fertiliser, and injects it into the soil to stimulate crop growth.
Mr Dennis said his Tanzanian company Field Master won $400,000 from an Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund to use the technology.
“I believe it’ll be very good for our farmers there because we don’t actually use fertiliser over there,” he said.
“I want to improve their food security and yields for farmers.
“I’m very excited to see how this works, it’s going to have a potentially massive impact to Africa because it’s a huge problem and the fertility in the soil is going down every year.”
Mr Dennis said Colac district farmers could also benefit from the technology, but the price tag could be too high for individuals.
He encouraged interested farmers to visit the Warncoort farm.
“The idea of the maize is to provide an alternate crop for summer,” he said.
“What I see in the future is grouping farmers on a world scale – we log all our data, which will go into a central data pool and that initiative then applies that data to the government in their country.
“With the initiative of the carbon tax in Australia, farmers should be entitled to be paid for that.”
N/C Quest’s Gary Lewis, a Canadian farmer and automotive mechanic, brought the equipment to Warncoort as part of a journey to participating Australian farms.
Mr Lewis said about 170 farmers were using the technology worldwide, with research continuing to refine and prove its capabilities.
“Working with the Montana State University in the US, we have instruments that test the carbon dioxide all around the tractor, the exhaust levels, and we’re able to document that the tractor emits zero emissions,” he said.
“The plant becomes more mineral-rich, and more positively charged to bring more carbon dioxide from the air.
“It could possibly take twice as much CO2 from the air because we’re stimulating the plant’s physiology.”