Month: May 2011

Impact of biochar application to soil on the root-associated bacterial community structure of fully developed greenhouse pepper plants

Impact of biochar application to soil on the root-associated bacterial community structure of fully developed greenhouse pepper plants.
Max Kolton, Yael Meller Harel, Zohar Pasternak, Ellen R. Graber, Yigal Elad, and Eddie Cytryn
AEM Accepts, published online ahead of print on 27 May 2011
Appl. Environ. Microbiol. doi:10.1128/AEM.00148-11

Abstract: Adding biochar to soil has environmental and agricultural potentialdue to its long-term carbon sequestration capacity and its abilityto improve crop productivity. Recent studies have demonstratedthat soil-applied biochar promotes systemic resistance of plantsto several prominent foliar pathogens. One potential mechanismfor this phenomenon is root-associated microbial elicitors whosepresence is somehow augmented in the biochar-amended soils.The objective of this study was to assess the effect of biocharamendment on the root-associated bacterial community compositionof mature sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) plants. Molecularfingerprinting (DGGE and T-RFLP) of 16S rRNA gene fragmentsshowed a clear differentiation between the root-associated bacterialcommunity structures of biochar-amended and control plants.Pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons from the rhizoplane ofboth treatments generated a total of 20,142 sequences, 92-95%of which were affiliated with the Proteobacteria, Bacterioidetes,Actinobacteria, and Firmicutes phyla. The relative abundanceof members of the Bacterioidetes phylum increased from 12 to30% as a result of biochar amendment, while that of the Proteobacteriadecreased from 71 to 47%. The Bacteroidetes-affiliated Flavobacteriumwas the strongest biochar-induced genus. The relative abundanceof this group increased from 4.2% of total root-associated operationaltaxonomic units (OTUs) in control samples to 19.6% in biocharamended samples. Additional biochar-induced genera includedchitin and cellulose degraders (Chitinophaga and Cellvibrio,respectively) and aromatic compound degraders (Hydrogenophagaand Dechloromonas). We hypothesize that these biochar augmentedgenera may be at least partially responsible for the beneficialeffect of biochar amendment on plant growth and viability.

New Biochar To Replace Activated Carbon?

Read the full post at Earth Techling.

We recently took a look at a new type of “spongy carbon” developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin which shows great promise in creating a supercapacitor with the ability to store much more energy than is currently possible. The development is hailed as a breakthrough because of the potential it has to considerably improve energy storage technologies but we now learn that scientists at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey have come up with a development of their own that shows promise in improving supercapacitors whilst also taking advantage of a natural by-product of biomass incineration.

Recycling Rates of Metals: A Status Report

Via The RFF Library Blog.

UN Environment Programme
http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/Portals/24102/PDFs/Metals_Recycling_Rates_110412-1.pdf

[Yale Environment 360] A UN report says that less than one-third of metals are recycled at a rate of more than 50 percent worldwide, and many are hardly re-used at all, a trend that could jeopardize the emerging green technology sector. In a study of how 60 “inherently recyclable” metals are collected, processed and re-used, the report by the UN Environmental Programme found that 34 metals are recycled at a rate of less than 1 percent. Many of those metals are critical in the development of clean technologies, from the batteries that power hybrid vehicles to the magnets used in wind turbines. The report warned that the industry runs the risk of running into a shortage of some specialty metals, like tellurium and selenium, which are used for high efficiency solar cells. “In spite of significant efforts in a number of countries and regions, many metal recycling rates are discouragingly low, and a ‘recycling society’ appears no more than a distant hope,” the report says. The report urges improved product design that makes recycling easier; better waste management and recycling systems; and finding ways to discourage the developed world from putting unused, recyclable products in closets and drawers or into landfills.

Groundwater Depletion Is Detected From Space

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Scientists have used small variations in the Earth’s gravity to identify trouble spots around the globe where people are making unsustainable demands on groundwater.

Is Biodegradability a Desirable Attribute for Discarded Solid Waste? Perspectives from a National Landfill Greenhouse Gas Inventory Model

James W. Levis and Morton A. Barlaz
Environ. Sci. Technol.
, Article ASAP
DOI:
10.1021/es200721s
Publication Date (Web): May 27, 2011

Abstract: There is increasing interest in the use of biodegradable materials because they are believed to be “greener”. In a landfill, these materials degrade anaerobically to form methane and carbon dioxide. The fraction of the methane that is collected can be utilized as an energy source and the fraction of the biogenic carbon that does not decompose is stored in the landfill. A landfill life-cycle model was developed to represent the behavior of MSW components and new materials disposed in a landfill representative of the U.S. average with respect to gas collection and utilization over a range of environmental conditions (i.e., arid, moderate wet, and bioreactor). The behavior of materials that biodegrade at relatively fast (food waste), medium (biodegradable polymer) and slow (newsprint and office paper) rates was studied. Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyoctanoate) (PHBO) was selected as illustrative for an emerging biodegradable polymer. Global warming potentials (GWP) of 26, 720, −1000, 990, and 1300 kg CO2e wet Mg–1 were estimated for MSW, food waste, newsprint, office paper, and PHBO, respectively in a national average landfill. In a state-of-the-art landfill with gas collection and electricity generation, GWP’s of −250, 330, −1400, −96, and −420 kg CO2e wet Mg–1 were estimated for MSW, food waste, newsprint, office paper and PHBO, respectively. Additional simulations showed that for a hypothetical material, a slower biodegradation rate and a lower extent of biodegradation improve the environmental performance of a material in a landfill representative of national average conditions.

EPA Establishes National Tribal Toxics Committee to Address Risks from Toxic Chemicals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a National Tribal Toxics Committee (NTTC) to give Indian tribes greater input on issues related to chemical safety, toxic chemicals and pollution prevention. This effort will further empower tribal communities to protect their health and environment from the risks of toxic chemicals. Creation of the NTTC is part of EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s emphasis on improving chemical safety, building strong tribal partnerships and expanding the conversation on environmental justice. The NTTC will hold its first meeting in Washington, D.C. on June 1-2.

“As we focus on chemical safety and identify ways to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals and prevent pollution in Indian Country, it is absolutely critical that we listen to our tribal partners,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We want to ensure that we address the ways that tribal members are affected by toxic substances and promote pollution prevention efforts that reflect their interests and needs.”

EPA believes that expanding tribal partnerships is important given the uniqueness of tribal cultures, communities, and environmental problems, and the need to respect tribal sovereignty, culture and heritage. The NTTC will help EPA better tailor and more efficiently address a variety of issues, including preventing poisoning from lead-based paint, expanding pollution prevention and safer chemical initiatives in Indian country, and better evaluating chemical exposures that may be unique to tribes and their members.

 

Compostable Packaging Company Will Open Manufacturing Plant in South Carolina

Read the full post at Triple Pundit.

In a move that illustrates how quickly the parameters of sustainability are evolving, the company Be Green Packaging, LLC is moving ahead with plans to manufacture its compostable food packaging products in South Carolina. The company has purchased a factory in Ridgeland, and the operation will focus squarely on the company’s triple bottom line strategy. As summed up by CEO Ron Blitzer, Be Green Packaging is committed to a long term relationship with its host community that involves benefits beyond simply providing a place for people to get a paycheck. The company primarily uses common wild-harvested plants such as bulrush and bamboo to make its products, and it is about to set up shop in one of several states that are practically being eaten alive by kudzu, which raises the possibility that Be Green may some day help provide a management solution for the invasive vine.

Environment: New maps give Europeans close-up picture of air pollution from diffuse sources

The Europe-wide register aims to help Europeans actively engage in decisions affecting the environment. New online maps published today by the European Commission and the European Environment Agency, in close cooperation with the Joint Research Centre, the Commission’s in-house science service, allow citizens for the first time to pinpoint the main diffuse sources of air pollution, such as transport and aviation.

The new set of 32 maps shows where certain pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter are released. It complements existing data on emissions from individual industrial plants from the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR).

MIT Researchers Increase Algal Hydrogen Production

Read the full story in Algae Industry Magazine.

Many kinds of algae and cyanobacteria are capable of using energy from sunlight to split water molecules and release hydrogen. One reason this approach hasn’t yet been harnessed for fuel production is that under ordinary circumstances, hydrogen production takes a back seat to the production of compounds that the organisms use to support their own growth.

But Shuguang Zhang, associate director of MIT’s Center for Biomedical Engineering, and postdocs Iftach Yacoby and Sergii Pochekailov, together with colleagues at Tel Aviv University in Israel and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, have found a way to use bioengineered proteins to flip this preference, allowing more hydrogen to be produced.

Algae Industry Q&A with Cal Poly Professor: Wastewater to Biofuel

NB: Link is now correct.

Algae Industry Magazine recently interviewed California Polytechnic State University environmental engineering professor Dr. Tryg Lundquist about how wastewater can make algae biofuel and how algae biofuel can be the impetus for better, low-cost, wastewater treatment.

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