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National Science Week 2013

​Osborne students visiting a trial farm in Ingham.

​National Science Week 2013 saw 2 small Burdekin schools travel north to Ingham to participate in the Ingham Earth Smarties Amazing Agrichar Project.  Osborne State School and Maidavale State School both participated in the project which saw students investigating the effect of agrichar on plant growth.

Agrichar is a black carbon byproduct of a process called pyrolysis which involves heating green waste or other biomass without oxygen to generate renewal energy.  Tim Flannery, renowned scientist, conservationist, writer and explorer, is a major advocate of agrichar and pyrolysis.  Flannery recently ranked ‘fostering pyrolysis based technologies’ fourth among his five steps for saving the planet because they convert crop waste into fuel and agrichar, which can be used to enhace soil fertility and store carbon long-term. Recent trials have shown that, with the addition of agrichar, soil biology improved, the need for added fertiliser reduced and water holding capacity was rasied.

The students involved in the Ingham Earth Smarties Amazing Agrichar Project set out to test this theory.  The students conducted ‘pot trials’, testing various soil types and concentrations of agrichar to see whether this assertion was true and to what extent.  The students planted sorghum seeds in 3 soil types – sandy, clay and potting mix, adding 3 different concentrations of agrichar to each soil type – 0%, 5% and 10%.  Osborne State School discovered that, in their trial, plants grown in sandy soil with a 10% ratio of Agrichar showed the best improvement in growth.   Students were then required to present their findings to a panel of peers and experts at the Earth Smarties conference day held at the Tyto Conference Centre in Ingham.  At the conference, they had the opportunity to listen to presentations from Osborne, Maidavale, Macknade and Victoria Plantation schools and to see a presentation from JCU research student Emma Beavan who is testing Agrichar in the field.  The group then visited 2 local farms where research is being conducted into more environmentally friendly ways of growing and harvesting sugar.

Overall, the project was a success, with students learning not only about the effects of agrichar on plant growth, but also enhancing their skills in scientific learning, co-operation and public speaking.  Both schools are looking forward to being part of the project again in 2014.