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  • November 19, 2008 10:08:18 AM
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Environmentally conscious blog for pond maintenance, organic gardening/ soil conditioning, cleaning and disinfecting and water treatment

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Website URL: http://naturalenviro.wordpress.com

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Biochar…the black gold for agriculture?

There is an article on CNN today talking about “biochar”, which is a new coal being developed by the University of Georgia from “biomass” or organic wastes such as woodchips, corn husks, peanut shells, even chicken manure. “Its high carbon content and porous nature can help soil retain water, nutrients, protect soil microbes and ultimately...

There is an article on CNN today talking about “biochar”, which is a new coal being developed by the University of Georgia from “biomass” or organic wastes such as woodchips, corn husks, peanut shells, even chicken manure.

“Its high carbon content and porous nature can help soil retain water, nutrients, protect soil microbes and ultimately increase crop yields while acting as natural carbon sink – sequestering CO2 and locking it into the ground.”

This sounds a lot like leonardite, which is where humic acid comes from.  Of course this is a process that doesnt take millions of years to produce a substance, plus it makes use of readily available waste. Sounds like a very promising technology and use for what would narmally be refuse.

Read the full article at CNN.com



Microscopic manufacturers produce eco-friendly plastics

From the American Society of Microbiology Last year’s energy crisis highlighted an unforseen by-product of the looming fuel shortages of the 21st century. Petroleum-based products such as plastics that society takes for granted but now requires to function will run out with the oil. Scientists are looking to microorganisms to pick up the slack and...

From the American Society of Microbiology

Last year’s energy crisis highlighted an unforseen by-product of the looming fuel shortages of the 21st century. Petroleum-based products such as plastics that society takes for granted but now requires to function will run out with the oil. Scientists are looking to microorganisms to pick up the slack and help produce environmentally friendly plastics, according to research presented today at the 109th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Organic waste from agriculture, industries and households forms a very large resource that is currently discarded or at best transformed into biogas. From a sustainability point of view it is desired to convert these organic resources in chemicals,” says Mark van Loosdrecht of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, who has been working on using bacteria to transform this waste into bioplastics known as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs).

PHAs are linear polyesters produced by bacterial fermentation of sugar or lipids (fats). They are produced by the bacteria to store carbon and energy. More than 150 different monomers can be combined within this family to give materials with extremely different properties. These plastics are biodegradeable and are used in the production of bioplastics. However, the high cost of PHA production compared to conventional plastics has limited their use in a wide range of applications.

Using technology derived from wastewater treatment systems, van Loosdrecht and his lab have developed a process using open microbial cultures to convert organic wastes to PHAs. This new process is able to produce just as much PHA as existing processes at specific rates that are up to three times faster.

Kevin O’Connor at the University College in Dublin, Ireland, has also developed a new process using bacteria to produce PHAs from waste, only the waste is not organic. O’Connor has found a way to transform traditional plastics into biodegradable plastics. Using a process called pyrolysis, the waste plastics are heated in the absence of air, causing a breakdown of the molecular bonds. What’s left is an oil that is then fed to natural soil bacteria that use it to produce PHA.

The process was initially developed using polystyrene, one of the most widely used plastics, but O’Connor says it also works on other plastics including polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the plastic used to make water bottles.

Richard Gross from the Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, New York, is using bacteria that produce a building block from vegetable oils that can be used to make a plastic that is very much like polyethylene. However, unlike polyethylene, when it becomes waste it can be converted by mild enzymatic methods to biodiesel fuel.

“We were challenged by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) come up with a plastic that could be broken back down to liquid fuel. I thought about that and realized that we needed to make plastic from building blocks that could later serve as fuel elements,” says Gross.

That basic starting material for this work are vegetable oils that consist of fatty acids. Gross in collaboration with colleagues at DNA 2.0 (Menlo Park, CA) engineered a yeast to specifically ferment a fatty acid into a compound that can be processed into a bioplastic.

“The plastic is very much like polyethylene. It will process like it, it will feel like it, people will be comfortable with it,” says Gross.

When the plastic becomes waste, it can be broken down and processed into biodiesel using an enzyme. While the process for conversion of the plastic to biodiesel works in the lab, it is not efficient enough for commercial viability.

“We are now looking for a really efficient enzyme that can convert the plastic back to its building blocks. We have found microbes and enzymes that do break it down completely but we still need to improve their efficiencies,” says Gross.



Windmill Aeration provides the best of both worlds

Trying to keep your pond clean, while being environmentally concious and cost minded?  Well, a windmill pond aeration system may be the perfect option.  Windmills have been around for hundreds of years, harnessing the power of wind to do all sorts of jobs.  Windmills are now being seen more and more around ponds as tool...

Trying to keep your pond clean, while being environmentally concious and cost minded?  Well, a windmill pond aeration system may be the perfect option.  Windmills have been around for hundreds of years, harnessing the power of wind to do all sorts of jobs.  Windmills are now being seen more and more around ponds as tool for adding oxygen to the water (aeration). As the wind moves the blades of the windmill,  a compressor produces oxygen that is pushed through a tube down to the floor of the pond where it is released through air stones that produce thousands of fine air bubbles that dissolve into the water column and mix and destratify stagnant water.  Windmill aerators are extremely popular with pond owners who either do not have electricity at their pond or do not want to incur the cost of making electricity available at the pond in order to oprate a standard aeration system.

From a cost stand point, most windmill systems do not cost much more than the standard electric systems, if any at all.  Probably the biggest drawback people see is the assembly, as there is more to assemble with a large windmill than a regular aeration system.  However, on the plus side, when the assembly is done you don’t only have a functioning and valuable tool for your pond, but you also have added a decorative element that you don’t get with standard systems.

Windmills also offer a mothly cost savings element since you are not paying for electricity to power it, that is the wind’s job and basically if you have at least 3-5 mph of wind, the windmills we offer will produce oxygen for the pond.  So it’s almost like there is just a one time fee :).  It is important to realize that aeration windmills may not be perfect for all ponds.  Seeing as you cannot control the wind, there could be periods of time where your windmill does not generate oxygen.   This could be bad if your pond has a high stocking level or gets a lot of run-off to where the oxygen demand of the pond is high, epsecially in the summer.  These would be scenarios where the electrical models are best because they can run 24 hrs a day w/out interruption.  But, if your pond could simplybenefit from added oxygen and you dont have any means of providing electricty at your pond, then a windmill would certaintly be the ticket.



Product Spotlight – Pond Keeper All-In-One Water Conditioner

Today’s product spotlight focuses on the Pond Keeper All-In-One Water Conditioner.  This product is a full functioning pond conditioner for use in ponds and aquariums and is a must have for pond owners who keep fish or other aquatic pets.  The use of Pond Keeper All-In One Water Conditioner eliminates the need for multiple conditioners...

All-In-One Water Conditioner

All-In-One Water Conditioner

Today’s product spotlight focuses on the Pond Keeper All-In-One Water Conditioner.  This product is a full functioning pond conditioner for use in ponds and aquariums and is a must have for pond owners who keep fish or other aquatic pets.  The use of Pond Keeper All-In One Water Conditioner eliminates the need for multiple conditioners do to the many functions it performs.

First and formost, the product removes chlorine and chloramines from tap water, making the water safe for fish as they are extremely sensitive to these chemicals.  It will also destroy heavy metals like copper that again can be harmful in excess quantities.

All-In One Water Conditioner is also helpful in maintaining fish health and protecting against stress as it will help to replace skin slime coat which is a protective barrier for fish and it also adds essential electrolytes to the water which are beneficial to koi and other fish.

Additionally, the product has the ability to remove harmful ammonia and nitrites, while helping to maintain pond alkalinity.

Pond Keeper All-In-One Water Conditioner should be used when filling up a new pond or when doing water changes.  It works instantly and should be added at the same time as new water.

It is applied at 16 fluid ouces per 960 gallons of water in a pond or 1 capful per 10 gallons in an aquarium.  It is important to also note that it should not be used with unchelated copper medications as it will inactivate the copper.



Hydrogen Fuel Made Using Green Energy

In what may be the ultimate bid for clean energy, a NASA-backed group is designing a wind- and sun-powered fueling system for city buses — and possibly other machines — that run on hydrogen.  Read the full story from Discovery.com This sure sounds like an interesting set-up would be great if it could catch...

In what may be the ultimate bid for clean energy, a NASA-backed group is designing a wind- and sun-powered fueling system for city buses — and possibly other machines — that run on hydrogen.  Read the full story from Discovery.com

This sure sounds like an interesting set-up would be great if it could catch on.



Take precautions to guard against mosquitos around your pond

If not prepared for properly, mosquitos can become problem in backyards that have ponds.  Most people know that moquitos like water, which theoretically can make a backyard pond a large breeding ground for mosquitos.  So, it is important to take this into consideration early in the year so that you can be prepared and limit...

If not prepared for properly, mosquitos can become problem in backyards that have ponds.  Most people know that moquitos like water, which theoretically can make a backyard pond a large breeding ground for mosquitos.  So, it is important to take this into consideration early in the year so that you can be prepared and limit the problems they can cause in the summer.

While mosquitos do prefer water, they really like stagnant, still water for their breeding activities.  Why is this important to know?  Well this tells you you should make sure your water is circulating well to prevent it from stagnating.  If you your pump system is sized well so that is cirulating the water atleast once every hour, but maybe even more. Also water features like a fountain or waterfall also adds movement to the water to deter breeding.

Another thing you should do is use a Bti larvicide like mosquito dunks or mosquito bits.  Bacillus thuringiensis israelenis is a natural bacteria that is harmless to fish, plants and people, but is deadly for mosquito larvae, which obviously prevents them from turning into biting adults.

Another preventitive measure is adding mosquito fish to your pond.  As the name suggest, mosquito fish voraciously feed on mosquito larvae and other insects that reside in the water.  They are ver hardy and do not intefer with koi and goldfish.

Finally, just some good sense measures would include applying mosquito repellent to your skin and clothing, especially during early evening hours or simply avoiding being around the pond during the times when mosquitos are most active.

If you can follow some of these guidelines you should be able to enjoy your pond more and fight the mosquitos less.



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