Biobone Production: Soil Alchemy in Action at Paititi

posted by Faanito on September 28th, 2012

Biobone (also known as Phospheto) is a homemade soil amendment akin to double-burned bone available in some nurseries. The technique was pioneered by Eugenio Gras  and provides plants with three key minerals they require for healthy immune functioning and pest resistance – phosphorus, calcium and silica. Furthermore, because it includes an internal combustion process which can exceed 1,000C it produces colloidal particles (smaller than 15 micron) and are immediately plant available, as opposed to regular bonemeal that requires further chelating by our microbial friends.

To make your own biobone one only requires one little piece of “specialized” equipment appropriately named a rocket launcher. The dimension details are presented in the sketch below and can easily be made with any scrap metal pipe and steel rebars for legs. I want to mention that the person who taught us this technique strictly advocated sticking to these exact dimensions as the relationships influence the thermodynamic effect one is trying to initiate. We bought our materials in Iquitos for about $15 and had it wielded across the road for another $3, the whole process taking about 15 minutes.

Once you’ve made a rocket launcher there are two materials you require to produce biobone: an animal corpse (yip, an animal corpse) and rice hulls. The animal corpse (just about any will do) does not have to include meat or organs (though it is preferable that they do) and will provide the plant with phosphorus and calcium. The rice hulls provide silica and though it may be substituted by plant material from another member from the Poacea family be warned that particle size is critical – too small and it smothers the fire and too large and it does not combust internally.

Stella and I recently made an inaugural batch to bless tour holy land here at Paititi Institute. We collected about 100 chicken corpses from a nearby farm (they died from a disease and the owner was all too happy to part with them) and bought rice hulls from a processing facility in Iquitos at just under $1 for a bag.

We went ahead as follows:

Day One
For this part of the process you require an amount of wood roughly equal to the biomass (corpses) you are about to burn. It’s good to have a heterogenous mix of wood – small pieces to get a good fire going, medium pieces to get the corpses burning and large pieces so you have a sustained fire over a 6-8 hour period.

We built the fire using the smaller pieces and subsequently fed it some medium pieces. Once the fire was going strong and some coals were visible we layered the fire with chicken corpses and actively fanned it – once the chicken fat is ignited you’re ready to proceed. Layer the fire with more wood, fan, more chickens, fan etc. until you’ve built a massive wood and corpse pyre – using the largest pieces of wood last.

After that you’re free to step away, just make SURE the fire won’t spread and periodically check up and move any corpses that might have fallen to the side to the centre of the fire. When it’s done there should only be bones visible (along with ash and perhaps some unburned wood), and the bones should be so brittle that you should have no trouble crushing it to a fine powder in your hands. After it’s sufficiently cooled down crush everything to a fine powder and call it a day.

Day Two

Today you’re going to need an amount of rice hulls roughly equal to about ten times the amount of crushed bone you produced yesterday. Again build a fire with a couple of pieces of wood – this fire does not need to be nearly as big as the previous, about 10-12 pieces of medium-sized wood should do. Once the fire is going place the rocket launcher over it – the wood should just touch the part of the rocket launcher where the legs and the pipe meets. After that layer rice hulls with the crushed powder around the fire in a ratio of 10:1, that is put down ten handfuls of rice hulls, followed by one handful of crushed bone.

Continue this process, at a certain the legs of the rocket launcher will become invisible as the hulls reach the pipe and the fire itself will go out – don’t be concerned about this, it’s exactly what’s supposed to happen and if you have strong coals it will draw air through the rice hulls and expel it through the launcher.

You have now initiated an internal combustion process which reaches temperatures that far exceed an open fire. Continue the layering until you’ve used up all the crushed bone. You’ll know if it’s working if you see a faint wisp of smoke drawing from the top of the rocket launcher and an intermittent “woooooo-oo-oo-oo” sound (like wind blowing through an open crack in a window) is audible.

Depending on the size of your batch this internal combustion process can last anywhere from 4 to 10 hours. At a certain stage black patches will be visible on the outside of the heap, soon the whole heap will turn black and then ash grey. When the whole heap has turned to soft grey ash you can scrape it open to help cool it down. Be aware that we had to wait an additional day for the ashes to cool down enough to enable us to handle it.

Once it’s cool down and collected the process is just about complete – you are now in possession of a mighty powerful amendment which with which you can BLESS your plant friends! Use it sparingly (though it can’t be overused) in a nursery mix, in your vegetable garden or around the root zone of your trees and see them greens thrive! Our batch was quickly distributed and we’re already amped to make the next one, hopefully this time using a cow corpse – the holy grail of soil necromancy:) I hope this serves as an useful introduction and guideline so you are empowered to make your own biobone wherever you may be, if you require any further explanations or have any queries don’t hesitate to ask –  we LOVE sharing our LOVE!