Wood Vinegar, also called pyroligneous acid, liquid smoke, pyrolysis water, smoke water, wood distillate or Mokusaku, is an amber liquid produced through the natural act of carbonization during charcoal/biochar production.
Wood vinegar has a low pH of around 2.3 and contains a multitude of organic compounds: the major components aside from water include acetic acid and methanol. The composition and properties of wood vinegar depend on feed source materials as well as the method (time/temperature) of pyrolysis.
It is proposed that various elements of the wood vinegar work synergistically for a better outcome as opposed to the specific effectiveness of a certain element, or the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
How it is made:
Organic biomass is heated in an oxygen reduced environment leading to the thermal decomposition of materials and release of gases (called pyrolysis) – this exhaust smoke is condensed (cooled) into a liquid. The condensate then further separates and is refined into Tar, Wood Vinegar and Bio-Oil.
Production equipment can vary from basic metal drums or in ground fire pits covered in clay mud with cooled bamboo chimneys to state of the art industrial processors that are completely controlled continuous biomass converters.
Charcoal production for farming use dating back thousands of years to the Amazon basin’s black terra preta earth, The ancient Egyptians practiced wood distillation by collecting tar and pyroligneous acid for their embalming industry. In the 19th Century and early 20th Century wood distillation was still profitable for producing soluble tar, pitch, creosote oil, other chemicals like acetic acid and acetone. The wood distillation industry declined in the 1930s due to the advent of the petrochemical industry and its lower price products.
Japan and throughout Asia has used Wood Vinegar extensively for several decades for all sorts of uses and replacement of synthetic agrichemicals. The food industry continues to use pyroligneous acid extracts as a smoke flavour additive to foods, meats and sauces.
In Australia Wood Vinegar for agriculture is in its infancy, but is gaining momentum with many varied crops under trial and some moving into the fourth continuous year of application showing positive results.
Feedstock and our process:
Wood Vinegar can be made from many biomass resources and processor types which will vary the composition of the end product. Wood Vinegar Australia’s product is produced from sustainable NSW forestry, organic waste hardwood chips with the most advanced and controlled production methods available.
The wood chips are the only material used in production, with the heat of process also supplied directly from the feedstock itself. After pyrolysis the wood distillate is settled for several months before processed through our customised filtering plant producing a consistent high quality product with dependable results.
There are many claimed uses for Wood Vinegar but the main commercial applications are: a food additive for enhanced smoke flavouring, industrial source of acetic acid, tar and creosote production, waste water treatment, animal husbandry, human medicinal purposes and agriculture.
WV for Agriculture:
We believe that Wood Vinegar can bring substantial benefits to the Australian agricultural sector. It is a high density liquid with good economic freight costs versus coverage that fits into existing supply chain and on farm infrastructure. There is a growing organic and sustainable supply source from an emerging char production industry allowing a reduced dependency on limited expensive agrichemicals.
The extensive use of Wood Vinegar for agriculture throughout other countries for many decades along with positive trial results leads to a product that can potentially be farm input cost neutral or even negative while improving production results.
There are so many varied possible uses for wood vinegar, so when designing your trial parameters and projected outcomes we recommend considering the following points that we have discovered from experience.
1. Wood Vinegar should not be considered as a stand-alone direct replacement for other agrichemicals – it is more beneficial to think of Wood Vinegar as an “enhancer and penetrant” which can help the plant uptake of other existing chemicals you are applying with additional plant and soil health benefits.
2. Wood Vinegar is not a traditional fertiliser having low NPK levels
3. When applying you need to discover the correct balance of quantity used for increased yield versus costs for the best financial return, this may vary with application and will require specific testing. Below are three different directions you could possibly follow:
a. used as an additive for improved plant health on top of your existing chemicals which could have possible extra plant health benefits and yield returns but an additional input cost…OR
b. used for a penetrant and improved plant uptake by reducing the volume of the existing (more expensive) chemical and replacing directly with wood vinegar it can possibly improve the uptake and have better results than the existing chemical alone with the same or lower input cost…OR
c. use at lower rates more frequently when used just as penetrant to help plant uptake when mixed with the dilution water of other chemicals for a minimal outlay.
4. Wood Vinegar used alone as a stimulant for seed germination has shown improved strike rate and time for varied species.
5. Wood Vinegar shows beneficial plant health and protection at lower rates but at increased concentration can also show detrimental effects to the plant health.
6. Wood Vinegar should always be used diluted and strength will vary between foliar and soil application along with frequency of application.
7. Longer term regular use has shown signs of much improved plant health and ability to naturally protect themselves
Suggested Dilution Rates:
Below are starting point dilution ratios for trials which can be varied to suit your application and results.
Application Dilution for foliar spray Frequency
Additional to existing chemical applications 1:200 of dilution water Up to every two weeks
Reduction of existing chemicals Direct quantity replacement 10-50% of existing chemical
Used as penetrant for better uptake 1:500 of dilution water Application of other chemical
Improved seed germination 1:200 with water Soaked 24hrs or on planting
Speed up and improve composting 1:100 with water Sprayed daily
● “dilution water” is the actual water used to dilute the existing chemical
● dilution ratio can be stronger for herbicides than fertilisers
● maximum recommended quantity of wood vinegar is 5-8 litres/ha for foliar application
● soil application can increase maximum recommended quantity by 50%
● Follow safe handling using
● recommended to only use on small non-critical areas on a trial basis
Results, research and more info: http://www.pyroligneousacid.com.au
Summary of improvement noticed with Wood Vinegar:
● increased seed germination strike rate
● improved tree health – darker green leaves for better photosynthesis, thicker and stronger stems, higher growth rates, naturally more resistant to disease.
● reduced agrochemical volume with the same or increased yields
● higher sugar content in fruits
● increased crop weight in hydroponics
● increased soil microbial weight
To read the full research papers and up to date information please refer to http://www.pyroligneousacid.com.au/
Safe handling and PPE are required when using Wood Vinegar
This document is not a scientific or instructional document and only intended as a general introduction to Wood Vinegar for agricultural use – it is written from our experience of using the product along with other publicly available resources.