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No Waste in Nature: Terra Preta – An Opportunity for Sustainability

Gallery Exhibition in the Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, June 14 to September 30, 2012

№ 152/2012 from Jun 07, 2012

With the exhibition "There’s No Waste in Nature" the Botanical Museum Berlin is providing fascinating insights into terra preta technology. The exhibit focuses on current research and development projects dealing with the technology in Germany. Terra preta technology was used by the indigenous peoples in the Amazon region centuries ago to produce very nutrient-rich humus out of sewage and other organic waste. It has become the buzzword in the field of sustainable resource use, climate change, and urban agriculture. The exhibition was designed by the Geoecology Group at the Department of Earth Sciences, and the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, both at Freie Universität Berlin. The bilingual display (English, German) can be viewed every day from June 14 to September 30, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem. The traveling exhibition will be shown in 2013 in Chemnitz.

Eighteen panels with images and text portray the origin of the terra preta technology and its potential to improve soil fertility, close wastewater and water cycles, and conserve resources. Two research projects in progress are depicted: TerraBoGa and LaTerra. The TerraBoGa project was started in September 2010 in the Botanic Garden of Freie Universität Berlin. A slide show gives a very vivid impression of the work being done in this project. Interactive elements invite visitors to get involved: they can touch and compare raw materials such as vegetable waste, crushed rock, vegetable carbon, or the carbon substrate produced in the context of the TerraBoGa research project. A toilet bowl demonstrates that human waste can also be recycled using terra preta technology. Compost worms living in a terrarium can be watched "at work."

Terra Preta Technology: Recycling of Materials and Storage of Carbon Dioxide

There is a major difference between terra preta technology and conventional composting. Terra preta technology is based on improved composting and on lactic acid fermentation using charcoal. With the help of terra preta technology, more carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere for a longer period of time than in conventional composting. The highly nutrient-rich soil that is produced can be used as a substitute for fertilizer.

TerraBoGa Research Project in the Botanical Garden Berlin

The TerraBoGa research and development projects follow the zero-emission approach and the related concept of an almost complete life-cycle management. Waste products that until recently landed in the compost of the Botanical Garden in Berlin or that cost a great deal to dispose of, are now used as part of the project for the production of nutrient-rich plant carbon substrates. The secret behind the "Berlin Black Earth" is the application of the old terra preta technology used by indigenous people in the Amazon region for centuries. The project has been funded since September 2010 for an initial three-year period as part of the Environmental Relief Programme (UEP II) of the Berlin Senate Department for Health, Environment, and Consumer Protection utilizing funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The project partners are Freie Universität Berlin (Department of Earth Sciences and the Botanical Garden and the Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem), Palaterra GmbH & Co. KG (terra preta technology), Rüdersdorf, and the HATI GmbH (sustainable sanitation systems), Berlin.

Time, Location, and Further Information

Gallery exhibition in the Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem

  • Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Königin-Luise-Str. 6-8, 14195 Berlin
  • June 14 to September 30, 2012, daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Admission: Adults 2.50 euros, with reductions 1.50 euros (Admission to the Botanic Garden includes admission to the Botanical Museum and costs 6 euros, with reductions 3 euros.)
  • Press photos:

For further information, please contact:

  • Dr. Robert Wagner, Department of Earth Sciences, Freie Universität Berlin,
    Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838-70435, Email: 


The Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Freie Universität Berlin, is a botanical collection and research institution with an educational mission. Founded in 1679, the facility is one of the largest and most important of its kind in the world. In the complex, 22,000 plant species are cultivated and extensive collections document global plant diversity. The research conducted at the institution focuses on the evolution and biodiversity of asters and clove-like flowering plants as well as diatoms (Asterales, Caryophyllales, Bacillariophyta) and the flora of Europe and the Mediterranean area and the island of Cuba. The institution is an international leader in the field of biodiversity informatics.