BIOCHAR! Save the soil, grow soil…

Why Biochar?— Soil’s Best Friend— Because of biochar’s physical and chemical nature, it has a unique ability for attracting and holding moisture, nutrients, and agrochemicals even retaining difficult to hold nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous.

Local Source of Biochar:

biochar CHARTREE2Biochar is a solid material obtained from the carbonisation of biomass. Biochar may be added to soils with the intention to improve soil functions and to reduce emissions from biomass that would otherwise naturally degrade to greenhouse gases. Biochar also has appreciable carbon sequestration value. These properties are measurable and verifiable in a characterisation scheme, or in a carbon emission offset protocol[definition needed].

This 2,000 year-old practice converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.

(information provided from Bio Char International)

Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices. Intensive study of biochar-rich dark earths in the Amazon (terra preta), has led to a wider appreciation of biochar’s unique properties as a soil enhancer.

Biochar can be an important tool to increase food security and cropland diversity in areas with severely depleted soils, scarce organic resources, and inadequate water and chemical fertilizer supplies.

Biochar also improves water quality and quantity by increasing soil retention of nutrients and agrochemicals for plant and crop utilization. More nutrients stay in the soil instead of leaching into groundwater and causing pollution.

Amending Soil with biochar is modeled after a process begun thousands of years ago in the Amazon Basin, where islands of rich, fertile soils called terra preta (dark earth) were created by indigenous people. Anthropologists speculate that cooking fires and kitchen debris along with deliberate placing of charcoal in the ground resulted in soils with high fertility and carbon content. These soils continue to “hold” carbon today and remain so nutrient rich that they have been dug up and sold as potting soil in Brazilian markets.

Nitrogen tends to run-off regular soils, upsetting ecosystem balance in streams and riparian areas. Biochar also holds gasses; recent research has proven biochar-enriched soils reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (NO2) emissions by 50-80%. NO2 is a significant greenhouse gas, 310 times more potent than CO2.

Does Biochar Deliver Carbon-Negative Energy?

Biochar’s immense surface area and complex pore structure (a single gram can have a surface area of over 1000 square yards)[reference?] provides a secure habitat for micro-organisms and fungi. Certain fungi form a symbiotic relationship with plant root fibers and this allows for greater nutrient uptake by plants. There is speculation that this fungi may play a part in terra preta’s ability to regenerate itself.
All the associated benefits of nutrient retention, water retention and overall soil fertility are longer lasting than with common fertilizers alone. Comparatively inert, Biochar doesn’t break down like other organic soil amendments and resists chemical and microbial degradation.

Decreases liming needs but does not actually add nutrients. Biochar (when) made from manure is the exception; it retains a significant amount of nutrients from its source.

Chemical fertilizers are typically fossil-fuel based, thus biochar provides additional indirect climate change benefits by reducing fertilizer needs.

Not all soils react the same to biochar and it frequently can take up to a year to see results. On poor soils with low carbon content, many studies have shown biochar can increase crop yields up to four times.

Be careful with that BIOMASS, finding suitable BIOCHAR FEEDSTOCK.

Research presented at a recent American Chemical Society annual meeting suggests that biochar plus chemical fertilizer yields increased growth of winter wheat and several vegetables by 25-50% compared to chemical fertilization alone. Soil Science Society of America experiments found that biochar supplemented with fertilizer outperformed fertilizer alone by 60%.[citations needed]

It is important to note that not all biochar is the same. The key chemical and physical properties of biochar are greatly affected by the type of feed stock being heated and the conditions of the pyrolysis process. The biochar (made) from the wood cuttings is likely to have a greater degree of persistence over a longer period of time.

[Material shared from U.S. Biochar Initiative’s web site (a non-for-profit organization promoting the sustainable production and use of biochar through research, policy, technology and “doing it”]

You can make Biochar at home – there are many videos that demonstrate the methods…some of which are linked here…

MAKING BIOCHAR: with Peter Hirst of New England Biochar

Field Test Biochar with Corn and Sunflowers – Mark Sisson

Content prepared from article originally written and pulled from sources cited, by Annie Waters.