Biochar charcoal is produced by heating organic material at a high temperature in limited oxygen. It is a stable product, very rich in carbon, which is used to lock carbon into the soil.
Anyone can make charcoal or biochar. Just burn some wood. At high temperatures you get a more pure product with additional beneficial qualities. Of these positive properties, the one we are focusing on is its ability to rejuvenate the planet and its soil.
Biochar charcoal has been described as.
“the single most important initiative for humanity’s environmental future. It allows us to address food security, the fuel crisis, and the climate problem, all in an immensely practical manner.” —Prof Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year 2007
What Are The Benefits of Biochar?
Digging Biochar into the earth has been shown to bring about many beneficial and long-term positive effects on soil.
- increase the water holding capacity of the soil.
- increase crop production.
- increase soil carbon levels.
- increase soil pH.
- decrease aluminum toxicity.
- positively change the microbiology of the soil.
- decrease soil emissions of the greenhouse gases CO2, N2O and CH4.
- improve soil conditions for earthworm populations.
- improve fertilizer use efficiency.
The effects of Biochar will vary with soil type and the qualities of the Biochar used. Studies so far have shown that the greatest positive effects of Biochar applications have been in highly degraded, acidic or nutrient-depleted soils. However our anecdotal evidence has show strong yields in highly nutrient rich soils as well. See my post on the Biochar project Hemp trials.
In Australia, both the CSIRO and NSW Department of Primary Industry are conducting field trials on Biochar.
How is Biochar charcoal made?
Biochar can be produced from any organic material such as household green waste, paper waste or agricultural waste. It is made in a specially constructed incinerator that heats the organic material under pressure at temperatures above 430°C. The process, called pyrolysis, efficiently decomposes the bio matter, producing the Biochar solid, a small amount of bio-oil, and gases whose heat can be use to create electricity. The production of Biochar is a carbon negative process overall.
How does Biochar Charcoal help with climate change?
Burning trees and agricultural waste contributes a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. The production and use of biochar breaks into the CO2 cycle, releasing oxygen and drawing carbon from the atmosphere to hold it in the soil.