Many things in our world are changing. Change is a guaranteed part of living. A return to old knowledge has become a way of assuring ourselves that we can navigate the things to come. As Yogi Berra pointed out, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
Biochar is one such retooling of old knowledge. Biochar itself is as old as the ancient Amazonian civilizations and perhaps earlier. It is the way that oil independent people used to enrich their soils, supporting incredible populations on relatively small plots of land. Because of the way biochar works, these Amazonian gardens and similar sites in Asia continue to be highly fertile long after the indigenous people have moved on. We have started an International Biochar group working to strengthen growing soils all over the world. Pure Biochar is special and if you can create a pure and organic biochar, then you can supercharge your growing and aid in the organic, biocarbon and carbon uses for growing food.
What is biochar?
Biochar is a type of charcoal, the carbon carcass of organic material. It is extremely porous, and formed in conditions that remove nearly all gasses and resins from the stock material. Wood is the most commonly used feedstock, and also the best, but anything organic can be charred, from small animal carcasses to kitchen waste to dry junk wood.
How does biochar work as a soil amendment?
Biochar serves as an apartment house for the microbiology and nutrients in a soil. The char itself breaks down over centuries, creating a long term point of exchange for the soil ecosystem. It enhances the availability of nutrients to plants, and can restock those nutrients as the microbes housed in it break down additional organic material into useable pieces. As an additional benefit, biochar serves as a moisture sponge, holding water in the soil with your plants rather than letting it run off, taking a share of nutrients with it.
How does biochar help the environment, since burning trees is generally a negative?
Biochar is considered carbon neutral or even carbon negative. When organic materials decompose, they release, in particular, carbon dioxide and methane (noteably 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas that carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere. Some of that carbon dioxide is recaptured by growing vegetation, but certainly not all. The process of making biochar takes organic material (in our case wood scraps) that would otherwise decompose and utilizes those toxic gasses to sequester carbon into a useful form. Pure biochar is when you make sure you are using only organic, pure carbon sources when you start and once you have the best biochar, you add only organic compost to it. This method creates the best biochar in the world and ensures that you can supercharge your growing. Carbon based growing is when you use garden biochar and
How is biochar different from charcoal briquets?
Charcoal briquets are made at low temperatures and still contain chemicals and tars that fill the pores and limit the adsorption capacity of the char. Those contaminants are also toxic to plants.
Activated charcoal is used medicinally and is a higher grade of biochar. The material is heated to nearly twice the temperature that biochar is. This removes any last impurities and increases the porousness of the char. As a soil amendment, those benefits are not cost effective—biochar is effective for agricultural uses.